Moody's and SIAM team produced fantastic applied math contest for high school students: Moody's Mega Math (M3) Challenge - Awarding $65,000 in scholarships.

May 22, 2006

The Moody's Foundation has partnered with the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) for the first-ever Moody's Mega Math Challenge (M3 Challenge), an applied mathematics competition open to high school students in the New York City metro geographic area that will award scholarships for continuing education totaling $65,000. Held over the weekend of March 4–5, 2006, the competition spotlighted 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. Scholarships were awarded to high school juniors and seniors for excellence, creativity, and originality in quantitative and qualitative reasoning. Teachers serving as "coaches" received honorariums. "Our goal, and the goal of the competition, is to motivate high school students to think about solving real world problems using applied mathematics," said Frances G. Laserson, President, The Moody's Foundation. "We want to increase students' interest in pursuing math-related studies and careers in college and beyond."

Teams of three to five high school juniors and seniors were required to complete an open-ended, realistic, challenging, modeling problem focused on real-world issues. Each team's "coach" must be a teacher at their school. A panel of first-round judges will read each solution paper, eliminate many submissions from the contest, and rank each remaining paper according to guidelines. A panel of final judges then calibrated the remaining papers and chose the winning teams. Individual scholarships will be paid directly to the colleges or universities at which the winning students enroll. "We are very excited about this competition," said Michelle Montgomery, SIAM Marketing Manager and developer of the competition along with Bernard A. Fusaro, Florida State University, and Leon H. Seitelman, United Technologies (retired). "Our goal was to attract 50 to 75 teams, about 250 students, to compete the first year. The reality is we got 149 registered teams, 129 submitted papers, and 572 kids who participated in the contest. We wanted to raise awareness among high school students of the many opportunities available in the various fields of mathematics and show them how many career options there are for math majors. I think we have done well there too." More information about the competition is available at or by contacting Michelle Montgomery at

In early March 2006, 129 teams of high school students from the New York metropolitan area (NYC and two counties out from its' borders*) participated in the first-ever Moody's Mega Math Challenge. Teams were required to prepare a solution paper addressing the Challenge problem: Solving the Social Security Stalemate.

Teams were asked to develop a mathematical analysis of the issues, and present one or more approaches to guarantee the integrity of the system for at least 75 years. They were asked whether the current system is viable, and if not, to consider any alternatives that they believe promising, such as changing the amount of Social Security taxation, modifying the benefit structure, revising the scheduled age for full retirement benefits, or introducing private investment accounts with part of the employee contributions. You can see the complete one page statement of the problem at

Each of the top six teams named below presented to a panel of professional applied PhD level mathematicians as part of the judging process. All submitted papers were subject to two earlier rounds of judging by panels of professional applied and computational mathematicians. The outstanding solution papers listed as the top six prize winners below can be read at - scroll down to Level 4 – the "2006 Challenge problem and outstanding solution papers."

Student teams came up with some great strategies and solutions. Of the 129 teams (572 students) that submitted viable solutions, the top six that were awarded scholarship prizes are:

Staples High School–Team #57, Westport, Connecticut
Coach: William Walsh
Students: Miles Lubin, Elizabeth Marshman, Vikas Murali, and Andrew Tschirhart

Magna Cum Laude Team Prize--$15,000
Immaculata High School–Team #20, Somerville, New Jersey
Coach: Elaine Petsu
Students: Christopher Fajardo, Mary Germino, Robert Lee-Own, William Pugh and Matthew Tom-Wolverton

Cum Laude Team Prize--$10,000
Herricks High School–Team #14, New Hyde Park, New York
Coach: Howard Huang
Students: Amulya Bhagat, Amol Jain Yaagnik Kosuri, Sam Yoon

Meritorious Team Prize--$7,500
Great Neck North High School –Team #143, Great Neck, New York
Coach: Madeleine Schindel
Students: Benjamin Albert, Benjamin Leibowicz, Moon Limb, Joanna Melnick, Debbie Yee

Exemplary Team Prize--$5,000
Manalapan High School–Team #113, Manalapan, New Jersey
Coach: Stephanie Lynn Pepper
Students: Naiim S. Ali, Andrew Freddo, Franklin Tong, Caleb Tseng Nicholas Adam Wong

First Honorable Mention--$2,500
High Technology High School – Team #64, Lincroft, New Jersey
Coach: Ellen D. LeBlanc
Students: Kathryn Silverio, Elizabeth Wendel, Yelizaveta Yermakova

Students from the following five high schools received Honorable Mention awards of $1,000 per team. They are, in alphabetical order:

The Moody's Foundation is a charitable foundation established by Moody's Corporation. Moody's Corporation (NYSE: MCO) is the parent company of Moody's Investor Service, a leading provider of credit ratings, research, and analysis covering debt instruments and securities in the global capital markets, and Moody's KMV, the leading provider of market-based quantitative services for banks and investors in credit-sensitive assets serving the world's largest financial institutions. The corporation, which reported revenue of $1.4 billion in 2004, employs approximately 2,500 people worldwide and maintains offices in 19 countries. Further information is available at

SIAM, headquartered in Philadelphia, PA, is an international community of over 10,000 individual members, including applied and computational mathematicians, computer scientists, and other scientists and engineers. The Society advances these fields through a series of premier journals and a wide selection of conferences. With over 500 academic and corporate institutional members, SIAM serves 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 supports regional sections and student chapters that provide many opportunities for students. Montgomery noted that "one of the primary goals of the organization is to increase the pipeline of students into applied math studies and careers." More information about SIAM is available at

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