Recently, a national mathematics contest with real-world lessons was completed and five brilliant young minds won a $20,000 scholarship for their solution to Moody’s Mega Math Challenge (M3). The contest asked students to provide a mathematical solution to the real-world problem of the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail program often debated by members of Congress and was designed to highlight to almost 5,000 participating eleventh and twelfth graders the immense power of applied mathematics in the modern world.  The M3 Challenge is the signature project of Moody’s Foundation, according to Moody’s CEO Raymond McDaniel.

“[It] is an opportunity for students working in teams to participate in a very short
but intensive competition where they create modeling solutions to real-world issues,” says Raymond McDaniel.

To win, students would have to take as many factors as possible into their calculations, among them geographic region, client number and density, cost of construction, and the change in energy dependence. The students were then judged on the creativity of their solutions and their bottom line. Fourteen hours of study, data collection, and model creation, went into each of 1,000 projects, and students loaded their answers online as a research paper.

According to one member of the five-strong championship team, one of the lessons that they learned from the experience was that sometimes you don’t have all the information you could wish, but you have to do your best anyway.

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