Free Online Math Competition Awarding $100k for Juniors, Seniors Opens for Registration

Free Online Math Competition Awarding $100k for Juniors, Seniors Opens for Registration

An online high school math modeling competition has opened its registration for teams of high school juniors and seniors. The next MathWorks Math Modeling (M3) Challenge is set to take place March 1-4, 2019. By participating, students get a feel for what it's like to work on a team tackling a real-world problem under time and resource constraints — similar to the experiences of professional mathematicians working in industry. The goal is to make math "relatable" and show its importance and value in addressing complex issues. The challenge awards $100,000. Registration is free and open through February 22, 2019.

Since its launch in 2006, the challenge has drawn participation from 41,000 students — a third of whom are female — attending some 4,000 high schools, and 5,000 math teachers. More than $1.3 million in scholarships have been awarded.

The contest is hosted by the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) and sponsored by MathWorks, a company that produces math software. MathWorks and other sponsors provide access to free, optional software licenses to participating students; however, programming isn't required in submissions, nor is it essential for winning, according to the contest organizers.

Last year's problem asked participants "to quantify the costs and benefits of repurposing squandered food, and to recommend strategies for communities to adopt." The top prize of $20,000 went to a Los Altos High School team in California; the first runner-up prize of $15,000 went to a team at Marvin Ridge High in North Carolina. Those are the same level of the top two prizes this year. Also, a third-place prize of $10,000 and three finalist prizes of $5,000 will go to four additional teams. In addition, judges may award up to 28 additional semi-finalist and honorable mention team prizes in amounts of $1,500 and $1,000 per team, respectively.

More than 125 Ph.D.-level applied mathematicians serve as judges in three rounds. Coaches and teams are notified in April of the judging results. Those teams selected for the top six prizes need to present their papers in person at the third round of judging to determine the final rank-order of winners. The location of the final event is in New York City, with travel-related expenses paid.

"This event inspires students to use mathematical and computational thinking to solve a concrete problem," said Lisa Fauci, Pendergraft Nola Lee Haynes Professor of Mathematics at Tulane University and incoming SIAM president, in a statement. "It is a great opportunity for students to apply their math skills and techniques to big, messy problems that our communities, regions and countries face."

"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," added Lauren Tabolinsky, academic program manager for MathWorks. The challenge, she said, "makes math fun and accessible, while also encouraging students to hone their interpersonal skills and consider the possibility of a career in math and computation."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at or on Twitter @schaffhauser.