California Students Named Champions in Unique National Competition that Demonstrates Importance of Math in Real Life

California Students Named Champions in Unique National Competition that Demonstrates Importance of Math in Real Life

May 1, 2018

Participation in a prestigious national math competition has added up to a first-place finish for five high school students. The group of 12th graders from Los Altos High School took home the top prize of $20,000 in college scholarships in the MathWorks Math Modeling (M3) Challenge, determined during the final event in New York City on Monday, April 30.

Joanne Yuan, Michael Vronsky, Justin Yu, Ryan Huang and Daniel Wang were among 4,175 students – working in 913 teams – participating in the Challenge, which involved using mathematical modeling to recommend solutions to the issue of food insecurity in the U.S. A total of $100,000 was up for grabs, divided among the finalist teams and top performers nationally.

“Food insecurity is one of the most important issues we deal with,” said Pat Canning, Ph.D., Senior Economist, Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. “I came to this event expecting students would be showcasing their mathematical ability but all the teams also considered practicality and were thinking of the real problem and how to use math to solve it. I was very impressed.” 

M3 Challenge Champions
Los Altos High School
Los Altos, California
M3 Challenge First Runner Up
Marvin Ridge High School
Waxhaw, North Carolina
M3 Challenge Third Place
Pine View School
Osprey, Florida

Organized by the Philadelphia-based Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) and sponsored by MathWorks, a leading developer of mathematical computing software for engineers and scientists, M3 Challenge is designed to spotlight the relevancy and power of mathematics in solving real-world issues, as well as motivate students to consider further education and careers in math and science. Participants were given 14 consecutive hours on a March weekend to study the issue in question, collect data and devise models before uploading their solutions online.

First runners-up in the competition are Marvin Ridge High School students Tyler Bolo, Andrew Claxton, Daniel Haller, Jainith Patel, and George Rateb, from Waxhaw, North Carolina, who split a $15,000 scholarship prize. Third place winners are Pine View School students Chloe Harris, Dylan Hull, Tristan Lee, Zoe McDonald, and Sarah Mihm, from Osprey, Florida, who shared $10,000 in scholarship funds. Finalist teams from Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois; High Technology High School in Lincroft, New Jersey; and Middlebury Union High School in Middlebury, Vermont, received team scholarship prizes of $5,000 each. (See link below for a full list of winners).

After a rigorous, six-week long, blind judging process engaging more than 130 applied mathematician judges, the six finalist teams were notified of their exalted status and invited to present their solutions, live and all expenses paid, in New York City. The final 5-person judging panel included three long-time Challenge judges and problem developers, a USDA senior economist, and the Chief Scientist and inventor of MATLAB at MathWorks.

Additional recognitions were also given, including an M3 Technical Computing Scholarship prize of $3,000 for the Champion team, $2,000 for Pine View School, and $1,000 for Palatine High School in Palatine, Illinois. These supplementary awards were presented to recognize and reward the students for their outstanding use of programming to analyze, design and conceive a solution.

“Winning this competition means a lot,” said Joanne Yuan from the champion team, which was coached by Carol Evans, a mathematics teacher at Los Altos High School. “I really didn’t think we would win because the other teams here have more experience in this competition and last year was our first time participating. Last year we earned an Honorable Mention, so our winning is something concrete that shows we’ve improved.” 

“These students did this on their own,” said Coach Evans. “They had no intellectual or program coaching from any adult, just encouragement. My goal as a teacher is to make myself redundant, and I was. I couldn’t be prouder.”

“We pose big problems about real issues that many students may not know much about. They need to quantify and organize data, identify and use skills they’ve learned in math class – and may have never related to something real or thought they could use before,” said Michelle Montgomery, M3 Challenge Project Director at SIAM. ­­­­“Participation in M3 Challenge can change lives – helping students to see that math skills can lead to important and valuable work and impactful differences and predictions for their communities and even the world.”

Members of the final judging panel included professional mathematicians Karen M. Bliss, Ph.D., Virginia Military Institute; Kelly Black, Ph.D., University of Georgia; Pat Canning, Ph.D., Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture; Kathleen Kavanagh, Ph.D., Clarkson University; Cleve Moler, Ph.D., cofounder of MathWorks.

Prior to Monday’s judging round, held at the offices of quantitative trading firm Jane Street in Manhattan, more than 900 student submissions were assessed. The entries were ultimately narrowed down to six finalists, six semi-finalists and 22 honorable mentions. Three M3 Technical Computing Awards were overlaid on top of any other distinction. In total, about 4% of entrants were distinguished with scholarship prizes.

For more information about the MathWorks Math Modeling (M3) Challenge, visit  

To access the challenge problem, visit

View the 2018 winning solutions and full list of winning teams here:

About MathWorks

MathWorks is the leading developer of mathematical computing software. MATLAB, the language of technical computing, is a programming environment for algorithm development, data analysis, visualization, and numeric computation. Simulink is a graphical environment for simulation and Model-Based Design for multidomain dynamic and embedded systems. Engineers and scientists worldwide rely on these product families to accelerate the pace of discovery, innovation, and development in automotive, aerospace, electronics, financial services, biotech-pharmaceutical, and other industries. MATLAB and Simulink are also fundamental teaching and research tools in the world's universities and learning institutions. Founded in 1984, MathWorks employs more than 4000 people in 16 countries, with headquarters in Natick, Massachusetts, USA. For additional information, visit

About Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics
Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is an international society of more than 14,000 individual, academic and corporate members from 85 countries. SIAM helps build cooperation between mathematics and the worlds of science and technology to solve real-world problems through publications, conferences, and communities like chapters, sections and activity groups. Learn more at


Related Videos

  • Mathematics of Data Science - Data Science is Everywhere

  • Using Algebra and Geometry in the Real World

  • Careers in STEM : Why They’re Important

  • Communicating Complex Topics to the Public