Year-round creative mathematical problem solving was initiated in Hungary in 1894, through the high school mathematics journal, KöMaL, Except for interruptions caused by World Wars I and II, KöMaL continues to be published. KöMaL is a popular abbreviation of Középiskolai Matematikai és Fizikai Lapok (KMaL), which means "High School Mathematics and Physics Journal".
In order to provide similar challenges to students in the United States, the USA Mathematical Talent Search (USAMTS) was initiated in 1989 by Professor George Berzsenyi under the joint sponsorship of the Rose-Hulman Institute for Technology (RHIT) and and the Consortium for Mathematics and Its Applications (COMAP). The USAMTS was initially conducted through a regular column by the same name in Consortium, a quarterly newsletter published by COMAP.
The National Security Agency's (NSA) involvement with the USAMTS grew out of a conversation between Prof. Berzsenyi and Gene Berg at the Seventh International Congress on Mathematics Education, held in Quebec, Canada, in the summer of 1992. By that time, both the USAMTS and its international extension were well established, and it became evident that the growing popularity of the USAMTS necessitated various adjustments in its administration. In 1997 the administrative portions of the USAMTS were transferred to COMAP, while the mathematical responsibilities associated with the USAMTS were assumed by the NSA, with Dr. Berg becoming the Director of the USAMTS. In 2000, Dr. Blair Kelly became the third Director of the USAMTS, and in 2001, NSA assumed all responsibility for the USAMTS.
In 2004, full responsibility for the contest passed to the Art of Problem Solving Foundation. NSA continues its generous financial support, as well as handling some of the grading and problem generation duties.
The USAMTS problems and solutions also appeared in Mathematics and Informatics Quarterly (M&IQ) as the equivalent International Mathematical Talent Search (IMTS). The first 22 rounds of the IMTS are gathered together in M&IQ, vol. 6 no. 4, November 1996.