Texas Students Named Champions in Unique National Competition that Demonstrates Importance of Math in Daily Life

Texas Students Named Champions in Unique National Competition that Demonstrates Importance of Math in Daily Life

Winners selected from thousands of high school students who participated in Moody’s Mega Math (M3) Challenge to find solutions to key auto industry issues

April 26, 2016

New York, NY – Five Houston, Texas, students have figured out the formula for becoming national champions. The group placed first in a one-of-a-kind national math competition, rising above thousands of other students for the top prize of $20,000 in college scholarships.

The Moody’s Foundation President Fran Laserson (third from left) presents a $20,000 college scholarship to 2016 Moody’s Mega Math (M3) Challenge champions (from the left): Anirudh Suresh, Daniel Shebib, Margaret Trautner, Eric Gao and Nancy Cheng of St. John’s School. The team’s coach, Dwight Raulston, is pictured in back.

The prestigious Moody’s Mega Math (M3) Challenge drew 5,000 eleventh and twelfth-graders who were asked to use mathematical modeling to determine the best solutions for issues facing the future of mobility, from car-sharing to driverless technologies. A total of $150,000 was up for grabs, divided among the finalist teams and top performers nationally.

Nancy Cheng, Eric Gao, Daniel Shebib, Anirudh Suresh and Margaret Trautner, twelfth-graders from Houston-based Saint John's School, were found to have come up with the most sound mathematical solution to how and where car-sharing companies can flourish in a rapidly-shifting automotive landscape. The students presented their findings at Moody’s corporate headquarters in New York City on Monday, along with five other finalist teams.

Organized by the Philadelphia, PA-based Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) and sponsored by New York, NY-based The Moody’s Foundation, the competition attracted more than 1,100 teams of three to five students who put the problem-solving skills they have learned in the classroom to the test – from recommending U.S. markets where automakers should put their car-sharing dollars, to determining the best business models and technologies to help car companies stay ahead of the curve in a highly competitive market that aims to decrease traffic, pollution and oil dependence.

The M3 Challenge – designed to spotlight the relevancy and power of mathematics in solving real-world issues, as well as motivate students to consider further education and careers in math and science – gave participants 14 consecutive hours during the last weekend of February to study the issue in question, collect data and devise models before uploading their solutions online.

“Winning the M3 Challenge is an incredible, surreal experience and we appreciate the opportunity Moody's gave us to participate‎,” said Margaret Trautner from the champion team, which was coached by Dwight Raulston, Director of Curriculum and teacher at Saint John’s School. "We came in with very little experience with math modeling and had to be creative in coming up with a solution without the direction of a teacher or worksheet. We overcame obstacles together as a team."

Team member Anirudh Suresh added: “We're the first Texas-based school to make it to the finals of the M3 Challenge and the first team from Saint John's High School to participate in the competition. We hope our success will encourage others to participate in the future.”

Judges serving on the panel to review the final presentations were impressed with the students’ performance and character. “Each of the teams demonstrated an enormous amount of creativity, and that's something people might not always associate with mathematics,” said Dr. Ben Galluzzo, Associate Professor of Mathematics at Shippensburg University and one of the M3 Challenge judges. "In addition to their creativity, the teams came up with solutions that were made up of much more than numbers – they could actually affect change within a real world problem."

First runners up in the competition are Miles Dai, Tiger Huang, Joseph Philleo and Simon Langowski from Carmel High School in Carmel, Indiana, who split a $15,000 scholarship prize. Third place winners are Alexander Ju, Gianna Miggins, Niyant Narang, Anna Song and Michael Wu from Governor Livingston High School in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, who shared $10,000 in scholarship funds. Finalist teams from La Salle Academy in Providence, Rhode Island; Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland; and North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham, North Carolina, received team scholarship prizes of $5,000 each. (See link below for a full list of winners).

“Teams that do well in the Challenge have every reason to be proud: each of these finalist papers – and many of the semi-finalists and honorable mention papers – were read and scored by up to 18 professional applied mathematicians and computational scientists during the judging rounds,” said Michelle Montgomery, Challenge Project Director at SIAM. “The papers undergo a rigorous process with in depth discussions, and their distinction is by consensus of a large group of evaluators. The students and their teachers have done truly remarkable work.”

In addition to Dr. Ben Galluzzo, members of the final judging panel included professional mathematicians Dr. Karen Bliss, Virginia Military Institute, and Dr. Dan Connors, IBM Research.  Prior to today’s judging round, the more than 1,100 student submissions were assessed by 246 judges from across the country, who then narrowed down the entries to six finalists, six semi-finalists and 78 honorable mentions.

Learn more about Moody’s Mega Math (M3) Challenge.

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