Suburban Students Advance to Finals in Major National Math Competition

CHICAGO (CBS) — A team of five from Adlai E. Stevenson High School is headed to New York City to participate in the prestigious Moody’s Mega Math Challenge.

A combination of math smarts and creative thinking has added up to a top spot in a major national math competition for five Lincolnshire high school juniors. The students – Albert Cao, Andrew Hwang, Deepak Moparthi, Joshua Yoon and Haoyang Yu of Adlai E. Stevenson High School – have advanced to the finals in the popular Moody’s Mega Math (M3) Challenge, the only competition of its kind which this year drew more than 5,100 11th- and 12th-grade participants from across the nation. The Lincolnshire team will head to New York City on April 24 to compete against five other finalist teams at Moody’s Corporation World Trade Center headquarters. WBBM’s Lisa Fielding reports.

“This is by far, the best that Stevenson’s ever done in this competition. There are so many reasons to be excited,” said said Paul Kim, a mathematics teacher at Adlai E. Stevenson High School who coached the school’s students in preparation for the 14-hour challenge. “It validates a lot of their efforts. it shows that what we learn in school is actually useful.”

Using mathematical modeling, the students had 14 hours in late February to come up with a solution to a real-world issue, helping the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) devise a plan for future growth and sustainability in spite of global change factors expected to affect both resources and visits at its 417 national sites country wide. More than 1,100 participating teams from across the U.S. submitted papers detailing their recommended solutions.

“The National Park Service is privileged to work with the high school mathematicians in Moody’s Mega Math Challenge,” said Dr. Rebecca Beavers, Coastal Geology and Adaptation Coordinator at NPS. “These bright young minds hold the keys to innovative solutions for many environmental concerns, including climate change.”

Organized by Philadelphia-based Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) and sponsored by The Moody’s Foundation, the M3 Challenge – now in its 12th year – spotlights applied mathematics as a powerful problem-solving tool and motivates students to consider further education and careers in math and science. Approximately 90 scholarship prizes totaling $150,000 are up for grabs, with the champion team receiving $20,000.

In addition to Adlai E. Stevenson High School, the five other finalist teams hail from high schools in Alpharetta, Georgia; Durham, North Carolina; Lincroft, New Jersey; Silver Spring, Maryland; and Westford, Massachusetts.

“Moody’s Mega Math Challenge is an invitation to go beyond the classroom, to explore diverse ideas and push the limits of what our students can achieve,” Kim said. “Math class is typically an exercise of convergence where a teacher asks various students a question, and the hope is that all the students converge upon the same answer. Moody’s Mega Math Challenge is the happy opposite – an open ended question that hopes for a divergence of responses.”

For team member Andrew Hwang, participating in the M3 Challenge was a positive experience that he said challenged him to both think and create something of his own.

“Despite all of its frustrations, the M3 Challenge was a humbling task to attempt to model and provide solutions to real world problems,” he said. “These opportunities to take one’s education outside the classroom don’t come by too often, so it’s only natural that my teammates and I leapt at the chance. Those 14 hours filled with stress, math and laughter are an unforgettable experience that I only wish I could do again.”

“For most of these teens, they want to excel in business. It’s a feather in their cap that they even got this far. The winner will be able to ring the bell on Wall Street in the New York Stock Exchange. How cool is that?” Kim said.

For more information about the M3 Challenge, visit m3challenge.siam.org. To access this year’s challenge problem, visit https://m3challenge.siam.org/practice-problems/2017-challenge-problem-sea-shining-sea-looking-ahead-national-park-service.

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