Moody's Mega Math (M3) Challenge is a free, Internet-based, applied math contest for teams of high school juniors and seniors. Teams of three to five participants are asked to solve an open-ended, realistic problem, using any free, publicly available, and inanimate sources of information focused on a real-world issue in 14 hours.
Scholarships totaling $115,000 toward the pursuit of higher education are awarded to the top teams. The real-world focus of the competition introduces students to applied math as a powerful problem-solving tool and, potentially, as a viable and exciting profession.
Late last year, a New York Times article found that 40% of students who choose STEM majors in college tend to quit before graduating. This is thought to be down to what has been described as an excessive focus on abstract courses, theoretical exams, and rote memorization, with little emphasis on practical applications.
Earlier this year, a Commerce Department report found that STEM jobs grew at three times the rate of non-STEM jobs and paid higher salaries by over 25% over the past decade.
And the Moody's Mega Math (M3) Challenge is a way to try and maintain that appreciation and interest through college and beyond.
Sponsored by The Moody's Foundation, and organized by the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, this internet-based math contest gives participants 14 hours to apply math modeling principles to the solution of genuine, realistic problems.
Previous challenges have included topics such as how the 2009 Stimulus Act would generate jobs in the U.S. economy and what measures need to be taken to reduce the impact of long-term drought in the American Southwest.
Challenges that use scenarios that show ways in which they could use it in their lives and careers.
There are several sample problems available on the Challenge website for practice. Students participating in past challenges have tackled everything from the numbers behind the U.S. Census to the effect of the stimulus package on the American economy to determining the unintended consequences of ethanol as biofuel.
Xiao-Yu Wang, a past winner, said:
"Math often times is learned and used only in the abstract, in classes and even other math competitions. The real-world application of math is lost. This contest is a change from that.
"We analyzed a major political, social, and economic issue through mathematics. It really opened my eyes to the world of mathematical modeling not only in economic fields, but also in other fields such as physical and biological sciences."
Registration is open until February 24, 2012. Challenge weekend is set for March 3 and 4, 2012.