Using code (optional) to be eligible for EXTRA prizes? Learn more and get free licenses here.
Have a plan and a back-up plan for where you will do your work.
Make sure any transportation, computer, and internet issues are resolved in advance.
Plan for food! 14 hours is a long time, and you’ll want to feed your brain.
Judges value simple, well-explained models rather than sophisticated math that isn’t explained well.
Be both thorough and concise in your report. Judges don’t need to see every single step of math/algebra, but you need to include enough details that judges could recreate your work if they wanted to, and they know that you understand what you are doing.
Use legitimate sources where possible, not just opinions or speculation.
The Secret Sauce
Year after year, judges report that top papers are the ones that are outstanding in the following areas:
Motivation: Why did you pick that particular model?
Justification: What criteria did you use to support your modeling decisions?
Explanation: Clear, step-by-step, and consistent
Citation: Identify the resources you used
Secrets of the Mathematical Contest in Modeling (MCM): There are many similarities between the MCM and M3 Challenge. This document is written by a veteran MCM participant and current M3 Challenge judge.
The Inside Scoop: Advice from Organizers
Read the rules and guidelines carefully. Things like providing a summary, not putting your names/school on the paper, and uploading the correct file type can impact whether your solution paper advances.
Consider using the solution paper template as a time-saver! It also has some helpful information embedded about what should go in each section.
Even an hour of preparation can make a difference! Head over to the resources page to find handbooks and videos that can give you a leg up.
Check out this video with tips from judges on what makes a solution stand out.
Tips from the 2010 M3 Challenge Winning Team
Check out this video from a previous Champ team!
Divide and Conquer! Try to have an idea of how you will divide the labor throughout the day based on each person’s strengths
Set a Schedule Create a rough schedule to move from brainstorming to data to building a model, etc.
Understand the Question Read the question a few times and brainstorm what you know about the topic. Be creative and consider seemingly outrageous ideas.
Get Out of the Weeds Include variables that are tractable and for which there is data, or make assumptions and move on. Try not to waste time spinning your wheels.
Keep It Simple Stick with straightforward ideas rather than adding complexity for the sake of looking sophisticated. Don’t use a sledgehammer when a thumbtack will do.
Track Your Resources Keep a running list of the websites/resources you’re using. Future you will be grateful!
Write as you go Once you’ve settled on a model, take the time to write a summary of how it works. It’s easier to capture your thoughts early than to try to remember everything at the end.
Gimme a Break! Breathe. Stretch. Eat. Play a game. Drink some water. Then get back to it!
Bottom Line Up Front Dedicate plenty of time for the executive summary at the end of your time (even though it goes at the beginning of the paper!) since it needs to include models and results.
Spare Some Time Proof-read the summary several times, and make sure the whole paper has a cohesive voice.
Have Fun! Have fun but keep your eye on the clock!
Tips for Coaches who are Preparing Teams
Look over past problems with students. Go through some of the outstanding solution papers posted for ideas.
Walk Through the Website
Help teams get familiar with the website to identify useful resources so they don’t scramble while their 14 hours are ticking away.
Emphasize the importance of time management. Especially important: recognize when it’s time to stop gathering info and move on to the math.
If the team chooses to or is required to work at school, ensure that Internet filters are not a problem–they will want full access to research the problem topic.
You can proctor, bring food, and cheer them on, but once they download the problem during Challenge weekend, you aren’t allowed to help them!
Encourage The Fun!
14 hours of math can be intimidating, so encourage your team to settle in and enjoy themselves!