Preparing for what can’t be prepared for

Preparing for what can’t be prepared for

Thousands of high school students get ready to compete for $115,000 in math modeling competition

December 12, 2012

Philadelphia, PA--Even as an organizer of Moody's Mega Math (M3) Challenge began explaining to an inquiring audience how students can prepare for the Internet-based math modeling competition, long-time judge David Sprecher, professor emeritus at UC Santa Barbara, exclaimed, "But you can't prepare!"

Interestingly, both perspectives accurately define the Challenge in which thousands of high school juniors and seniors from 29 states will compete on March 2 and 3, 2013, for scholarship awards totaling $115,000.

Sprecher has a valid point because the problem will remain unknown to students until the morning of their Challenge day; therefore, teams cannot prepare specifically for the problem they will tackle.

At the same time, participants can get a leg up on their competition by reviewing the tips and resources that M3 Challenge organizers offer to help orient them to the skills needed to compete. From reviewing the rules and guidelines--a critical step that takes only 10 minutes--to checking out sample problems and going over winning solutions from the previous seven Challenges, students can prepare. For an idea of what judges will look for, they should read the judge perspectives that follow the information about the judging process. A read-through of the 'Advice for Participants' flyer in which past students, coaches, and organizers share their secrets to a successful Challenge will also get teams in the M3 Challenge mindset.

Teams will also find themselves more at ease if they practice the problem download and upload features of the login page, choose a location--and perhaps a back-up location--for Challenge day, and plan for the right combination of food and music that teammates will need to stay on track.

Most importantly, participants should enjoy the experience! The M3 Challenge is a unique competition designed to help students see applied mathematics as a powerful problem-solving tool, as a viable and exciting profession, and as a vital contributor to advances in an increasingly technical society.

"The environment simulates the working world--teams of three to five students work together for 14 hours to research, understand and develop a solution to a practical problem, using only publicly available resources and data to write a paper of no more than 20 pages detailing their solution," explained Leon Seitelman, M3 Challenge consultant. "The tight deadline is very much like a business setting, where deadlines matter and decisions must often be made with incomplete data. The documentation also requires students to analyze potential shortcomings of their solution and show how it might be tested and improved." 

For those who have not yet registered or who want to register a second team for the M3 Challenge, there is still time. Registration must be completed by each team's teacher-coach on or before 6:00 p.m. EST on Friday, February 22, 2012. Registration is quick and easy and there are no entrance or participation fees.

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 and economic analysis and financial risk management. The Corporation, which reported revenue of $2.3 billion in 2011, employs approximately 6,000 people worldwide and maintains a presence in 28 countries. Further information is available at

About the Organizer

The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is an international society of over 14,000 individual members, including applied and computational mathematicians and computer scientists, as well as other scientists and engineers. Members from 85 countries are researchers, educators, students, and practitioners 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

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