2010 Moody’s Mega Math Challenge Champions are now published authors

2010 Moody’s Mega Math Challenge Champions are now published authors

August 17, 2010

To come away with the top prize at a math modeling contest among 531 teams in 18 states is a feat in itself. But that was just the harbinger of things to come for Andrew Das Sarma, Jacob Hurwitz, David Tolnay, and Scott Yu from Montgomery Blair High School of Silver Spring, Maryland.

Since winning the $20,000 award and the accolades that came with it at Moody's Mega Math Challenge 2010 earlier this year, the team has been interviewed by Pimm Fox of Bloomberg radio, has presented its findings at Lockheed Martin's Data Capture Center, and met with U.S. Census Bureau Director Dr. Robert Groves.

And now they've had their research published in SIAM's prestigious undergraduate publication, SIAM Undergraduate Research Online (SIURO). Their paper provides suggestions and recommendations to improve the adjustment of the Census undercount, identifies the most accurate method available to apportion the U.S. House of Representatives, and determines the fairest way to draw Congressional districts.

To minimize error in strategies employed by the Census Bureau to make up for undercounting--the term used to denote the number of people excluded due to delayed or absent responses--the authors deem as effective only two of the three procedures currently used. The authors reason that post-Census sampling, which is undertaken to estimate the excluded number of individuals, is counterproductive, generating more errors than the ones it seeks to remedy in the first place. The other two processes employed by the Bureau, which include estimating values for missing data and analyzing population breakdown through public records, on the other hand, can provide valuable information to account for omitted individuals, the team concludes.

For accurately dividing seats in the House of Representatives based on the count, the paper analyzes the currently used Hill method and five alternative methods that have been used historically: Dean, Webster, Adams, Jefferson, and Hamilton-Vinton. The authors come to the conclusion that the Hamilton-Vinton method is the most appropriate to ensure fair political representation of states. With regard to proper apportionment of federal funds to states based on Census numbers, the paper proposes the impartial division of states according to population density.

The paper, reflecting the Montgomery Blair team's 14-hour research work conducted during the M3 Challenge, was published with minimal editing for style and grammar in Volume 3 of SIURO. It appeared electronically on August 4, 2010.

A PDF of the paper can be accessed at:


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