PIMS Celebrates the 20th Annual ELMACON

Started in 1999, ELMACON was designed to give elementary school students in grades five through seven the chance to experience mathematics as an exciting and challenging competition. Organized by PIMS under the guidance of Dr. Cary Chien (formerly of David Thompson Secondary School) and our British Columbia Education Coordinator, Dr. Melania Alvarez, ELMACON has kept a long-standing tradition of PIMS Education outreach alive, well, and growing.




With a record-breaking attendance of 320 participants, this year’s competition—the 20th annual ELMACON—held on April 28 at UBC, did not disappoint. The EOS building’s atrium bustled with the excitement of over 1000 students, parents, PIMS staff and volunteers for a contest that filled three lecture halls to capacity.




Joshua Keshet, one of the ELMACON volunteer family’s longest-serving champions, has for years given his time, year-round, to create, collect, refine and edit the math problems that make the ELMACON exam final cut each year.


His service to the program stems from the ELMACON belief in bringing mathematical thinking to children in a competition format that engenders interest in both the subject and the challenge. By injecting more creative and thought-provoking problems into the experience of mathematics in early grades, the hope is to affect a follow-on increase in the mathematical standards at the elementary school level.


Joshua’s efforts have helped to establish and maintain the quality and impact of ELMACON content. Both he and PIMS Education Coordinator, Melania Alvarez, hope that young mathematicians will take up the challenge of preparing high-quality problems for the ELMACON competition. The more people who help, the more we increase the long-term sustainability of this vital program.


“ELMACON is about meeting the challenge of mathematics in a competition setting; regardless of the outcome. It doesn’t matter if you fail; it matters that you have the courage to test yourself. This is important for kids to learn.”


— Dr. Melania Alvarez


ELMACON was modelled after the successful MathCounts competitions (also supported by PIMS) but tailored for younger students. Participants compete in separate divisions corresponding to their grade level. Each division then faces a contest comprised of two written rounds (Sprint & Target rounds), and the Countdown round (a verbal one-on-one competition). The top 25 participants in each grade are acknowledged and the top ten participants from each grade advance to the Countdown round.




We believe that changing the mindset around mathematics starts in the elementary school classroom, and that a great way into the subject is through the camaraderie, joy and challenge of the contest environment.


We have seen students return to compete again, an increase in the participation from young girls, and a growing interest in mathematics as evidenced by the year over year increase in participation.


With that, PIMS would like to extend its genuine thanks to the competitors, our donors, and of course, to the army of volunteers whose hard work made the 20th Annual ELMACON our best one yet.


The results for this year’s competition have now been posted along with a suite of photos from the day.




For more information, please contact our organizers at elmacon@pims.math.ca.