Our goal at MathWorks Math Modeling (M3) Challenge is to motivate young people to study and pursue careers in fields like applied math, computational science, and technical computing. Our unique contest poses a big, open-ended problem that student teams work on for up to 14 consecutive hours during Challenge weekend using online collaboration tools. All submissions are rigorously judged and all teams are given feedback. The 37 teams that rise to the top are awarded scholarship prizes totaling $100,000+ or £75,000+. And because we feel strongly that everyone should have a chance to participate, M3 Challenge is free of entry or participation fees.
Even if you’re already familiar with M3 Challenge, sometimes getting started can be a bit daunting. Here are some tips for making the most of the experience and the inside scoop on what you can expect.
- Familiarize Yourself with the Website and Register
The first thing you’ll need to do is get reacquainted with the M3 Challenge website, which is conveniently organized into four tabs:
- The Challenge – subtabs guide you through the main aspects of the contest
- Participate – subtabs are important for participating teams
- Resources – subtabs offer many options to prepare for success in the Challenge
- Archives – subtabs contain the problem, outstanding solutions, judge commentary, videos, photos, and more from each year’s competition
When you’re ready, the Register button is at the top right. The teacher-coach will need basic contact information about the school, plus team members’ names and emails, to complete the registration form.
TIP: You can change the members of your team from those who registered initially. People change their minds, they get sick, and their circumstances change. Try to form your team with people who have a variety of skill sets and who work well together. Some teams find it helpful to name a leader or captain or to assign roles and responsibilities in advance, while maintaining some flexibility.
- Don’t Procrastinate! Prepare in Advance
Spend time with the resources provided on the website. Run through problems, brainstorm ideas, read past judge commentaries to see what they’re looking for, and review the scoring guide so you’re familiar with how submissions are assessed. And don’t ignore the Challenge checklist. See if the solution paper template will work for your team and set it up in advance as much as possible. Decide what collaboration tools you will use and make sure everyone on the team is ready. If your team plans to use technical computing, download the software and check out the instructional tools and linked blog posts on the Learn Technical Computing page. Set a tentative schedule for your 14 hours of work on Challenge weekend, including check-in times for the team and break times to eat, stretch, and regroup. If you agree on these things in advance you will have a good framework for your day, even if you need to adjust on the fly.
- Day of Challenge – What You’ll Need to Do During Your Work Time
M3 Challenge is a collaborative project experience, during which you will make predictions and provide insights based on data. There are lots of great tips in the Resources area of the website on what to expect, but here’s an overview of what you will need to do during your 14-hour Challenge time.
- brainstorm and research
- make assumptions and define what variables you think are important
- define your problem – the one you will try to solve
- get solutions and then analyze them to see if they make sense
- if your solutions don’t make sense, go back and try to make changes if you have time
- if you don’t have time, submit what you have and write up what you would try if you had more time
In the open-ended section of the post-Challenge survey that we conduct each year, many students have called their M3 Challenge experience transformative. We hope you will too! If you have any questions about how to register or participate, please don’t hesitate to contact us.