High school students tackle timely issues with mathematics

High school students tackle timely issues with mathematics

November 1, 2011

29 eligible states and $115K in scholarship prizes in Moody's expanding math modeling contest

What are some of the biggest challenges facing America today? Stimulating the economy, achieving energy independence, extending Social Security benefits, preserving dwindling natural resources?

Incredibly, groups of high school students have attempted to provide solutions for each and every one of these issues as participants in Moody's Mega Math (M3) Challenge. An Internet-based, high-school applied math contest, the M3 Challenge introduces students to math as a powerful tool to solve realistic problems, analyze and interpret relevant issues, and predict outcomes of current events and situations.

For the past six years, thousands of eleventh and twelfth graders have come up with creative, innovative, and practical solutions for problems ranging from stock market performance to long-term drought.

"The Challenge gives young students a chance to tackle real-world problems and understand their complexity," observes Margaret Wright, Past President of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), which organizes the contest. "It is not just solving a simple equation; it is a complicated problem that they have to make choices about. And that's what life is like."

Registration for the 2012 Challenge opens today, and Challenge weekend is set for March 3--4. There are no entrance or participation fees and each high school may enter up to two teams of three to five students each. Winning teams will share scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $20,000 toward the pursuit of higher education, with prize money totaling $115,000.

The Challenge is entirely Internet-based, and students are allowed to use free, publicly available, inanimate sources of information. The problem is completely unknown to teams until they login on their selected Challenge day at 7:00 a.m. after which they will have until 9:00 p.m. that night to research and analyze the issue, assemble data, develop a model, and upload their answer in the form of a solution paper. Solutions are judged based on the approach and methods used and the creativity displayed in problem-solving and math-modeling. There is no unique answer and partial solutions are accepted. Any attempts to get help from animate/human sources outside of the team itself, in person or via any medium, is strictly prohibited and grossly violates the spirit of the Challenge.

What started as a contest in the New York City Metropolitan area in 2006 now spans 29 states in the Eastern United States. This year, high schools in 11 additional states are eligible to form teams, extending the contest west of the East Coast region roughly to the Mississippi River, including states from Minnesota to Louisiana. "We are expanding westward in the most manageable way possible, making sure we maintain outstanding organization of all aspects of contest administration as well as ensuring the rigorous judging of each submitted paper," says Michelle Montgomery, M3 Challenge project director at SIAM. "We are very excited to offer this opportunity to more students, teachers, and schools."

The Challenge motivates students to look beyond textbook math and science, offers them a taste of real-world applications, and aims to inspire the next generation of problem solvers, who will likely face in their own lives the very challenges they will encounter as Challenge participants.

"We think it's impossible for individuals and businesses to compete and succeed in today's global market without a solid foundation in financial and economic literacy," says Fran Laserson, President of The Moody's Foundation, sponsor of the contest. "We want to encourage students to think about careers in math, economics, and finance."

It's anybody's guess what issue the 2012 Challenge will tackle, but if history is any indicator, it is bound to be one of great significance and interest.

Please find complete information on Moody's Mega Math Challenge, such as eligibility requirements, contest rules, and archives of past Challenges by navigating the links on the site.

Register your team through the "Participate" tab.

About the Sponsor

The Moody's Foundation is a charitable foundation established by Moody's Corporation. Moody's is committed to supporting education, in particular the study of mathematics, finance and economics. The Foundation also funds specific initiatives in the areas of health and human services, arts and culture, civic and Economic Development programs. These programs are primarily located in New York City. Grants are also made in San Francisco, California, and London, England. Moody's is an essential component of the global capital markets, providing credit ratings, research, tools and analysis that contribute to transparent and integrated financial markets. Moody's Corporation (NYSE: MCO) is the parent company of Moody's Investors Service, which provides credit ratings and research covering debt instruments and securities, and Moody's Analytics, which offers leading-edge software, advisory services and research for credit analysis, economic research and financial risk management. The Corporation, which reported revenue of $2 billion in 2010, employs approximately 4,600 people worldwide and maintains a presence in 30 countries. Further information is available at www.moodys.com.

About the Organizer

The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), headquartered in Philadelphia, PA, is an international society of over 14,000 individual members. These include applied and computational mathematicians and computer scientists, as well as other scientists and engineers. Members are researchers, educators, students, and practitioners from 85 countries in industry, government, laboratories, and academia. The Society, which also includes nearly 500 academic and corporate institutional members, serves and advances the disciplines of applied mathematics and computational science by publishing a variety of books and prestigious peer-reviewed research journals, by conducting conferences, and by hosting activity groups in various areas of mathematics. SIAM provides many opportunities for students including regional sections and student chapters. Further information is available at www.siam.org.

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