News flash: Not all U.S. students deficient in math

January 28, 2008

Although some news reports suggest that American high school students are struggling with math and science, the truth is that many students excel at and enjoy math, and continue their math and science education as college undergraduates. Quite a few of these students have found that competitions like Moody's Mega Math (M3) Challenge can be a valuable and exciting part of their math education. The M3 Challenge is an Internet-based applied math competition for high school juniors and seniors in metropolitan Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and the surrounding areas. Funded by The Moody's Foundation, it awards $65,000 each year to help students reach their higher-education goals.

Moody's Mega Math Challenge has generated quite a bit of excitement in its first two years, and with its expanded reach in 2008 (only students in the New York City metropolitan were eligible to participate in previous years) it is expected to expose hundreds more students to the idea that math can be both fun and rewarding, even for those who do not win scholarship prizes. "It was a great challenge. It was so much fun, a real test of how each of us could handle pressure," says Katherine Mateo from DeWitt Clinton High School, in Bronx, New York. "The M3 Challenge was very different because it is an actual topic that incorporates math. It was a change of mindset to know that we had to make decisions based on both practical knowledge and mathematics. Since the Challenge, I evaluate issues differently and I can understand that all issues are composed of math and science, not just common sense."

Organized by SIAM, the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, the Challenge provides an outlet for students to learn new skills and apply those they already possess. It demonstrates through hands-on experience that math can be a powerful problem-solving tool, a viable and exciting profession, and a vital contributor to advances in an increasingly technical society. The 2008 M3 Challenge will take place on March 8 and 9. Students will have 14 hours to solve an open-ended, realistic, and challenging math-modeling problem focused on real-world issues.

"Through the Challenge I learned that any problem, whether it be related to physics, statistics, economics, or computer science, can be tackled with a little math know-how and the ability to be creative with math," says Naiim Ali, a member of the 2007 Summa Cum Laude Team from Manalapan High School in Manalapan, New Jersey. "More than the scholarship money itself, the skills I learned through the Challenge have been very useful even this early in my college career. These skills include being able to systematically tackle a difficult real-world problem, working with teammates, and presenting in front a large group of informed viewers. I never imagined when I first signed up for the Challenge that I would eventually be a guest on CNBC's Wall Street Journal Report!"

Anthony Savas from Immaculata High School in Somerville, New Jersey, agrees with many of the participants that the M3 Challenge was unlike anything he's ever done before. "The M3 Challenge was a unique experience. It showed me how math could be applied in real-life situations. I gained a greater appreciation for what can be accomplished using math, and I am now even more enthusiastic about pursuing a career in mathematics," he said. "I have always believed that math is extremely important and that it is a useful tool that can be applied in the real world. However, since I participated in the M3 Challenge I have realized just how important math really is. It can be used to solve such a wide range of problems. I have always appreciated math, but now I regard it as something beautiful and wonderful."

Perhaps the next big "challenge" is getting more kids to think about math and science like the participants in Moody's Mega Math Challenge.

More information on Moody's Mega Math Challenge 2008 can be found at http://m3challenge.siam.org.

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About the Sponsor
The Moody's Foundation is a charitable organization dedicated to supporting a variety of nonprofit education, health and human services, civic, and arts and culture programs. Established by Moody's Corporation in 2001, the Foundation's primary area of giving is secondary and higher education with a focus on mathematics, economics and finance. Further information is available at http://philanthropy.moodys.com.

Moody's Corporation (NYSE: MCO), an essential component of the global capital markets, provides credit ratings, research, tools and analysis that contribute to stable, transparent and integrated financial markets. Moody'sCorporation is the parent company of Moody's Investors Service and Moody's Analytics, encompassing Moody's non-ratings businesses. With revenues of $2.3 billion in 2007, Moody's employs approximately 3,600 people worldwide and maintains a presence in 27 countries. Further information is available at www.moodys.com.

About the Organizer
The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), headquartered in Philadelphia, PA, is an international society of over 11,000 individual members. These include applied and computational mathematicians and computer scientists, as well as other scientists and engineers. Members are researchers, educators, students, and practitioners from 85 countries in industry, government, laboratories, and academia. The Society, which also includes more than 500 academic and corporate institutional members, serves and advances the disciplines of applied mathematics and computational science by publishing a variety of books and prestigious peer-reviewed research journals, by conducting conferences, and by hosting activity groups in various areas of mathematics. SIAM provides many opportunities for students including regional sections and student chapters. Further information is available at www.siam.org.


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