Students Encouraged to Enter Math Modeling Challenge for Scholarships

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Juniors and seniors throughout the United States seeking a transformative high school experience and the chance to win thousands of dollars in scholarships for college are invited to register for the MathWorks Math Modeling (M3) Challenge, the nation’s most prestigious high school math modeling competition.

M3 Challenge is a free online contest focused on making math relatable to as many students as possible and to demonstrating its importance and value in solving complex issues. The unique format of the contest reinforces these concepts by requiring participants to use math modeling to interpret and solve a relevant, real-world problem that they are seeing for the first time, and to do it while working in small teams and under a strict 14-hour time limit. This year, the extended time on Monday gives participants 12 additional hours to choose for their work time. The contest is organized by Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) and sponsored by MathWorks.

M3 Challenge inspires students to use mathematical and computational thinking to solve a concrete problem. It is a unique opportunity for them to apply their math skills and techniques to big, open-ended problems that our communities, regions, and countries face,” says Lisa Fauci, SIAM President and Professor of Mathematics at Tulane University. “A great example of this is last year’s problem which had the students tackling issues related to addiction and teen vaping. This topic was particularly timely, as vaping has become headline news and is being called a public health crisis by federal officials.”

M3 Challenge has drawn the participation of more than 45,000 students (one third female), 4,000+ high schools, 5,000+ math teachers, and 400+ Ph.D.-level judges, and has awarded more than $1.4 million in scholarships since its launch in 2006.

This year M3 Challenge will award 37 scholarships totaling $100,000, ranging from $1,000 to $20,000 per team. Finalist teams and technical computing awardees will present their papers and receive their scholarships at the confirmation judging and awards ceremony in New York City on April 27, 2020. Even teams that don’t win prizes come away with a sense of accomplishment and a better understanding of how math works in the real world.

The ultimate goal of the Challenge, one shared by both SIAM and MathWorks, is to inspire students to study and pursue careers in applied math, computational science, and technical computing,” says Lauren Tabolinsky, academic program manager at MathWorks. “In order to ensure a robust pipeline of students for future STEM careers, it is vital that we encourage students to deepen their interest in science, technology, engineering, and math. M3 Challenge has perfected the recipe for making math fun and accessible, while also encouraging students to hone their interpersonal skills and consider the possibility of a career in math and computation.”

The Challenge provides a plethora of helpful tools and resources to help participants prepare and be successful, including a score guide for insight about what judges seek, a “Challenge Checklist” to help teams prepare, specific information on how to learn technical computing, and a sample solution of a previous Challenge problem using technical computing. MathWorks and other sponsors also offer free, optional software licenses to participating students, though coding or programming is not a required aspect of submissions and is not necessary to win.

Outreach to 60,000+ high school teachers and administrators throughout the U.S. and its territories begins this week for M3 Challenge 2020 via poster kits designed to inspire interest in participation. A rigorous multi-stage judging process led by experienced Ph.D.-level mathematicians and computational professionals follows Challenge weekend and the submission of student solution papers. The top six teams will receive from $5,000 to $20,000; semi-finalist and honorable mention winners (28 awards) will get $1,500 and $1,000, respectively; and three technical computing prizes ranging from $1,000 to $3,000 will be given. All scholarships are divided equally among team members and are paid directly to the colleges or universities at which they enroll.

There are many opportunities for companies to demonstrate their alignment with SIAM in promoting STEM education and careers for American youth. Companies interested in sponsoring programs related to M3 Challenge, such as math teacher training and recognition, math modeling workshops, internship programs for winners, and data analytics and insights, should contact SIAM.

Registration is open through February 21, 2020.

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