QED Project Guidelines, Pre-Registration, and Qualifying for the City Science Fair

All papers should follow all of the guidelines presented here. You will find the pre-registration form at the bottom of this page. 

A QED entry consists of two parts: a paper and a presentation board summarizing the major ideas and work of the paper (just like science fair). Students are expected to be in attendance on the day of the symposium to present their work to the judges and to each other.

QED entries will be judged by the following rubrics:

Students interested in qualifying for the CPS Science Fair through QED should also read the Science Fair guidelines at http://cpsscifair.org/Docs/2010Handbook.htm. At QED the top six students in grades 9-12 and the top six students in grades 7-8 who are Chicago Public School students will automatically qualify for the City Fair. These students will be notified at QED that they have qualified and must submit the forms linked to below and two copies of their paper no later than December 16th (these must be originals; electronic forms will not be accepted).

Please note that some of these forms must be signed by teacher-mentors, so they cannot be filled out during the Symposium.

Paper Guidelines

Senior Division (high school students) participants must submit their papers by November 15th, the deadline for pre-registration.

Junior (5th/6th grade) Division and and Intermediate Division (7th/8th grade) participants must submit their papers by November 30th.

Papers must be typed, double-spaced, in 12 point Times New Roman. It is acceptable for students to hand-write equations and hand-drawn diagrams, but – especially for high school papers – typeset work is preferred. Note that Microsoft Word and Google Drive both include relatively straightforward equation editing tools. Papers need not be written in LaTeX. Papers should be converted to .pdfs before being emailed to qed@mathcirclesofchicago.org by the deadlines listed above.

We expect that papers in the Junior Division (grades 5-6) will be 3-5 pages in length, Intermediate Division (grades 7-8) 5-7 pages, and papers in the Senior Division (grades 9-12) will be 10 pages or more. These page counts include a reference page, but excludes appendices. The main focus is on quality of thought and results, not quantity of writing; we anticipate that some excellent papers will present elegant solutions that require less explanation. All papers must contain the following items, although the expectations for each item vary with each Division.

The abstract is a short (5-6 sentence) summary of the problem and the direction of the student’s research. A good abstract raises questions that draw the reader into the paper, while letting him or her know what the paper is about and what to expect.

The introduction provides a clear statement of the problem, including its history and background. While an introduction should not go into great detail, an introduction should describe where the problem comes from and at least mention significant results related to the problem.

The body of the paper provides the actual results and justification (formal proofs or, for younger authors, informal reasoning or logic). We expect that younger authors will also include discussion of strategies that did not work out, but older authors will only include “dead-ends” that are interesting or productive in their own right.

The conclusion should include three things: a summary or restatement of the major results or findings of the paper; a brief description of what the student learned about mathematics or about problem-solving strategies; and new directions or questions for further research.

Bibliographies must follow the format given in this document. We expect that students in the Junior Division (5-6) will do little, if any, secondary research, but students in higher divisions will included background material including textbook references, articles from newspapers, magazines, and journals, and reasonable web sources (Wolfram Mathworld, Cut-The-Knot, or The Math Forum at Drexel University, for example).

Appendices are optional, but are the appropriate places for large data tables, computer code, and other items that support the main argument but which do not have to be read closely to understand what the student did.

Presentation Board Guidelines
Student presentations should fit on a standard presentation board and contain information appropriate to presenting the project: a restatement of the problem, description of the approach as appropriate, key equations and background theorems, important or persuasive diagrams, and crucial results and conclusions. For papers that present formal proofs, it may be appropriate to include an outline or summary of major steps in the proof, but we do not expect to see the same level of detail and rigor that would go in a paper.

Project Divisions
Student divisions are based on grade levels, regardless of the mathematics the students are actually studying. Students who are doing particularly advanced projects may enter in a higher division.

Junior: grades 5-6
Intermediate: grades 7-8
Senior: grades 9-12

*Please note: QED allows for partner projects at every level. However, those wishing to also compete in the CPS Science Fair should note that CPS does not allow partnered projects at the High School level.

**Important reminder to Senior Division entries. You must submit your paper by November 16th, 2020 (this deadline was extended due to the CPS school closure on 11/12). Papers may only be submitted in .pdf file format. Upon registration, you should email your paper to qed@mathcirclesofchicago.org. 


Pre-registration for QED 2021 is now closed. Email qed@mathcirclesofchicago.org if you have any questions.  PLEASE READ: If you have a partner, you and your partner should complete this form together only ONCE, and complete the information for BOTH PARTNERS COMPLETELY.

  • Please do NOT use an @cps.edu email address here. CPS student accounts will not accept messages from outside the CPS system. If you do not have a personal, non-CPS email, consider using your parent's email instead.
  • Please do NOT use an @cps.edu email address here. CPS student accounts will not accept messages from outside the CPS system. If you do not have a personal, non-CPS email, consider using your parent's email instead.
  • Preferred format examples: Payton HS, not Walter Payton; Skinner North ES, not Mark T. Skinner
  • Max characters: 25
  • We are keeping this in our form for future years, but we do not expect to have t-shirts while QED is online.
  • We are keeping this in our form for future years, but we do not expect to have t-shirts while QED is online.
  • I plan to use a computer in my presentation and am requesting my presentation table be near a power outlet