Moody’s Mega Math Challenge Celebrates a Decade of Mathematical Modeling

Moody’s Mega Math Challenge Celebrates a Decade of Mathematical Modeling

The high school math contest provides motivation and resources for applied math education

February 13, 2015

Philadelphia, PA (February 13, 2015)-- 

A new study finds that improving math and science education in our schools could do a whole lot of good for America’s economy. The United States currently ranks 24th in the world in math and science scores. Research conducted by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth concludes that improving this ranking, specifically to seventh, could increase the nation’s GDP by 8.4 percent over 35 years.

This is hardly surprising considering the amount of evidence suggesting that STEM degrees can increase a student’s lifetime earning potential and improve quality of life. 

For ten years, Moody’s Mega Math (M3) Challenge has been motivating American high school students to pursue careers in math and science. By tasking them with solving realistic problems and using math modeling and analysis, the Challenge puts participants in situations that compare to mathematical problem-solving in the workplace. 

 

 

As a tribute to the  10-year anniversary of the Challenge, we chatted with past Challenge Champions, starting from year one in 2006 to our most recent champions last year. Here is our first video of the series: reminiscing the Challenge with two members of the 2014 Champion team. 

“Many competitions, especially in high school, involve one person working on some clearly defined problem and trying to get to an answer as quickly as possible. What really separates the M3 Challenge from other math competitions is the time pressure and the open-endedness. The Challenge allows you to do the best you can, and figure out what you can in terms of the way you want to approach it,” says Matthew Warshauer, a 2009 Moody's Mega Math Challenge Champion who is currently a data scientist at Facebook. “This much better represents the way you work in the real world, where there is not one obvious problem, but a bunch of questions that you are trying to find answers to.” 

Working in teams, students in past Challenges have quantified America’s plastic waste to determine the best recycling methods for US cities; developed math models to improve the Census count; determined the long-term impact of drought conditions in the American Southwest; and estimated the effect of the Stimulus Act on the US economy, among other things—questions very similar to those addressed by professional mathematicians in academia, industry, and government every day. 

The finalist teams receive scholarship monies that go directly to the colleges or universities  where they intend to pursue further education. Since the contest’s inception in 2006 through the most recent Challenge last spring, more than 5,000 teams comprised of 23,552 students have been awarded a total of $830,000 in scholarships by contest sponsor The Moody’s Foundation.

Surveys indicate that nearly 75 percent of Challenge participants intend to go on and pursue higher education and careers in STEM fields. 

“The problem-solving experience and multidisciplinary aspect of the M3 Challenge was something I really enjoyed,” says Angela Zhou, 2012 Moody's Mega Math Challenge champion, who is currently an undergraduate at Princeton University. “That's exactly why I am studying operations research and statistics –toolboxes that we can use to understand the world in whatever domain we choose.” 

Starting as a local contest in the New York City metropolitan area, the Challenge has grown over the past decade to 46 US states and Washington, D.C. From 11 prizes totaling $60,000 in its maiden year, the Challenge has come a long way, awarding 65 prizes for a total of $125,000 in scholarships to winning teams last year. 

Last year, a free handbook on mathematical modeling was published by the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), the organizing society for the contest.  "Math Modeling: Getting Started and Getting Solutions" provides instructions and a process for building mathematical models using a variety of examples to answer wide-ranging questions. Past Challenge problems, also available on the site archives, are an additional resource. 

This year, the Challenge is also offering free access to advanced computing software to all participants in an effort to level the playing field. Participants, whether from public or private institutions, home-schooled or cyber-educated, will all be able to access MathWorks’ MATLAB and Wolfram’s Mathematica to aid in their math modeling solutions. 

Challenge weekend takes place February 28-March 1 this year, and the registration deadline is February 20. To participate or to learn more, please visit m3challenge.siam.org/participate.

About the Sponsor

The Moody's Foundation, a charitable organization established by Moody's Corporation, is committed to supporting education, in particular the study of mathematics, finance and economics. The Foundation also funds specific initiatives in the areas of global economic development, microfinance, civic, health and human services as well as arts and cultural programs. The Foundation supports programs located in select metropolitan areas in the United States, the United Kingdom and elsewhere around the world.

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 $3.0 billion in 2013, employs approximately 8,400 people worldwide and maintains a presence in 31 countries. Further information is available at www.moodys.com.

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 http://www.siam.org.

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