February 16, 2024

How to Prepare for the UIL Number Sense Competition

As we discussed in our previous insight, developing Number Sense is foundational to math competence and deeper problem-solving abilities. To motivate students in developing strong number sense, the University Interscholastic League (UIL) created by the University of Texas at Austin conducts yearly Number Sense competitions for all Texas schools.
Since the UIL Number Sense contest covers a large variety of Math concepts, students should devote an adequate amount of time to prepare for the contest. The amount of time each student should devote to prepare for the contest will depend on the student’s existing skill level. Students in lower grades will need to spend more time learning the concepts as some of the concepts would be entirely new for them. Students in higher grades would need to spend relatively less time to prepare. We recommend the following preparation times based on about 2 to 3 hours of preparation time per week:
Student Grade Preparation Time
Grade 3 & 4 9 to 12 months
Grade 5 & 6 7 to 10 months
Grade 7 & 8 5 to 8 months
Grade 9 & 12 3 to 6 months
We strongly recommend students follow the steps below to prepare for the contest:
  1. Devote the first 4 to 12 weeks (depending on existing skill level) entirely to review and internalize concepts and tricks by working through myQBook Number Sense concepts. At this stage, don’t worry about taking any sample tests.
  2. Make sure to do all the sample problems after each concept. If needed repeat doing the practice problems after few days to get used to the concept and the problems that appear in the contest.
  3. About 16 to 20 weeks before the contest date, start taking one test every week. Schedule the practice test approximately at the same time and day of the week that the actual context will take place. Make sure you will not be disturbed during the time of your practice test.
  4. After taking the test, go back and review your completed test and understand what problems you got wrong and why. Also understand how you solved each problem and whether that was the fastest way to solve the problem. The first two tests in the myQBook Number Sense library provide explanations and the fastest way to solve each problem. Compare your approach to the myQBook recommended method and understand the difference.
  5. Throughout the following week review the concepts on which you didn’t score well on the test and practice sample problems.
  6. On the week of the contest, try to relax and not study too much. Just review some of the difficult concepts as you were doing in the previous weeks. Don’t take any more tests during the last week.
As you prepare for the contest, here are some other important points to keep in mind:
  • Learn your multiplication tables – Elementary level at least till 20, Middle school level at least till 25, and high school level till 30.
  • Learn the most commonly used squares, square roots, cubes and cube roots listed in the myQBook Number Sense concepts.
  • Understand and learn the Equivalent numbers (relationship between fractions, percents and decimal numbers) listed in the myQBook Number Sense concepts.
  • Memorize the “Measures to Remember” in the myQBook Number Sense concepts.
  • While learning a concept think about why does the concept work and other applications of the same concept.
  • Learn how to recognize various number patterns.
  • Learn to break complex problems into smaller parts and then solve each part separately.

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