UIL / TMSCA Number Sense Auto-Generated Practice Tests

Note: If you’re looking for the results of the auto-generated Number Sense practice tests, you can find them in the repository here. If you’re interested in some of the background behind the project, read below:

So I had a couple of free hours this past week so I whipped up some rough python code to auto-generate UIL Number Sense tests based off a database of questions that are sub-divided into 10-question buckets (e.g., I pooled Questions 1-10, 11-20, etc…, and randomly selected ten problems from each bucket and assembled a test in rough order). This would ensure that you don’t wind up with weird results like an integral question as Problem #1 or an easy multiply by 11 question as problem number #75.

You can download the first auto-generated practice test here and the answers here. For the time being, I plan on releasing a new practice test every week and setting up an archive on my website so you can view and download all auto-generated practice tests that have been created.

The formatting is about 98% there — occasionally you’ll have some quirky typesetting based on the conversion to LaTeX — and I only checked randomly selected answers to make sure they are coinciding with the problems asked, so there might be some mistakes on that end. For future tests, I’ll do a quick scan and correct any obviously wrong typeface.

All that’s left now is to write LaTeX stubs for more practice problems and increase my database of questions. I plan on contracting out that work through Fiverr in order to better optimize my time. I’ll be sure to release a “final” version of my python code as well as periodic updates to my questions database on this website so that coaches and students can run the code themselves and generate as many practice tests as they want.

So stay tuned for any updates and, if you are a competitor, check back every week for a new test!

Number Sense Practice Test LaTeX Template

[8/3/2017 Edit]: If you are looking for my archive of auto-generated practice tests, you can find the High School tests here and the Middle School tests here. Below gives you a brief description on how they were produced and my initial stab at creating a template (which I have since refined).


As I mentioned in a prior post, I am extremely interested in creating a pool of free UIL / TMSCA Number Sense practice tests. I spent an hour or so creating a \LaTeX template to produce worksheets and answer keys that are similarly formatted to the actual tests. I used this year’s UIL Sample Test as a reference to see if I could reproduce it. You can see the results yourself by downloading my \LaTeX version here and compare the two. All-in-all I think I was able to keep the formatting consistent, if not improve on some aspects — particular questions concerning fractions where I can use \dfrac{}{} to make the numerator and denominator appear larger in certain circumstances. Here is a quick comparison:

Scan of Current UIL Sample Test

Sample Number Sense Test

My LaTeX Version

LaTeX Number Sense Test

If you’d like to be able to make your own Number Sense Practice Tests, you can download my Questions Template here and the Answers Template here and mess around with improving it using TeXnicCenter or some other \LaTeX IDE. Note: you will have to install the <Exam> Package which you can do by using the MiKTex package installer or by downloading it from CTAN and manually installing the package.

For the future, I plan on publishing two practice tests a month that replicate the difficulty level seen in prior UIL-sanctioned exams. This should start a good a pool of free exams for teachers and students to use and, hopefully, make practicing for the competition accessible to more students. Eventually, I will automate the entire process using Python to piece together entire exams using the UIL Problem Sequencing as a guide and a every expanding pool of questions to choose from. Stay tuned!

UIL / TMSCA Number Sense Manual

Since this website will mostly be concerned with discussing some of my personal projects and hobbies, I thought it’d be appropriate for my first post to share one of my first major projects I ever put together: a manual for UIL / TMSCA Number Sense competitions

Number Sense Manual | Bryant Heath | 2007

(Dropbox Mirror)

I wrote it about ten years ago mostly to give me practice with all the nuances of writing in LaTeX and I haven’t really edited it since. I was also frustrated at the time that there were no free resources for prospective students interested in the Texas-based competition, so I made it available for all to download it. After a brief google search, it seems like nothing has changed — most material is either behind a paywall or is incredibly difficult to locate!

One of things I want to work on in the future is to create a sizable pool of Number Sense test questions where I can then formulate freely downloadable practice tests for students to work on. I am also thinking about starting a series of simple, two-minute videos highlighting individual mental math tricks to better showoff the concepts.

The benefits of mental math extend further than just a niche high-school level competition. For example, the ability to quickly and accurately calculate ensures that you have more time answering questions on standardized tests where difficult-to-use on-screen calculators are allowed (GRE, GMAT, etc…). In addition, better approximation methods — which is at the crux of mental math — allows you to save so much time and gives you a great feel of whether a particular approach is to problem or project is feasible.