About the M3 Challenge

M3 Challenge spotlights applied mathematics as a powerful problem-solving tool and as a viable and exciting profession. Participating students are encouraged to explore and bolster their mathematical modeling know-how to position themselves for success. The specific real-world problem that is posed each year is unknown to participants until they login during Challenge weekend. The Challenge is entirely Internet-based with no registration or participation fees. High schools in the U.S. (including U.S. territories and DoDEA schools) may enter up to two teams of three to five junior and/or senior students. Schools with sixth forms in England and Wales may enter up to two teams of three to five sixth form students (age 16-19). Homeschool and cyber school students at the same academic and age level may also participate. Winners receive scholarship prizes totaling $100,000 (or over 79,000 pound sterling at time of writing)!

Flexible work time: All teams will work in or convert their local time to Eastern Standard Time and will download the problem anytime during Challenge weekend to begin their 14 consecutive hours of work. In 2021, Challenge weekend is Friday, February 26 at 6:00 a.m. EST through Monday, March 1 at 11:00 p.m. EST. Once the problem is downloaded, the team’s 14-hour clock starts and it cannot be paused; students should download the problem with at least 14 hours before the end of Challenge weekend to have use of the full 14 hours allowed. Teams can work from any location they choose and can use any free and publicly available resources, but they may not discuss any aspect of the problem with, or seek help from, their coach or anyone other than their teammates via any medium. See Official Rules and Guidelines for complete details.

More than 125 Ph.D.-level applied mathematicians serve as judges throughout three rounds of judging. Coaches and teams are notified in April of the judging results. Teams selected for the six M3 Finalist prizes and for the three M3 Technical Computing Scholarship Awards are required to present their papers in person at the confirmation (third) round of judging to determine the final rank-order of those papers. The location of the Final Event is in New York, NY. Expenses are paid according to the M3 Challenge Team Travel and Expense Reimbursements Guidelines.




The six M3 Finalist teams receive scholarship awards ranging from $5,000 to $20,000, which are divided equally among team members and paid directly to the colleges or universities at which they enroll. Semi-finalist and honorable mention winners (28 awards) receive team prizes of $1,500 and $1,000, respectively. M3 Technical Computing Awardees receive team prizes ranging from $1,000 to $3,000. 

M3 Finalist Awards honor the top six teams overall for oustanding mathematical approaches to the three main prompts in the Challenge problem. Teams should create mathematical models; justifying assumptions, defining parameters, describing their process, analyzing effects of change, and describing results. Award Amounts: Champion - $20,000; Runner Up - $15,000; Third Place - $10,000; Finalist (3) - $5,000 each.

M3 Technical Computing Scholarship Award honors teams for outstanding use of programming to analyze, design, and conceive a solution for the Challenge problem. Teams must use any programming platform other than spreadsheets, such as MS Excel, to be eligible for the award. *This award may be overlaid and added onto M3 finalist, semi-finalist or honorable mention distinction and prizes; it is not mutually exclusive. Award Amounts:  Winner - $3,000; Runner Up - $2,000; ​Third Place - $1,000         

The Challenge was first conducted in 2006 in the New York City metropolitan area and after a series of managed expansions is now available throughout the entire U.S. and its territories, England, and Wales. 

M3 Challenge is the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions, including: placement on the National Association of Secondary School Principals’ (NASSP) National Advisory List of Student Contests & Activities since 2010; 2009 ASAE Associations Advance America (AAA) Award of Excellence; 2008 Excellence Award from the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP).