High School students awarded $100,000 in scholarships in math competition

April 29, 2010

Teams from Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia nab top prizes at finals

The Moody's Foundation yesterday awarded the final $60,000 out of a total of $100,000 in scholarships to 29 high school students from Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia following presentations by the top six teams in Moody's Mega Math (M3) Challenge 2010. Four students from Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland, were named M3 Challenge 2010 Champions and were awarded a check for $20,000 after teams gave 15-minute presentations in which they explained their solutions and justified their conclusions and then answered questions from a panel of Ph.D.-level applied mathematicians at Moody's Corporation headquarters in Manhattan.

Decked out in dark suits and coordinating bold-colored ties, Montgomery Blair team members Andrew Das Sarma, Jacob Hurwitz, David Tolnay, and Scott Yu beamed with excitement and hugged each other upon learning that they had won the top prize. "The money is very nice -- we appreciate it -- but really the satisfaction of winning the competition and doing so well against so many other very good teams -- that's worth more to us than the money," Das Sarma said with genuine sincerity. Ironically, the Montgomery Blair team had fewer team members than any other team in the finals, which means more money for each team member when divided equally. Hurwitz explained that it was their coach, David Stein, who had advised them to go with four members. "He (Stein) said three was not enough to solve a problem in 14 hours, but five was too many to split the money with if you win." Talk about "applied" math!

Stein, who was quietly proud throughout the day and especially at the reception following the awards ceremony, had nothing but praise for his students. "The ability of these young men to work so cooperatively and successfully on such a challenging and complicated task is, in no small part, a result of the special learning community that they have been part of at Montgomery Blair. All of us take great pride in their achievements" he said.

Additional scholarship prizes ranging from $15,000 to $2,500 were awarded to the first runner-up through sixth place teams, which included four teams from New Jersey and one from Virginia. Finalist and Honorable Mention prizes totaling $40,000 were awarded earlier this month to 37 additional teams. In all, 531 teams comprised of 2,409 students from high schools in 18 states along the East Coast participated in the 2010 Challenge, which is funded by The Moody's Foundation and organized by the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM).

This year's Challenge required students, working in teams within a 14-hour time constraint, to evaluate U.S. Census Bureau figures and methods, and submit a paper proposing recommendations for undercount adjustment, the best method for apportioning the U.S. House of Representatives, and the fairest way to draw Congressional districts. The teams analyzed several techniques for correcting errors in the census, sampling, imputation, and extrapolation from demographic data; a variety of methods for allocation of seats, including some novel methods; and several approaches to redistricting based on geometry and demographics. Given the often conflicting constraints and objectives embedded in these problems, there were no common recommendations; rather, each team provided a feasible approach backed up by mathematical models.

"The young men and women from this year's top teams demonstrated outstanding quantitative skills, the ability to write concisely and clearly, and the command of their work required for impressive presentations," said William Kolata, Technical Director of SIAM and a first-time member of the judging panel for the presentations. "The topics they addressed this year are complex problems with conflicting objectives and constraints. Nevertheless, they were able to provide insight into these difficult questions based on their mathematical models."

M3 Challenge Champions, Summa Cum Laude Team prize of $20,000
Montgomery Blair High School, Team #141, Silver Spring, MD
Coach: David Stein
Students: Andrew Das Sarma, Jacob Hurwitz, David Tolnay, Scott Yu

M3 Challenge First Runner Up, Magna Cum Laude Team Prize of $15,000
High Technology High School, Team #249, Lincroft, NJ
Coach: Raymond Eng
Students: Sidney Douglas Buchbinder, Christian Paul Gennaro, Joshua Ma, Alexander Saso Pavincic, Matthew Ethan Warshauer

M3 Challenge Third Place, Cum Laude Team Prize of $10,000
Maggie Walker Governor's School, Team #365, Richmond, VA
Coach: Kristine Chiodo
Students: Susan Margaret Ballentine, William Steadman Farmer, Ashish Ashok Makadia, Cody Tyler Talmadge, Milton Frederick Tyler IV

M3 Challenge Fourth Place, Meritorious Team Prize of $7,500
Academy for Advancement of Science and Technology, Team #25, Hackensack, NJ
Coach: Ken Mayers
Students: Jared Landsman, Ian Osborn, Pavel Panchekha, Mark Lipa Velednitsky, Sherry Wu

M3 Challenge Fifth Place, Exemplary Team Prize of $5,000
Princeton High School, Team #122, Princeton, NJ
Coach: Lisa Krueger
Students: Ada Chen, Katherine Li, Shyam Modi, John Wu, Katie Zhang

M3 Challenge Sixth Place, First Honorable Mention Team Prize of $2,500
Immaculata High School, Team #161, Somerville, NJ
Coach: Elaine Petsu
Students: James Danco, Mary Higgins, Brian Kutsop, John Osmond, Peter Stadtmueller

Students representing 37 additional schools received Finalist and Honorable Mention Team Awards. To view the complete list of winners go to http://m3challenge.siam.org/pdf/10_winning_teams.pdf. The top six winning solutions, photo galleries, and webcasts of the presentations and awards ceremony will be posted to the M3 Challenge website in the next few weeks. To view these, and to find more information on the Challenge, visit http://m3challenge.siam.org.

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The Challenge

Now in its fifth year, Moody's Mega Math Challenge is an Internet-based math competition open to high school juniors and seniors living in the 18 states along the East Coast. It spotlights applied mathematics as a powerful problem-solving tool, as a viable and exciting profession, and as a vital contributor to advances in an increasingly technical society. Funded by The Moody's Foundation and organized by SIAM, it challenges students, working in teams of three to five, to solve an open-ended, realistic, applied math-modeling problem focused on a real-world issue in just 14 hours using only free and publicly available resources. This year, 531 teams participated in the competition, an increase of about 37% over last year. Scholarship prizes total $100,000 in 2010. Complete details, sample problems, and archives of previous winners and Challenge events are available at http://m3challenge.siam.org.

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 is an essential component of the global capital markets, providing credit ratings, research, tools and analysis that contribute to transparent and integrated financial markets.

Moody's Corporation (NYSE: MCO), an essential component of the global capital markets, provides, credit ratings, research, tools, and analysis that contribute to transparent, and integrated financial markets. Moody's Corporation is the parent company of Moody's Investors Service and Moody's Analytics, encompassing Moody's non-ratings businesses. With revenues of $1.8 billion in 2009, Moody's employs approximately 4,000 people worldwide and maintains a presence in 27 countries. Further information is available at www.moodys.com

The Organizer

The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), headquartered in Philadelphia, 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. It is an international society of over 13,000 applied and computational mathematicians and computer scientists, as well as other scientists and engineers. Members are researchers, educators, students, and practitioners from 90 countries working in industry, government, laboratories, and academia. The Society, which also includes nearly 500 academic and corporate institutional members, SIAM provides many opportunities for students including regional sections and student chapters. Further information is available at www.siam.org.


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