Challenge Survey Results  

Summary of Surveys

Key audiences such as students, teacher-coaches, judges, and past Challenge winners are surveyed each year as one way to assess the value of Moody’s Mega Math Challenge. The goal of the surveys is to gauge whether we are meeting the long-time purpose of the Challenge – that is whether we are having an impact on young people considering studies and careers in applied math, economics and finance. At the same time we are able to ask about some of the features and format of the Challenge operations, for example how individuals heard of the opportunity, the ways in which they prepared, their experience on the actual Challenge, and their reflections overall.

Several new questions in 2017 provided insight into the behavior and lifestyle habits of students who love math. These were a deliberate effort to get at some factors that could be used in PR to get favorable media attention for Moody’s, the Challenge and SIAM. This resulted in some good angles and subsequent national media coverage, featuring Mark Zandi as the corporate spokesperson and face of Moody’s and the Challenge.

The following observations provide a summary of meaningful information gleaned in the survey responses:

  • Nearly one-third of participating coaches and students responded to their survey, making the results significant and meaningful.
  • One quarter of participating students report they are now more likely to pursue academic programs or careers that use mathematics, economics or finance, because of their M3 participation, while one half report that they already planned to pursue such areas.
  • Student and coach audiences responded very much in favor of the enhancements made to Challenge weekend, and to the overall administration of the program.
  • The poster mailed to US teachers continues to be the most effective form of student and team acquisition.
  • We have continued to learn more about how the math modeling resources the Challenge provides are used. For example, in 2016, 68 percent of students were unaware of the Monthly Dialogue. After a change of name (to Practice Problems) and increased communication about the resource, we can see that only 20 percent of the student audiences remain unaware of this. In addition, the basic modeling handbook, produced with support of the Challenge, was used to some degree by more than half of participants.
  • In general, this year our content and communications focused heavily on Challenge resources. Survey results offer insight into the value of the resources, and shows that through continued promotion of these, we will see more students and teachers using them, reporting favorable experiences. The survey shows that 82% of students used M3 resources, with sample problems and the modeling handbook are currently the most popular tools among participants. 
  • Most teams use Excel in their solution building, with 20% also citing use of MATLAB and 35% using Wolfram Alpha or Alpha Pro or Mathematica. Interestingly >8% used Python.
  • Provision of many data sets – new in 2017 – was cited as critical to helpful in helping teams get started or get a solution by 89% of teams.
  • Teams that registered but did not submit a paper mostly felt they had not made significant progress in solving the problem, or ran out of time (75%).
  • The surveys offer respondents many opportunities to provide open-ended feedback. Time is taken by SIAM to comb through all responses, to absorb the many positive bits of feedback, the few suggestions, and the scant complaints to make meaningful improvements to the program.
  • Based on last year’s comments and suggestions, mostly in surveys, that a modeling handbook for computing and using software would be helpful, and with the encouragement of the Foundation, we have a team of four professional mathematicians from Harvey Mudd, Clarkson, VMI and Shippensburg committed to and working on the manuscript for that book. The tentative pub date is Thanksgiving 2017.
  • Based on the number of teams in 2016 that did not submit and reported feeling they had not made significant progress, an encouraging email was auto fired to every team who downloaded, approximately four hours into their Challenge time. We heard many, many appreciative voices for that one small tweak to help students feel empowered to plow ahead. The subject line of that email? “You got this.”
  • Teachers would love more support to teach modeling. They appreciate the videos and other resources, and would also love to get a template for an extra-curricular math modeling club – with activities and instruction, assessment tools, probes, prompts for brainstorming, and discussion topics. SIAM would be keen to develop such a template for club curricula.

The full reports from each survey are accessible here, and provide more in-depth insight and perspectives into the Challenge. 


View Full Survey Reports for: 

Participating Students and the companion appendix.
Participating Coaches and the companion appendix.
Non-participating Students
Non-participating Coaches
Past Challenge Winners
*Note: "Participating" indicates teams and coaches who submitted a paper, "non-participating" refers to those who registered, but did not submit a solution.


From the 2017 survey for students who submitted a paper.



From the 2017 survey for students who submitted a paper.



From the 2017 survey for students who submitted a paper.