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Andover students take top spot in international mathematics competition

Information about M3 Challenge

ANDOVER, MA – Participation in an intense international online math competition has landed a group of Massachusetts high school students in first place.

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The team of five 11th and 12th graders from Phillips Academy in Andover won the grand prize of $20,000 in college scholarships totaling more than $100,000, awarded after winning at the final event on Thousands of high school students in the United States and high school students in the United Kingdom competed in this year's MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge (M3 Challenge), a prestigious competition that demonstrates the importance of mathematics in everyday life .

Winners Tianyi Evans Gu, Yifan Kang, Eric Wang, Anthony Yang and Angeline Zhao were among more than 3,000 students working in 655 teams who took part in this year's M3 Challenge.

The 2024 M3 Challenge, now in its 19th year, saw students spend 14 consecutive hours in early March using mathematical models to solve a real-world problem by collecting data and building models, developing insights into the problem, and submitting their solutions online submitted. This year's competition challenged students to use mathematical modeling to find an answer to the current twin crises of affordable housing and homelessness. Nine finalist teams from the USA, England and Wales were selected after their entries were judged by an international jury of PhD mathematicians.

M3 Challenge is a program of the Philadelphia-based Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) and is sponsored by MathWorks, the leading developer of mathematical computer software for engineers and scientists. The aim is to highlight the relevance and power of mathematics in solving real-world problems, and motivate students to consider further education and careers in the fields of applied mathematics, computer and data science, and technical computing.

“What sets M3 Challenge apart from other mathematics competitions is that it uniquely requires students to use mathematical modeling as a process to represent, analyze, predict and provide insight into current phenomena,” said Dr. Karen Bliss, Senior Manager of Education and Outreach at SIAM. “We are asking big questions about real-world issues that many students may not know much about. They have to research, quantify the parameters, organize data and apply skills that they learned in math class but may have never had any relation to anything real.”

Bliss explained that the international nature of the competition gives the winning teams added prestige. “Every year we hear from participating students that their participation in the M3 Challenge was a life-changing experience that opened their eyes to how important, useful and valuable the application of mathematics can be,” she said.

The runners-up in the competition are Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology students from Alexandria, Virginia, Rishabh Chhabra, Om Gole, Rishabh Prabhu, Laura Zhang and Victoria Zhang, who share a $15,000 scholarship prize. The third-place winners are Livingston, New Jersey-based Livingston High School students Harsh Akunuri, Olivia Mei, Timothy Wu, Kevin Zhang and Nathan Zhang, who shared $10,000 in scholarship money. Finalist teams from Canyon Crest Academy in San Diego, California, Pingry School in Basking Ridge, New Jersey and York Community High School in Elmhurst, Illinois also received team scholarship awards of $5,000 each. (See full list of winners.)

The winners were announced after a rigorous, eight-week, three-round blind judging process involving 120 professional applied mathematicians.

Additionally, other recognitions and scholarships were awarded, including the $3,000 Technical Computing Winner Prize for the team from FW Buchholz High School in Gainesville, Florida; Second-place Engineering Computing Prize of $2,000 to the Minneapolis, Minn.-based Blake School-Northrop Campus team; and Technical Computing: Third prize of $1,000 for the team from Watford Grammar School for Boys, based in Watford, Hertfordshire. These additional awards recognize and reward students for their outstanding use of programming to analyze, design and conceptualize a solution.

At the end of the team presentations, one team was recognized for exemplifying their work and using clarity, presence and elegance in their live presentations. The Outstanding Results Communication Award of $500 went to the team representing Watford Grammar School for Boys.

“This was an incredible experience and it was really exciting for us to be able to take part in this competition for the first time,” said Angeline Zhao of the champion team, which was coached by Khiem DoBa, a math teacher at Phillips Academy And about. “We were already so proud of our work after the challenge weekend and decided that no matter what happened, we were happy to have this experience as a team.”

Coach DoBa says: “I’m really happy about the team’s well-deserved victory. I know how talented and incredible they are as young mathematicians, and I have never seen a high school team function with such a high level of teamwork, energy and commitment.”

The final validation jury included professional mathematicians Leyda Almodóvar Velázquez, Ph.D., Stonehill College, Kelly Black, Ph.D., University of Georgia; Veera Holdai, Ph.D., Salisbury University; Christopher Musco, Ph.D., New York University; and Suzanne Weekes, Ph.D., SIAM.

Submissions were narrowed down to nine finalists, six semifinalists and 22 honorable mentions. Overall, around 6% of applicants were awarded scholarship awards.

View the 2024 winners solution papers and the full list of winning teams here:

Watch a short video of the closing event and awards ceremony here:

For more information about the M3 Challenge, visit m3challenge.siam.org.

Anna Harden

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