“There’s a lot of data, statistics, projections, graphing—all kinds of math stuff, but it also involves a real issue,” said Montgomery of the contest.
The M3 Challenge, which is in its sixth year, has always been built around a newsworthy issue. This year, the problem was based on the drought in the Colorado River Basin, and it involved making projections and a hypothetical report to the Department of the Interior.
The web-based challenge gives participants 14 hours to solve a legitimate real-world problem. Teams gather data, develop assumptions, and establish mathematical models. The teams then upload their solutions, which consist of papers that can be up to 20 pages long, and are judged by more than 80 Ph.D.-level mathematicians.
Judging occurs in three stages. The first pares down the field to 100 teams, while the second round of judging identifies the top 40 and the final round chooses the top six. The top 40 teams are recognized as honorable mentions or finalists and receive prizes of $1,000 or $1,500, respectively, while the winners receive scholarship prizes totaling $100,000.
“If you’re going to high school and you’re taking math and you’re saying, like lots of kids say, ‘When am I ever going to use this? What am I ever going to do with this?’—we’re trying to show through these math modeling programs, these applied math problems, that there’s tons of stuff you can do with this, and lot of it is really exciting and current,” Montgomery said. “I think we’re really illustrating how math, applied math, and STEM fields can contribute to a better society for the world.”
This year’s winners will be announced April 28; for more information, go to http://m3challenge.siam.org.
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