Upper School Students take the M3C MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge

Eleventh graders at Saddle River Day School put their advanced math skills to the test recently.

The MathWorks Math Modeling (M3) Challenge is a contest for high school juniors and seniors organized by the Philadelphia-based Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM). Through participation, students experience what it’s like to work as a team to tackle a real-world problem under time and resource constraints, akin to those faced by professional mathematicians working in industry. Last year’s challenge, “Better Ate Than Never,” tasked students with creating mathematical models to address eliminating food waste at the personal, local, and state levels. This year's challenge was "One is too many and a thousand not enough: Susbtance Use and Abuse." The three specific topics for discussion were: 1. "Darth Vapor" (comparing the affects of vaping vs nicotine), 2. "Above or Under the Influence?" (predicting how many students among a class of 300 high school seniors with varying characteristics will use the following substances: nicotine, marijuana, alcohol, and unprescribed opioids) and 3. "Ripples" (developing a robust metric for the impact of substance abuse).

Juniors at SRDS prepared for the 14-hour intensive, that took place March 1-3, 2019, by studying previous M3 Challenges and practicing modeling techniques under the supervision of Dr. Mary Anne Wassel in the Math Department. The specific real-world problem that is posed each year is entirely unknown to participants until they download it during Challenge weekend, and they work unaided by their coach or anyone else.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for students to solve a real-world problem, from not only a technological standpoint, but an interpersonal one as well,” said Dr. Wassel. “One of the best ways to engage students in math is by highlighting topics that are directly relevant to them. Helping society really engenders a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.” For Jalaj Desai, Upper School Head, participating in a competition like this is crucial to a student's study of mathematics: "Applied mathematics is the future of math education and every high school student should be encouraged to find opportunities to work on projects related to mathematical modeling. At SRDS, we are committed to providing students with these opportunities."

The two teams from SRDS were represented by:

Soyoung “Amy” Cho
Adam Hibbert
Ethan Kahn
Matthew Kashevaroff
Olwen Lavrich
Victoria Miller
Samuel Pitchkhadze
Stephen Savas
Dylan Strober
Daniel Suh
More information about the M3 Challenge can be found here.

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