Einstein Science Reporting for Kids
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28-Feb-2012

Contact: Karthika Muthukumaraswamy
karthika@siam.org
267-350-6383
Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics

Moody's Mega Math Challenge: 1,193 teams, 29 states, $115,000 in prizes

More than 5,400 students set to compete this weekend

The stakes in Moody's Mega Math Challenge have always been high: thousands of students competing for thousands of dollars in scholarship prizes. And this year they are even higher as the contest has expanded to include more states and more money than ever before. Bragging rights are also at stake as many of the veteran schools face off against a surge of newcomers eager to prove their credibility.

More than 5,400 students comprising 1,193 teams from nearly one thousand high schools have registered for this year's contest, an almost 70% increase over last year.

Started as a city-wide contest in the New York City metropolitan area in 2006, the contest expanded to the larger Northeastern region just a couple of years later, and encompassed all of the U.S. East Coast by 2010. This year, the Challenge grew once again to include 29 states in the Eastern U.S.

An Internet-based applied math contest for high school juniors and seniors, the Challenge takes a timely and relevant real-world problem each year and challenges student teams to come up with its best solution. The problem topic for 2012 will be revealed to teams when they login to the Challenge website this weekend. Participants will gather in libraries, classrooms, coffee shops, and teammates' homes to conduct research, gather data, and devise models to solve the problem presented to them. They are required to upload their solutions in the form of a research paper within a 14-hour timeframe. By connecting math to real issues, the contest teaches participants that with sufficient data and the application of analytical and critical-thinking skills, the power of mathematics and the objectivity of hard numbers can be used to solve almost anything.

Honing these abilities early helps prepare this generation to face genuine problems as they present themselves in the real world, in addition to growing the pipeline of scientific talent in the country. Challenge organizers at the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) believe the Society's mission is well served by lending its expertise to this very worthwhile project.

"The objective is to get students interested in math and science, and to let them see many interesting and valuable applications," says Michelle Montgomery, M3 Challenge Project Director at SIAM. "Using mathematical modeling, participants in past years have answered questions such as how to fairly apportion Congressional seats based on U.S. census numbers, predict the job creation effects of a government stimulus package, and analyze the consequences of long-term drought in the Colorado River Basin. These kinds of interdisciplinary applications take math beyond what they are used to seeing in regular school curricula."

The Moody's Foundation, which sponsors over $100,000 in scholarships for contest winners, has a similar goal: inspiring more youngsters to choose exciting professional paths in applied mathematics and related fields. "The reason the Moody's Corporation started this competition and The Moody's Foundation supports it is to encourage students to think about careers in math, economics, and finance. We think it's impossible for individuals and businesses to compete and succeed in today's global market without a solid foundation in financial and economic literacy," says Fran Laserson, President of The Moody's Foundation.

More than 100 Ph.D.-level mathematicians acting as judges will go to work in the weeks following Challenge weekend, eliminating all but the very best submissions in two selection rounds. The top six teams chosen at the end of this process will go on to a presentation round of judging to be held at Moody's Corporation headquarters in Manhattan on Thursday, April 26. A final judge panel will determine their rank order based on team presentations, after which winners will be announced and awarded scholarship prizes. The top six prizes total $60,000 and range from $20,000 for the Champions to $2,500 for Sixth Place. An additional $55,000 will be awarded to approximately 50 Finalist and Honorable Mention teams.

A list of teams that have registered for this year's Challenge can be found here.

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About the Sponsor

The Moody's Foundation is a charitable foundation established by Moody's Corporation. Moody's is committed to supporting education, in particular the study of mathematics, finance and economics. The Foundation also funds specific initiatives in the areas of health and human services, arts and culture, civic and economic development programs. These programs are primarily located in New York City. Grants are also made in San Francisco, California, and London, England.

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 (NYSE: MCO) is the parent company of Moody's Investors Service, which provides credit ratings and research covering debt instruments and securities, and Moody's Analytics, which offers leading-edge software, advisory services and research for credit and economic analysis and financial risk management. The Corporation, which reported revenue of $2.3 billion in 2011, employs approximately 6,000 people worldwide and maintains a presence in 28 countries. Further information is available at www.moodys.com.

About the Organizer

The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is an international society of over 14,000 individual members, including applied and computational mathematicians and computer scientists, as well as other scientists and engineers. Members from 85 countries are researchers, educators, students, and practitioners 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.