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Five STEM Students Compete in MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge

This rigorous, fourteen-hour competition is unlike any other high school competition in mathematics, pushing junior and senior students to the limits of their math knowledge and testing their ability to work together as a team. Members of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) launched the M3 Challenge in 2006. 

Students representing Immaculate Heart Academy’s team were Kaitlyn Brown’19, Rebecca Nadler’19, Josephine Oshodi’19, Emily Pecoraro’19, and Charlotte Stanton’19. Alternates were Katrina Fett’19, Myra Chaudhry’19, and Ella Parker’20. All participants are students in IHA’s STEM@theheart program, as well as members of the Mu Alpha Theta Honor Society. Each member of the team brings a unique strength—as a mathematician, researcher, writer, critical thinker, and problem solver, all under the pressure of a strict time constraint.

Using the math modeling process, the teams had to address a complex, real-world problem, akin to those problems faced by professional mathematicians working in the industry. Students collaborated to represent, analyze, make predictions, and provide insight into the problem. Working to very specific standards, the teams prepared a technical report of no more than twenty pages that presents the problem and proposes a solution in a way that makes minimal use of technical language. The rest of the report presented a defense of the solution and the mathematical model used and will include a “sensitivity analysis,” exploring the strengths and weaknesses of their models, and explaining what they learned. The Challenge awards scholarship prizes totaling $100,000.

According to the M3 website, “Last year’s problem asked students to find solutions to the issue of food insecurity in the U.S., including creating a mathematical model to determine if a state could feed its food-insecure population using its wasted food, and building a second model to determine the amount of food waste a household generates based on its traits and habits. Students then used their models to provide insight into which strategies communities should adopt to repurpose the maximal amount of food at the minimum cost.”

Mrs. Elizabeth Kearns, Mathematics Department chair and Mu Alpha Theta advisor, served as the coach of the two Math Challenge teams. Mrs. Kearns said she is incredibly proud of these impressive young women and all they have achieved as STEM students. “I commend my team members for the courage and grit it takes to compete against some of the tops schools and most talented math students in the country,” she said. “I am excited by the opportunity the Challenge offers my students for growth.”

Click here to see a video the team submitted for the post-contest Video Challenge, documenting their day in under two minutes.