NYC High School Students Equate Math with Real World Solutions,

NYC High School Students Equate Math with Real World Solutions,

Thanks to First-of-its-Kind Moody’s Initiative

April 26, 2016

New York City, NY – It’s time to calculate the importance of mathematics in our daily lives. That was the message reinforced to dozens of students from underserved New York City high schools who took a break from spring recess on Monday to attend math class.

Unlike a typical math class, though, the students learned more than equations. They added up the reasons why math is relevant outside of the classroom and how it can be used to solve real life problems.

From left to right: Chelsea Vicente of Queens Vocational and Technical High School, Naiomy Rangel of the High School of Economics and Finance, and Maurice Avery, Jr. of Marta Valle High School

It was all part of a first-of-its-kind outreach initiative by The Moody’s Foundation and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) – called the Moody’s Mega Math Workshop – that was held to encourage high school students to consider math and science-related careers, which are increasing in demand.

Three lucky students – Naiomy Rangel of the High School of Economics and Finance, Maurice Avery, Jr. of Marta Valle High School and Chelsea Vicente of Queens Vocational and Technical High School – who participated in the workshop were chosen at random to each receive a $1,000 college scholarship. The three were recognized at a ceremony at the Moody’s Corporation World Trade Center headquarters later in the day and went on to witness the ringing of the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

The unique workshop – held at the High School of Economics and Finance in Manhattan and offered free of charge to more than 50 participants from six local high schools – opened the students’ eyes to the benefits and practical applications of math modeling, according to workshop leader Katie Fowler, Professor of Mathematics at Clarkson University.

“The workshop participants were given a real-world problem facing many American cities today – cat overpopulation – and asked to figure out the number of possible offspring produced by one pair of unneutered cats over a set number of years,” Fowler said. “Through online research and using their creativity, the students leveraged mathematics to propose innovative solutions.”

"I didn't realize math could be so fun and entertaining‎," said workshop participant Stacey Moronta, a 9th grade student at New World High School in the Bronx. "This workshop was amazing and really opened my eyes to different ways math can be used. I wish we could do something like this every day."

The workshop was held to kick off the final event of the popular national Moody’s Mega Math (M3) Challenge, which took place simultaneously at the World Trade Center. The M3 Challenge, organized by Philadelphia-based SIAM and sponsored by The Moody’s Foundation, draws 11th and 12th grade students nationwide who use mathematical modeling to recommend solutions to real-world problems – in this case, to the future of the mobility, from car-sharing to driverless technologies. 

Now in its 11th year, the MChallenge spotlights applied mathematics as a powerful problem-solving tool and a viable, exciting profession. From a pool of 5,000 students, six finalist teams vied for first place and a piece of the $150,000 awarded in scholarships. The winning team was from Saint John’s School in Houston, Texas, with teams from Carmel High School in Carmel, Indiana, and Governor Livingston High School in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, placing second and third respectively.

Participants in the Moody’s Mega Math Workshop also heard inspirational words from Tim Chartier, Associate Professor of Mathematics at Davidson College and Mathematical Association of America national teaching award winner, about the value of math in everyday life, and from Lindsay Hall, Google Software Engineer, about some of the cool ways Google uses math behind the scenes.

Chartier shared with the workshop students some ways to warm up to a topic that – upon mere mention – makes 20 percent of Americans’ palms sweat. Here are a few of his suggestions on how high school students can better appreciate the value of math and sharpen their skills at the same time:

  • Open your eyes to fun: A range of puzzles, online programs and gaming sites require basic math skills and help strengthen problem-solving abilities without the user realizing it. Did you know that Angry Birds uses math? You pick the path of a mathematical curve when you launch a bird. Teachers are even using “Angry Birds Math” to prepare their students for standardized tests.
  • Watch blockbusters, think math: Modern movies use math extensively. From Star Wars to Pixar animations, math allows modern special effects to dazzle audiences.  From angles to averages, the movies create digital wonderlands with math. As you watch a film that is no longer in theaters, look for where a digital special effect isn’t realistic.  Then, see if a more modern film creates the effect in a more realistic way.  Today’s special effects are often so lifelike that it’s hard to tell they’re not real. New math research helped make that effect more convincing.  
  • Play sports with your mind: Today’s sports teams use math to improve their team’s performance. You can analyze your favorite professional team or help your own team, using math to gain insight or a competitive edge. Keep track of where a player shoots from or hits the ball.  Using percentages can help you see if a player is stronger or weaker in certain areas.

“Math teaches you ways to problem solve and be innovative,” Chartier said. “It can impact your life – you can track data to be healthier, use angles to create art and have a new math idea to help start a company, like Google did.”

Don’t like math?  “Then you simply haven’t encountered the branch of math that fits what you enjoy thinking about,” he said, emphasizing that reading books on math and puzzles, math and the movies, math and sports, or math and art can help you find applications of math that blend with other areas of your interests.


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Media information:

Gail Bergman or Elizabeth Glassen
Gail Bergman PR
Tel: 1-877-986-1340

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