North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics Wins 10TH Annual Moody’s Mega Math Challenge

North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics Wins 10TH Annual Moody’s Mega Math Challenge

A team of high school students from Durham, North Carolina, earned $20,000 in scholarships
using mathematical modeling to determine the true cost of higher education 

April 28, 2015

NEW YORK, N.Y. (April 28, 2015) — Five students from North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM) earned top honors –- and top dollar –- yesterday for their cost-benefit analysis of obtaining a college degree, just as they prepare to embark on their own college careers. The winning team, one of two finalist teams from the same high school in Durham, N.C., prevailed over more than 5,000 students comprising 1,128 teams from across the country in the 10th annual Moody’s Mega Math (M3) Challenge, a national high school math modeling competition that this year required participants to answer the question, “Is college worth it?”

After successfully presenting and defending their solutions before a panel of PhD-level professional mathematicians at The Moody’s Foundation headquarters, the Champion NCSSM team took home $20,000 in scholarship funds. Another NCCSM team claimed the $15,000 second place prize.

The Champion team from North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics:  Left to Right: Guy Blanc, Moody's Foundation President Fran Laserson, Sandeep Silwal, Michael An, Jenny Wang, and Evan Liang

The Champion team from North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics: From Left to Right: Guy Blanc, 
Moody's Foundation President Fran Laserson, Sandeep Silwal, Michael An, Jenny Wang, and Evan Liang. 

“Our success in this competition is a true testament to our students,” said Dr. Dan Teague, an NCSSM math teacher who coached both teams in this year’s finals. “Credit also goes to our outstanding faculty. Every English and humanities teacher who helped these students express complex ideas along the way shares this honor.” The North Carolina teams’ success reinforces the true team-based nature of the Challenge, which rewards students’ ability to communicate their solutions in the form of a 20-page report in just 14 hours.

Mark Zandi, chief economist, Moody’s Analytics, and co-founder of Economy.com, was the afternoon’s keynote speaker. Zandi spoke candidly to the young competitors, providing inspiration and advice based on his own experiences. “I am a forecaster and I forecast really good things for you. All those good things can be even better if you soak up as much education as you possibly can. Take some risks. Do something that makes you feel really uncomfortable. It's when you take chances that cool and interesting things happen. Surround yourself with people who complement you and stick with them.”

Philadelphia-based Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) organizes the Challenge and promotes applied mathematics as the basis for an exciting profession. “The Challenge encourages students to view the world through a different lens. Year after year, we receive feedback from students who think differently after they participate. Competitors are quantifying and comparing problems in the real world,” said Michelle Montgomery, M3 Challenge project director and director of marketing and outreach at SIAM.

SIAM spotlights careers in STEM fields as essential to advances in an increasingly technical world, and has worked with sponsor organization The Moody’s Foundation to organize the M3 Challenge for a decade.

“STEM education is imperative to continue the robust pipeline of talent at Moody’s and elsewhere in our industry,” said Frances G. Laserson, president of The Moody’s Foundation. “This year, we reached more than 5,000 future applied mathematicians, economists, and computational scientists across the country via this contest, and are proud to have a part in motivating young people to study and pursue careers in these important fields.” 

Yesterday’s competitors presented math models to determine the true cost of earning a degree, accounted for the impact of President Obama’s recent free two-year community college proposal, and contrasted potential financial outcomes for those pursuing STEM and non-STEM degrees. Students also quantified factors that would influence a graduate’s overall quality of life after school.

This year’s six finalists – from Connecticut, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Virginia – took home a combined $60,000 in scholarships. An additional $65,000 in scholarships was distributed among six semi-finalist and 53 honorable mention teams. Watch a brief overview of finalist team presentations and awards ceremony highlights here.

For the 10th anniversary, M3 Challenge organizers produced a series of retrospective videos highlighting past competitors’ successes throughout their college careers and into the workplace. Several former M3 champions attended the event, including the inaugural winning team from Staples High School in Westport, Conn.

 

Final Ranking:

  1. North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (Team #4902); Durham, N.C.: $20,000
  2. North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (Team #4904); Durham, N.C.: $15,000
  3. Elk River High School (Team #5560); Elk River, Minn.: $10,000
  4. Staples High School (Team #5057); Westport, Conn.: $7,500
  5. Maggie Walker Governor’s School (Team #4892); Richmond, Va..: $5,000
  6. South County High School (Team #4187); Lorton, Va.: $2,500                                             

View all top six finalist solution papers.

About the sponsor

The Moody's Foundation is a charitable organization established by Moody's Corporation, and is committed to supporting education, in particular the study of mathematics, finance and economics. 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 applied and computational mathematicians and computer scientists, as well as other scientists and engineers. SIAM provides opportunities for students including regional sections and student chapters. For more information, visit at www.siam.org.

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