North Carolina Team Places First in Moody’s Mega Math Challenge

North Carolina Team Places First in Moody’s Mega Math Challenge

Winning math model earns Durham students $20,000 in scholarships

April 29, 2014

Students from North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics celebrate after being named the 2014 Moody’s Mega Math Challenge Champions. From Left to Right: Steven Liao, Jennifer Wu, Zack Polizzi, Anne Lee, Irwin Li

NEW YORK-- Students from North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics tasted victory – and a healthier school lunch – on Monday, when the team of five high school seniors earned the top prize at the ninth annual Moody's Mega Math (M3) Challenge. The winning team prevailed over nearly 1,200 competing high schools and received $20,000 in scholarships for presenting the best answer to the question: Can school lunches be nutritious, affordable, and delicious?

"The kids did a tremendous job pulling together a lot of different ideas from a lot of different areas of mathematics and worked together as a team really well this year," said Daniel Teague, math teacher and coach of the champion team. "We've had a number of teams do well in past Challenges, and we are excited to see many continue to study math--some even intern with Moody's. This experience has been a very positive one and has encouraged the students' interest in the field."

The M3 Challenge, which is organized by the Philadelphia-based Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), spotlights applied mathematics as a powerful problem-solving tool, as an exciting profession, and as a vital contributor to advances in an increasingly technical society.

"STEM education is critical for continuing the pipeline of talent at Moody's and elsewhere," said Frances G. Laserson, president of The Moody's Foundation. "Providing innovative and competitive opportunities like the M3 Challenge is a priority for us. Reaching more than 5,000 future mathematicians across the country shows the importance and impact of such initiatives."

Six finalist teams competed head-to-head before a panel of mathematical experts, presenting their quantitative solutions to the national school lunch conundrum resulting from implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The finalists provided detailed explanations and answered questions about their submissions in the form of a report to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"Learning about the food system allows students to make educated decisions about their eating choices," said Kate Brashares, executive director of Edible Schoolyard NYC, who addressed the group. "It's exciting to see so many bright students thinking about healthy food options--perhaps these solutions should be taken to Washington!"

In fact, former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, who also spoke to the finalists, said he would facilitate the delivery of the top solutions to the current Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services at the USDA. "These remarkable students offered impressive solutions using their mathematical background and research and exposition skills to suggest ways to improve the school lunch program in the U.S.," Glickman said.

Here are some highlights from the finalists' entries:

- Some teams factored in widespread sleep deprivation when calculating the amount of calories a high-school student needs to consume at lunch

- One team took the extra step of researching how the school lunch plan might work in other countries

- Another team created a model to quantify how likely a student would be to actually eat certain foods based on his or her chemical makeup

- Yet another team found an inverse correlation between socioeconomic status and obesity levels, noting that the USDA should control for such factors to increase consumption of healthy school lunches

This year's top six finalists from Delaware, Indiana, New Jersey, and North Carolina took home a combined $60,000 in scholarship money. An additional $65,000 in scholarships was distributed among six Semi-Finalist and 53 Honorable Mention teams. Watch a brief overview of the finalist team presentations and awards ceremony here:

Final Ranking:

1. North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (Team #3377); Durham, N.C.: $20,000

2. High Technology High School (Team #2854); Lincroft, N.J.: $15,000

3. North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (Team #3379); Durham, N.C.: $10,000

4. Columbus North High School; (Team #3317); Columbus, Ind.:$7,500

5. The Charter School of Wilmington; (Team#3015); Wilmington, Del.: $5,000

6. Arsenal Technical High School (Team 3374); Indianapolis, Ind.: $2,500


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

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

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