Solve a math problem, earn thousands for college

Solve a math problem, earn thousands for college

January 14, 2011

Earning a college scholarship by competing with hundreds of teams in solving a challenging, real-world problem using math is no mean feat.

And it's not just about the money, as Andrew Das Sarma will tell you. "The money is very nice--we appreciate it--but the satisfaction of winning the competition and getting this far, doing so well against so many other really good teams: that's really worth more to us than the money," he said after his team from Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, MD won the top $20,000 prize in Moody's Mega Math Challenge last year.

An Internet-based applied math-modeling contest for high school juniors and seniors, Moody's Mega Math Challenge offers a total of $100,000 in prize money toward the pursuit of higher education for winning teams.

Along the way, it aims to excite students about mathematics, sharpen their skills in problem-solving and math-modeling, increase team spirit, hone writing and presenting abilities, and give winning students the opportunity to make a trip to the Manhattan offices of a prestigious financial firm to present their findings to a panel of professional mathematicians.

In other words, it's an all-around experience for any high-schooler.

As Scott Yu, who won the top prize along with Das Sarma last year, put it: "It really feels like we're involved in something important. We came up on a train to New York City all dressed in suits to talk about something so pertinent to the news [the Census]. And it just feels like we're involved with something so much bigger than what we're used to in high school."

As if to reinforce Yu's point, the team from Montgomery Blair was invited to present its paper at the Census Bureau's Data Capture Center at Lockheed Martin in Maryland, and subsequently met with the Director of the United States Census Bureau, Dr. Robert Groves.

Students that excel in the contest have gone on to do everything from being featured in national television shows to publishing their papers in peer-reviewed academic journals.

"This experience has given each student not just rewarding memories, but an invaluable opportunity to grow as individuals. This, to me, should be the goal of any program and speaks volumes about the worthiness of this Challenge," says Ted Hanes, teacher-coach from Elk County Catholic High School in St. Marys, PA, whose team finished second in the 2009 Challenge.

The sixth-annual Moody's Mega Math Challenge is scheduled for March 5--6, 2011. A little over a month remains until the February 25th registration deadline. So act fast and register your teams now!

The Challenge is open to high schools in the Eastern United States from Maine through Florida. It is free to register and participate, and each high school may enter up to two teams of three to five students each. Teacher-coaches are responsible for registering teams and communicating contest rules and guidelines to students. Teacher-coaches can help prepare their teams for the contest, but are prohibited from helping their teams during the Challenge itself.

The topic is entirely unknown to students until they log in and download the problem at 7:00 a.m. on their selected Challenge day, either Saturday, March 5, or Sunday, March 6, 2011. They have until 9:00 p.m. that same night to research the problem, formulate, develop, and test their model and summarize their answer in the form of a solution paper, which is uploaded to the Challenge website.

The top six prize-winning teams, selected after two rounds of rigorous judging, are required to present their papers to a panel of PhD-level mathematicians at Moody's Corporation headquarters in Manhattan at the final event in late April. Those teams receive awards ranging from $2,500 to $20,000, which are divided equally among team members and paid directly to the colleges or universities at which the students choose to enroll. Finalist and Honorable Mention winners receive team prizes of $1500 and $1,000 respectively.

The Challenge is funded by The Moody's Foundation and organized by the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM).

About the Sponsor

The Moody's Foundation is a charitable organization dedicated to supporting a variety of nonprofit education, health and human services, civic, and arts and culture programs. Established by Moody's Corporation in 2001, the Foundation's primary area of giving is secondary and higher education with a focus on mathematics, economics, and finance. Further information is available at

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 is the parent company of Moody's Investors Service and Moody's Analytics, which encompasses the growing array of Moody's non-ratings businesses. The Corporation, which reported revenue of $1.8 billion in 2009, employs approximately 4,100 people worldwide and maintains a presence in 26 countries. Further information is available at

About the Organizer

The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), headquartered in Philadelphia, 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. It is an international society of over 13,000 applied and computational mathematicians and computer scientists, as well as other scientists and engineers. Members are researchers, educators, students, and practitioners from 90 countries working in industry, government, laboratories, and academia. The Society, which also includes nearly 500 academic and corporate institutional members, SIAM provides many opportunities for students including regional sections and student chapters. Further information is available at

Related Videos

  • Mathematics of Data Science - Data Science is Everywhere

  • Using Algebra and Geometry in the Real World

  • Careers in STEM : Why They’re Important

  • Communicating Complex Topics to the Public

Challenge flyers and documents