Apologies for the crass title. However, there are incentives for many children in grades (comparable to the U.S.) 3-12 to learn to do arithmetic well. (I recall Number Sense and related contests from my school days.) I would like to mention to students I am tutoring of current programs that offer such rewards. There are of course the science competitions of Westinghouse, Intel, Google, and such, and competitions like Putnam and (used to be called) AHSME, but I am looking for more, especially offered at a regional or local level.

(I choose arithmetic as an example, but I am also interested in such things for algebra, geometry, and related areas. Further, for this question I want to disallow coding challenges and similar programs that end up requiring more than basic mathematics.)

(Added 2015.01.27: I appreciate Joseph O'Rourke's take on the question. I think that "joining an elite group" is differently persuasive from "getting something for demonstration of ability". Also, while I think for some tournaments and competitions can suffice for motivation, in this question I am interested in something like money, i.e. folding stuff, or scholarships, or texts, or gift cards, however that might be. In my case, participating in number sense contests got me into other branches of science, other contests, and acquiring medals, ribbons, trophies, a chemical engineering handbook, some small scholarships, and thanks to AP tests, saving a year of tuition by placing out of many introductory college courses. It also turned into a salary bump in my first job. I would like to say to a student that there are many benefits to learning how to do arithmetic well, and that some of them turn into cash equivalents, not just things that will help them live better lives.

I am hoping there are merit-based scholarships, local foundations that support students based on ability, programs that give rewards and other incentives for supporting mastery of basic skills. I can name several such programs today for reading and science for elementary school and beyond. I am having trouble naming them for mastering skills such as algebra, geometry, and basic arithmetic that are not also general science competitions. Thus this question: what are such math-focused programs? I hope this makes the question more clear. End Added 2015.01.27)

Gerhard "Scholarships Also Count As Rewards" Paseman, 2015.01.26

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    $\begingroup$ Could you please make the question explicit. I assume you mean to ask for details about such programs. (Added: the dv is not mine; I have nothing against the question it is only quite hard to parse in my opinion.) $\endgroup$
    – quid
    Jan 26, 2015 at 23:08
  • $\begingroup$ Intel and Westinghouse are the same science competition (Intel is just the newer name). Here is the wikipage for Intel Science Talent Search. $\endgroup$ Jan 27, 2015 at 1:38
  • $\begingroup$ Is the title a reference to money incentives? It seems the question has more to do with competitive incentives instead. $\endgroup$
    – Chris C
    Jan 27, 2015 at 1:56
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think that this question is quite appropriate after the edit. It seems like you are verbosely asking us for a list of competitions at all levels "locally". Where is local exactly? In that sense, if you are asking locally, it seems far too specific of a question. The non-local question itself is far too broad. $\endgroup$
    – Chris C
    Jan 27, 2015 at 20:07
  • $\begingroup$ If you are instead asking about the usefulness of such competitions (and perhaps cash-like prizes), it is unclear in the question. $\endgroup$
    – Chris C
    Jan 27, 2015 at 20:09

2 Answers 2


Here's an excerpt from an article in the Houston Chronicle dated August 26, 2010.

HISD families could get up to \$1,020 if kids master math

Fifth-graders at select Houston ISD schools will get richer for passing math tests — and their parents will get paid, too — under a rare experiment to try to boost student performance with cash incentives totaling as much as \$1,020 per family.

The Houston school board signed off Thursday on the \$1.5 million program, which is funded by the Dallas-based Liemandt Foundation. The incentives will go to students and parents at 25 elementary schools that rank among the lowest in math achievement.

The pilot program — thought to be the first that offers joint incentives for parents and students — will allow fifth-graders to earn up to \$440 for passing short math tests that show they have mastered key concepts, according to the draft proposal. Parents will get slightly less money for their children doing the work, and they can earn an extra \$180 for attending nine conferences with teachers to review the youngsters' progress.

Combined, the students and their parents can pocket \$1,020.

Were you looking for this kind of program?

  • $\begingroup$ This example is pretty darn close: I'm disappointed by its restriction in time and space (although HISD may have enlarged the scope lately; I'm checking out their Apollo20 program), but all I really need is the existence of enough programs that I can mention as needed for motivation. Thank you for this example, and for any similar examples you add in the future. Gerhard "Has Trophy From HISD" Paseman, 2015.02.28 $\endgroup$ Mar 1, 2015 at 2:23

I know you didn't mean "money" literally, but nevertheless I would like to suggest that the real incentive is to demonstrate membership in an exclusive club based on talent & knowledge. At that age perhaps there is little one can do but rank kids according to speed and accuracy, which are only indications of possible future talent. But the payoff for the kids is joining an elite.

It would be nice if there were some way to encourage (a) understanding, and (b) creativity, which are rather different talents than speed and accuracy. Perhaps someone with experience with Norman Webb's Depth of Knowledge (DOK) model could contrast that with the skills encouraged by math competitions.


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    $\begingroup$ If you like that image, you might check out Bloom's taxonomy, e.g., here from its wikipage. $\endgroup$ Jan 27, 2015 at 5:14

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