Decision making skills Help Set Students up for Success in Life

Posted October 14, 2020 by Jessica Fahrenholtz

If 2020 has taught us anything, it is the importance of making big decisions. From COVID-19 to an economic crisis to wildfires raging across much of the western US, big things are happening all around us. This isn’t unique to 2020, though it does seem like there are more big things happening at once this year than there have been in the past. To many students, it may seem like these major life events are out of their control; however, being able to navigate tricky situations and make an educated decision on the best course of action is a life skill that will benefit them greatly as they grow into their future careers. 


We can’t go back on 2020 and do it over, but we can use these big, risky circumstances as teachable moments with students and empower them to become better decision makers throughout their lives.


One great way to teach risk analysis and the art of making big decisions is the Modeling the Future Challenge. Participants in this challenge work together to come up with their own recommendations on how to solve real-world problems. This has many lasting benefits for the students who decide to take on the challenge. These benefits will help them navigate situations now and into adulthood.  Here are a few ways you can use the Modeling the Future Challenge to bring these skills forward for your students!


Show students they can make an impact. 


When big problems plague our lives, it is easy for us to feel like there is nothing we can do about it. Allowing students to tackle big problems in a safe environment like the Modeling the Future Challenge, shows them firsthand that with the right tools, some imagination, and teamwork, even kids can solve big problems. 


This is the perspective and motivation behind many of humankind’s most outstanding achievements. It is also a skill hard to teach in the classroom. That is why academic competitions are such a valuable addition to a student’s education. They are the perfect setting to push kids to think past their limits and get creative. The 2020-21 Modeling the Future Challenge has an open theme which allows students to identify their own challenge topic for their research project. This freedom of choice is a big driver in helping students take ownership of their project and work towards recommending ways to approach the risks associated with the topic they have selected.


Teach students how to analyze risks.


Every decision we make involves some amount of risk. While some risks are bigger than others, having the skills to determine the level of risk in any situation and determine the possible outcomes is a life skill that students will utilize throughout life. Perhaps a student wants to go to a friend’s birthday party. In today’s world with COVID-19 still a concern, this simple question poses a potential risk. How can someone, especially, a student understand how to analyze that risk? There is always an inherent risk when making any decision, but now there is even more to analyze and think about than ever.

The Modeling the Future Challenge gets down and dirty with data. It pushes students to think about analyzing any situation with a real-world mathematical mindset. Students taking on the Modeling the Future Challenge get enveloped into a world of data science and mathematical modeling that give them tools they can take forward into any situation throughout their life.

Students who participate in The Modeling the Future Challenge will learn the Actuarial Method (much like the scientific process) to weigh risks, big and small. Because this method is learned through hands-on, real-world action, students will internalize the skills they learn and easily use them again and again. 


Inspire students to make big decisions.


Navigating risk is a part of our daily lives, but so is decision making. Many times, students make it all the way through school without having to make any big decisions on their own. Then they find themselves away at college where their decisions have real-life ramifications, with no idea how to make the best choice. 


Participating in the Modeling the Future Challenge gives students the perfect environment to think for themselves, collaborate with peers, and feel the outcome of their decisions. In addition, allowing students to own their choices and the results is one of the best real-world learning opportunities a student can have. The Modeling the Future Challenge has created the perfect environment for ambitious students to do just that. 

Making big decisions is also about confidence. Do you have the confidence in yourself to present to your boss, your teacher, or a whole organization information where there is no single, exactly right answer? That’s what it takes to be in many leadership roles today. Leaders at all levels must be able to confidently present information with their own analysis and make recommendations on how to move forward to tackle a large-scale challenge. This may be the most important skill the Modeling the Future Challenge can help students learn. This confidence doesn’t come from nowhere. It is nurtured by long, hard practice, and the MTFC is a great place to help students start!

The Modeling the Future Challenge is open for registration through November 16th. Don’t miss the opportunity to get engaged in this year’s number one real-world data-science and math-modeling competition!

Learn more about the Modeling the Future Challenge today!



No matter what competition you choose, giving students the opportunity to participate in academic challenges is a great way to enhance their education and teach them the skills they need to navigate whatever comes their way. Interested in the Modeling the Future Challenge and other academic competitions?

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