Waters Run Deep at Moody’s Mega Math Challenge 2011

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The resolution of the water crisis in the Colorado River Basin may still be years away, but the answer to who had the best solution among the 2,585 high school students who tackled the problem in Moody’s Mega Math Challenge 2011 will be decided within days! The 568 participating teams have been whittled down to just six that are still in contention for top prizes, and their final rank order will be determined on April 28.

"Mathematics is a powerful tool for developing a qualitative and quantitative understanding of the real world,” Lee Seitelman

Top 43 teams to share $100,000 in prize money in math modeling contest

The resolution of the water crisis in the Colorado River Basin may still be years away, but the answer to who had the best solution among the 2,585 high school students who tackled the problem in Moody’s Mega Math Challenge 2011 will be decided within days! The 568 participating teams have been whittled down to just six that are still in contention for top prizes, and their final rank order will be determined on April 28.

Working in teams of 3-5, students estimated the implications of the region’s long-term drought for 14 straight hours on an early March weekend, creating assumptions and devising mathematical models to determine the hydrologic impact on Lake Powell, while taking into account the region’s economic and political make-up.

“Students were asked to allocate waters of the mighty Colorado River to the Southwestern states and Mexico. This torrent of fresh water, averaging more than 1.3 million gallons every day, provides water for households, irrigation, and hydroelectric power. The challenge was to balance the varying flow of the river against demands for this precious natural resource, given a context of legal constraints and memories of the severe 2010 drought,” explained Ben Fusaro of Florida State University, M3 Challenge consultant and co-head judge. M3 Challenge contenders went to work, analyzing the impact of the 12-year deficit in Lake Powell, as danger of a declared water shortage looms in the Southwestern United States and 30 million Americans—whose sustenance depends on the fast-drying resource— continue to anxiously watch water levels.

"Mathematics is a powerful tool for developing a qualitative and quantitative understanding of the real world,” said Lee Seitelman, co-head judge and consultant for the Challenge. “Solving such a problem requires students to first relate the problem statement to an appropriate mathematical model, then solve a mathematical problem, and finally translate the solution back to the real world problem from which it was derived, and present the results of that work in a manner that can be understood by the general public."

After the students were done with their part, a slightly different—albeit no less challenging— problem was presented to over 80 mathematicians around the country: who among these thousands of exemplary 11th and 12th graders should receive a share of $100,000 in prize money? Following rigorous evaluation in round one, or “triage judging,” 120 of the almost 600 team solution papers advanced to the second round. This top 20 percent was scrutinized this past weekend in Philadelphia by a panel of 16 judges at the headquarters of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), organizer of the contest. By the end of the second day, after much reading and deliberation, the panel arrived at a unanimous consensus on the prize-winning papers.

The top six awards, ranging from $2,500 to $20,000, will go to teams representing the following high schools, listed here in alphabetical order:

  •     Eastside High School, Team #121, Gainesville, Florida
  •     High Technology High School, Team #137, Lincroft, New Jersey
  •     High Technology High School, Team #165, Lincroft, New Jersey
  •     Pine View School, Team #481, Osprey, Florida
  •     Ridgefield High School, Team #538, Ridgefield, Connecticut
  •     T. R. Robinson High School, Team #75, Tampa, Florida

Judges will finally be able to put names and faces to the top papers when these six teams present their winning solutions at Moody's Corporation headquarters in Manhattan on April 28. On that day, the final rank order of the papers will be determined and scholarship prizes will be awarded by The Moody's Foundation, which funds the Challenge.

Six additional teams, whose papers underwent in-depth discussion by judges but narrowly missed making it into the top six, will be recognized with Finalist Team Prizes of $1,500 each:

  •     Academy For Allied Health Sciences, Team #144, Scotch Plains, New Jersey
  •     Belmont High School, Team #211, Belmont, Massachusetts
  •     Career Center High School, Team #530, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
  •     Elk County Catholic High School, Team #204, Saint Marys, Pennsylvania
  •     Holmdel High School, Team #445, Holmdel, New Jersey
  •     Needham High School, Team #272, Needham, Massachusetts

Teams representing the following 31 schools will be awarded Honorable Mention Team Prizes of $1,000 each for noteworthy solutions:

  •     Arlington High School, Team #661, Arlington, Massachusetts
  •     Brien McMahon High School, Team #221, Norwalk, Connecticut
  •     Delbarton School, Team #136, Morristown, New Jersey
  •     Fairfield Warde High School, Team #194, Fairfield, Connecticut
  •     Governor Livingston High School, Team #522, Berkeley Heights, New Jersey
  •     Governor Livingston High School, Team #523, Berkeley Heights, New Jersey
  •     Greater Hartford Academy of Math and Science, Team #47, Hartford, Connecticut
  •     J.R. Masterman Demonstration School, Team #66, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  •     Livingston High School, Team #365, Livingston, New Jersey
  •     Maggie L. Walker Governor's School, Team #214, Richmond, Virginia
  •     Montgomery Blair High School, Team #56, Silver Spring, Maryland
  •     New Canaan High School, Team #202, New Canaan, Connecticut
  •     New Providence High School, Team #600, New Providence, New Jersey
  •     Northview High School, Team #555, Johns Creek, Georgia
  •     Pittsford Sutherland High School, Team #49, Pittsford, New York
  •     Princeton High School, Team #100, Princeton, New Jersey
  •     Princeton High School, Team #93, Princeton, New Jersey
  •     Ridgefield High School, Team #543, Ridgefield, Connecticut
  •     Sidwell Friends School, Team #127, Washington, District of Columbia
  •     Sidwell Friends School, Team #473, Washington, District of Columbia
  •     South Burlington High School, Team #336, South Burlington, Vermont
  •     Stanton College Preparatory School, Team #581, Jacksonville, Florida
  •     Staples High School, Team #562, Westport, Connecticut
  •     Staples High School, Team #565, Westport, Connecticut
  •     Thomas Jefferson HS for Science and Technology, Team #476, Alexandria, Virginia
  •     Tri-Valley Central School, Team #266, Grahamsville, New York
  •     Washington Township High School, Team #297, Sewell, New Jersey
  •     West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South, Team #364, Princeton Junction, New Jersey
  •     West Windsor-Plainsboro North, Team #156, Plainsboro, New Jersey
  •     Westborough High School, Team #249, Westborough, Massachusetts
  •     Wyomissing Area Junior/Senior High School, Team #606, Wyomissing, Pennsylvania

“The students did a nice job, in just 14 hours, of analyzing the problem and presenting their conclusions,” said Seitelman. “A compressed time frame—a real world constraint—requires the teams to self-organize into effective units that efficiently utilize the individuals' particular skills to get the job done. It is the integration of various and complementary skills that makes a team effective.”

To view the 2011 Challenge problem, go to:

http://m3challenge.siam.org/problem

See if your school registered for the Challenge, and/or made it through the first round.

About the Challenge:
Now in its sixth 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, 568 teams participated in the competition, which will award $100,000 in scholarship prizes. Complete details, sample problems, and archives of previous winners and Challenge events are available at http://m3challenge.siam.org.

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 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 is the parent company of Moody's Investors Service and Moody's Analytics, which encompasses the growing array of Moody's non-ratings businesses. The Corporation, which reported revenue of $1.8 billion in 2009, employs approximately 4,100 people worldwide and maintains a presence in 26 countries. Further information is available at http://www.moodys.com.

About 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 http://www.siam.org.

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Karthika Muthukumaraswamy

Michelle Montgomery
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