In September 2013, after the pilot testing, 468 schools showed up for the beginning of the first Arete fall competition, and Kelley soon had 10,000 kids on the platform weekly. By November, he had arranged the highest-scoring 384 teams into six 64-team brackets. Two weeks before Christmas, the Final Four teams in each of the six divisions fought for their division’s title. In the highest division, TJ actually made it to the Final Four, but was outscored by the Academy for the Advancement of Science and Technology in Hackensack, New Jersey. Hackensack lost in the finals to San Jose’s Harker School. The following September, nearly 600 schools and 15,000 students showed up to play, paying a modest fee of between $120 and $195 per school, for access to the platform for the entire season.
In October 2015, Kelley received a grant of nearly $150,000 from the National Science Foundation to further develop his project. Soon, students will be able to arrange matches on their own. What’s more, hundreds of thousands of 6th- to 12th-grade students will be able to compete simultaneously in a challenge that decides a national and eventually a worldwide champion. After implementing that feature, Kelley wants to expand the same tournament model to other school subjects and grades.
AMC’s Dunbar hopes that Arete will ultimately bring high-level math to a larger audience—the traditional AMC is focused on just the top 10 percent of students in the top 10 percent of schools. “One of the things that I do, one of the things that gets me up and here into the office every day, is that I want to get more good math in front of more kids, more often, in as many ways as I possibly can,” he said. International competitions pitting our best students against the best in the world could be thrilling. “If you look at the top level of competition, the United States is as strong as any other country in the world,” he said. “It would be good and it would be competitive. It would be exciting.”