UMTYMP Test Tips for Parents and Students

UMTYMP is a math program in MinnesotaThe University of Minnesota Talented Youth Math Program (UMTYMP) is one of the most coveted programs for Minnesota kids who are interested in math and parents who really, really want their kids to be good at math. UMTYMP has a notoriously difficult entrance exam, and the better prepared your kid is, the better chance they have to pass.

The UMTYMP test has an odd format. There are two columns, A and B. Every question on the test is simply a test of which is greater. The answers also include C, which indicates that A and B are equal, or D, which is the “not enough information” answer.

So, if I said:

A=The number of pencils I sent with my kid
B=The number of pencils he returned with

Then your answer would obviously be B. They say to show up with two pencils. He had those, plus an extra backup pencil. Right before he went in, we asked where they were, and he couldn’t find them. They were in his pocket, but, hey, I didn’t know that at the time. I gave him three more pencils.

He came back with SEVEN PENCILS.

Easy, right? Well, apparently they can write some pretty tricky questions in this simple format. Here are some tips to help your kid succeed.

UMTYMP Tips for Parents

  1. Acknowledge right now that your child is probably smarter than you. Look, maybe the kid doesn’t know as many THINGS, but that’s not really a measure of intelligence. She can pick up new information way faster than your old brain and you’re just going to have to live with that.
  2. In the UMTYMP test, points are scored for successful answers, but nothing is taken away for wrong answers. Therefore GUESSES ARE GOOD. Practice by asking your kid impossible questions and praise them for giving up quickly and guessing.
  3. Teach your kid what an absolute value symbol looks like. Hard to get those right if you’ve never seen |-5|. Bombard her with every math symbol you can think of in the week preceding the exam.
  4. Don’t let your kid see how freaked out you are about this test. Kids can sense fear. Don’t worry, though. They can only see movement, so if you think they’re on to you, just hold perfectly still.
  5. If your kid fails the test, don’t worry. It doesn’t mean she’s stupid. She’s probably just smart enough to have figured out that passing the test means more homework. Also, taking the test multiple times is allowed (even encouraged).

UMTYMP Tips for Students

  1. The test is only 25 minutes. During this time, NEVER STOP WORKING. Go back and check your work, over and over again if you need to.
  2. Even if you fail horribly, YOUR PARENT STILL LOVES YOU. Probably. I mean, I guess I don’t know your specific situation. But, you know. Probably.
  3. This test is packed with trickery. Their goal is to BOG YOU DOWN IN CRAP MATH so that only the kids who figure out shortcuts are allowed to pass. So:
    A=(456 * 1240 * 85) + 934543
    B=(756 * 9421 * 0 * 45) + 7
    You know the answer is A because you are clever and noticed that anything times 0 is 0. Those chumps stuck working all that multiplication for A are going to waste their time and possibly fail to complete the test.
  4. COMPLETE THE TEST. Really. Go quickly through it. If you hit a problem that seems like a TON of work, just guess. Come back to it later. It helps to write down a list of hard questions so that they’re easy to find.
  5. If you tried your best on this test, YOU DESERVE ICE CREAM. Don’t let anyone cheat you out of that. This is a big deal.

That’s all I have for you. Good luck on the test.

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UPDATE: My son got into the UMTYMP program. I’m excited to get him something of a challenge in school and he’s excited to get that extra study hall every day. We’ll see how this works out. I think the keys to him passing were the work we did on pacing and some general terminology review. The sample tests found online were also very helpful, mostly because I could give him small timed tests and work on his technique for getting every question answered.

UPDATE: I used to have more videos and links here, but they’ve all moved and I can’t keep up. I find Googling ‘UMTYMP Practice Test’ sometimes gets good results, but those tend to disappear pretty quickly, so I’m not going to link them again. Good luck.

UPDATE: My kid is doing well in Geometry, somehow figuring out how to do those awful proofs. This is officially a math that I didn’t master, so he’s making good use of the homework help sessions. I don’t know if he’ll continue on to Calculus, but UMTYMP has provided a great challenge for him.

Update (07/20/2021): It’s been a while, so I wanted to post an update. My first son ended up dropping out of Calculus (it wasn’t the math that was hard, but the writing requirements of the assignments). Even though he’s not completing the whole thing, the program has definitely been worth it. He finished high school math before starting high school, freeing up time to work on other skills and just have a little bit more space during the day. My second son started UMTYMP and struggled due to the virtual classes during Covid. He’ll continue, and probably see better results with in-person classes. As before, I’m a huge fan of this program. It’s doing wonderful things for our kids and for certain children this kind of challenge can really make them thrive.

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