Fifth-smartest state in America: Wyoming

Wyoming ranks near the top of our list mostly because 92.3% of its residents have high school degrees -- the highest proportion for any U.S. state or the District of Columbia.

The Equality State also has few equals when it comes to TV watching among high school students. Just 22% of Wyoming high schoolers watch three hours of TV or more per day -- the third-lowest percentage nationwide.

Wyoming also comes in an above-average 23rd place in terms of the percentage of young people in college (63%).

Similarly, the state's graduating high schoolers also averaged 579 on the SAT math test out of a possible 800 -- the 10th-best showing nationwide.

That said, just 5% of graduating Wyoming students took the SAT. Experts say such a low turnout can artificially push a state's average higher, as it typically means only the best students took the test.

Still, Martinez-Aleman theorizes Wyoming scored well in general partly because of the state's small population, which makes it easier to generously fund public schools on a per-student basis.

She also says rural states have few big-city school districts, "and that's a big advantage in many ways. The larger a school system is, the more complex and expensive it'll be -- and you might not get good results ."

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