Seniors advance to final round of international math competition


By Audrey Kim, Staff Reporter

After 14 hours of math modeling, a group of Conestoga students advanced to the final round of the MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge (M3 Challenge), surpassing thousands of 11th and 12th graders from around the world. Seniors James Johnson, Evan Lu, Daniel Tu, Vincent Yao and Evelyn Yu underwent two prior assessments; the first one was an online portion that took place in early March.

Mathematical modeling is the process in which math structures, such as graphs, equations and diagrams, are used to predict specific situations. Math modeling helps create answers to problems and guides decision making. The M3 Challenge awards $100,000 in scholarship prizes to winning teams that create the best solutions to the given problems.

“It’s 14 hours of good math,” Yao said. “We didn’t really study too much, and it was all very relaxed, but we tried our best. We all had a strong background in statistics and mathematical modeling. A lot of us knew how to code as well, so that helped.”

This year, the competition tasked students with a three-part problem. First, they had to create a model of e-bike sales, estimating two years and five years in the future. The second and third tasks were analyzing what factors pushed people to use e-bikes and their lasting impact, such as carbon emissions and traffic congestion.

“Traditional math competitions are a lot like doing crosswords, but the M3 competition is more like writing a book,” Yu said. “It’s a real world problem and you have to apply real-world knowledge to it. It’s much more statistical in nature, and it’s not about what quirky things you can do to play with numbers. It’s more applied, whereas traditional math competitions have been much more pure math-based.”

The final live judging round was in New York City on April 24. The finalist teams presented their answers to the judges from the prior online portion. Jane Street, a trading firm, hosted the competition and also gave the students a tour of its facilities.

“We didn’t really expect anything out of (the competition)and we were really surprised when we were notified that we went on to the second round,” Johnson said. “I was definitely a little nervous before we were presenting and when we were on stage. There’s no way that any of us could have done this ourselves. We all brought to the table different math backgrounds, and it made the experience much more fun as well.”

Conestoga’s team ended up placing top six in the country and won a $5,000 prize.

“I was just there with a ton of other really accomplished people,” Yu said. “That was insane. It was awesome but also kind of scary to meet people who had done so much with their lives. They were all gas, no breaks and meeting people was just really cool.”

Audrey Kim can be reached at [email protected]