Teens Evaluate Likelihood of Success for Stimulus Act

March 10, 2009

Math Models Used to Predict Impact on Economy and Employment

This past Saturday and Sunday, March 7 and 8, nearly 2000 high school juniors and seniors participated in Moody's Mega Math Challenge, spending as many as 14 hours using mathematical techniques to evaluate whether or not the stimulus package that President Obama signed into law in February will in fact stimulate the U.S. economy. Doing well could mean winning part of $80,000 in scholarship prizes, funded by The Moody's Foundation.

The 2009 M3 Challenge problem, "$787 Billion: Will the Stimulus Act Stimulate the U.S. Economy?" called for student teams to mathematically assess the elements of the package that are most likely to produce the greatest improvements in employment. Teams quantified their findings using mathematical modeling techniques, developed and defended their models, and justified their conclusions. They were required to gauge how quickly elements of the stimulus package are expected to generate results, to ascertain how they will know if the package is "working," and to indicate a confidence level in their predictions. Additionally, they were asked to discuss whether a second stimulus package would be needed, and if so, how large it should be and how it should be structured. Finally, they were challenged to propose other, better ways to stimulate the economy and increase U.S. employment.

Close to 400 teams participated in the competition, an increase of about 60% over last year's pool of submissions. Schools in New England and Mid-Atlantic states, from Maine to Washington, D.C., participated in this entirely Internet-based contest. Teams of three to five students were able to download the problem at 7:00 a.m. on their selected Challenge day and had a deadline of 9:00 p.m. to upload their solution papers. The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) organizes the competition from its headquarters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

"The enthusiasm and energy that hundreds of high school teachers and students have for this contest is immensely gratifying," says Michelle Montgomery, Project Director for the M3 Challenge and Marketing Director at SIAM. "The excitement about applying mathematics to real world problems and the realization that you can use mathematics to do really useful things is exactly in line with the mission of SIAM."

Challenge headquarters received approximately 400 viable solution papers, which will undergo an extensive judging process during the next eight weeks. Judging for the Challenge is blind, with teams known only to the judges by their unique team ID number. The judging occurs in three stages: first is a triage phase where two-thirds or more of the submissions are eliminated; the second phase further calibrates the papers that are in contention for prizes, with the judges arriving at and tentatively ranking the top 26 papers. Generally, 10 or more professional applied Ph.D.-level mathematicians have read papers that reach this phase. The third and final phase of judging involves presentations by the top six teams at the Moody's Corporation headquarters in Manhattan. These presentations will take place Tuesday, May 5, immediately followed by the awards ceremony.

To see the 2009 Challenge problem visit http://m3challenge.siam.org/login/login.php.

To see if your local high school participated in the M3 Challenge go to http://m3challenge.siam.org/pdf/2009_partic.pdf.

For more information on the Challenge, visit http://m3challenge.siam.org.

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About the Challenge
Moody's Mega Math Challenge 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. Scholarship prizes total $80,000 in 2009. The Challenge is entirely Internet-based and there are no entrance or participation fees. Each high school may enter up to two teams of three to five students each. Students choose which day they wish to work on Challenge weekend and have 14 hours to solve an open-ended, realistic, applied math-modeling problem focused on real-world issues. Teams can work from any location they choose and can use any free and publicly available resources, but they may not discuss any aspect of the problem with, or seek help from, their coach or anyone other than their teammates. Complete details, sample problems, and archives of previous winners and Challenge events are available at http://m3challenge.siam.org.

Awards and Recognition: 2009 ASAE Associations Advance America (AAA) Award of Excellence; 2008 Excellence Award, Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP)

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's Corporation 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 12,000 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 nearly 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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