Its history stretches back several decades. In the 1980’s, Peter O’Halloran, an Australian mathematician and teacher, began a popular mathematical competition in his country. The test was open to anyone who wanted to participate, and included engaging and thought-provoking questions which stemmed from mathematical areas of knowledge including algebra, geometry, and logic.
In 1991, this idea was taken up in Paris, France. The competition began to be called “Kangaroo” because of its Australian origin. Very quickly, it spread throughout Europe, and presently over 6 million students throughout the world take part. In September 2012 a nice article was published in EMS Newsletter by Prof. Gregor Dolinar, the President of Kangourou Sans Frontiéres, where one could read about history, present and future of the competition worldwide.
The vision of promoting greater commitment to the study of mathematics through the use of interesting problems and positive reinforcement also reached the United States. In 1998, Maria Omelanczuk, a trained mathematician and educator, began with a Math Kangaroo competition at the Sobieski School in Chicago.
At that time, yearly participation in the contest increased to the point that Mrs. Omelanczuk, together with Izabela Szpiech and Joanna Lasek, formed a not-for-profit organization, Math Kangaroo in USA, NFP Inc. with purpose of organizing and promoting the competition in the US. Since 2003, the competition in the US has been handled by this charity organization. The organization also helps students prepare for the competition by sharing educational resources.
Math Kangaroo 2020 took place online for the first time in USA, due to pandemic COVID-19; over 35,000 students participated.
In August 2020 Maria Omelanczuk stepped down from the CEO’s position after 23 years of serving the organization. Joanna Matthiesen (Lasek) became the second President and CEO of Math Kangaroo USA, NFP, effective September 1, 2020.