Host Instructions for NSML Meets

At least one month in advance of the contest

  1. Reserve rooms in your school. You will need a minimum of:
    • Four rooms for written events, or space to hold at least 100 contestants. (Five contestants and five alternates for each of five schools and two grade levels at a time.)
    • Three rooms for orals: one room for sequestering, one room for preparation, and one room for presentation. Make sure the presentation room has sufficient board space.
    • One homeroom per school. Typical classrooms are appropriate.
    • One “headquarters” room for grading (for example, a classroom or department office).
    • One large room or space for presenting awards. This space needs to hold about 200 people.
    • Several unlocked washrooms.
    • A school might want to bring more than five alternates at a grade level. It is up to the host to decide whether to accommodate the school.
  2. Order refreshments for coaches.
  3. Make refreshment arrangements for students, if feasible.
  4. Decide on prizes for the 20-question event. (Candy bars are a big favorite.) Most schools bring between 20 and 30 students, but with large schools there could be 40 or more. Use your own judgment and resources to decide how much to get.
  5. Prepare documents to send to the head coaches of the schools competing at your site. These documents should include:
    1. a schedule of contest start times (including the oral contest draw);
    2. a map with directions to your school;
    3. a statement about cafeteria space availability and/or food in rooms; and
    4. a statement indicating whether schools are limited to five alternates per written event or may bring more.

    It is desirable to determine the order of the oral presentations through a random draw in the presence of the contestants on the night of the contest. You may, however, include an oral timetable with the schedule. In either case, the selection process must be random.

  6. Assign faculty to be in charge of the various events. You will need a minimum of:

    • Written rooms: One proctor for each room.
    • Oral rooms: Two proctors—one for sequestering and preparation and one timer in the presentation room.
    • Grading: Three to five people to grade, double-check the grading, fill out score sheets and ribbons, and stuff envelopes.
    • Data Entry: Two people to enter scores. One person could also be a grader. It is imperative that the scores be entered correctly, so two pairs of eyes on this is a must.

    Make efforts to ensure that all proctors understand the rules of the contest and how each event should be run. In particular, make sure written proctors understand the rules regarding instructions given before the contest begins, time announcements, and questions for contestants. Be sure the timer for the orals understands the oral rules and knows to read the “script” to each contestant as he/she enters.

  7. The League will provide host schools with ribbons at the beginning of the year. Check to see that you have them.
  8. Prepare a folder or large envelope for each event. Place a sufficient number of question sheets in them. Also include a copy of the instructions for the proctor. Supply each proctor with blank scratch paper.
  9. Prepare 10” x 13” or larger envelopes labeled for each school for stuffing the night of the contest. Include in these envelopes a complete set of the questions and answers.

Monday the week before the week of the contest

  1. Assign students to contest rooms.


    Junior and Senior will be in 279 and 281. Please assign at most 8 students (per grade level) to room 279. Send the remainder to 281.

    Room assignments should no longer be done by status (contestant vs alternate). At some schools, students might not even know their status.

  2. Make sure you have sent an email to the head coaches of all schools attending. Include the schedule and other items mentioned above.

    This gives coaches time to get permission slips to students at the practice before the “meet week” if needed.

A few days before the night of the contest

  1. Copying Question Sets: Contest questions and answer keys will be sent to head coaches a few days prior to the contest via e-mail attachments. As the host school, you will need to duplicate the question sets in numbers sufficient for all participants and alternates. If there are any last minute changes to either the questions or the answers, you will be notified via phone or e-mail by the League President or other member of the NSML Board. At all times prior to the contest, keep questions and answers secure and out of plain view.
  2. (Orals Copies) The orals will be sent in two forms: a three-page contestant form and a one page judge’s form. You will need to copy an adequate number of both. It is critical that the contestants get the three-page form.
  3. Checking for Errors: The head coach should ask a trustworthy, non-math team math teacher to review printed versions of the e-mail attachments for transmission and copy errors only. The most common kind of error is an obvious corruption of a diagram (e.g., labels of points disappear or come out as symbols). Compare the printed version to the online version to catch these. It is inappropriate for a coach or anyone else at the host school to review or work through the problems before the contest. The questions have been proofread, and if there is an error, we will deal with it on the night of the meet.

The night of the contest

  1. Post signs to direct arriving students to their homerooms, or arrange for student guides.
  2. Verify that teams can enter the school the way you expect.
  3. Double check question packets for each proctor.
  4. Place in written rooms (or give to proctors) scratch paper and extra pencils.
  5. Make sure refreshments for students and coaches are ready.
  6. Make sure the oral room has necessary equipment, such as a timer, chalk/markers and eraser, and any special equipment needed for the particular topic (e.g. construction material, overhead projector and pens, etc.).
  7. Under League rules, an oralist, or member of an oral contest team, may compete as an alternate in a written event, but may not compete as a contestant in a written event.
  8. No roster changes are permitted after the first contest begins.
  9. Grade papers, double-check grading, and stuff school envelopes with their tests and a complete set of questions and answers.
  10. After each of the written exams has begun, the host school should deliver to each homeroom a copy of the exams being given and their answers. Be careful to not disclose answers to written events not yet taken that night.
  11. After the contests have been graded, scores must be entered at the NSML web site. Log in as the host school and see the “Hosting” tab.
  12. Try to start the awards presentation as soon as possible. Displaying results on a large screen (with a little drama) works very well. In any case, the presentation need not last more than 10 minutes.
  13. Save extra ribbons and return them to the NSML Ribbon Coordinator.


In general, the host school is not involved at all in handling appeals. See general meet instructions. The case of an obviously wrong answer on the official answer sheet is handled specially. If you suspect this to be the case: (1) check your texts and email (it may already be handled); (2) call the League President or Appeals Committee Chair on his/her cell phone.

When in doubt about a situation, take action that allows for a later decision either way. (For example, allow a student to finish taking the contest when their eligibility is in doubt.)

Current contact information for the Appeals Committee Chair and League President will be sent to host schools by e-mail several days before the meet date.

Unusual Events

Although the League tries to anticipate problems, there is always a chance of something unusual happening that is not explicitly covered in the rules or instructions. As the host, you are authorized to make decisions the night of the contest to handle any such situation that may arise. The League will go along with your decision. Consulting the coaches of the visiting schools and arriving at a mutual consensus is, of course, desirable, but if a consensus cannot be reached and a decision must be made, the host school has the final authority the night of the contest to do what she or he thinks is best.

Revision History

  • 6/2017 Revised
  • 5/2022 Imported to new format (Markdown)
  • 9/2022 Moved all-school meet instructions to a separate document.
  • 9/2022 Small edits and rephrasing.
  • 1/2024 Added room assignment example - not separated by status.