MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge brings unique twist to math modeling competition

Posted January 13, 2021 by Jessica Fahrenholtz

STEM, or science, technology, engineering, and math, continues to be a major focus in education, and for good reason. LinkedIn projected that “85% of jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet.” With careers rapidly changing, education needs to follow suit, or we risk not preparing our children for the future.

Many educators and parents are turning to academic competitions to enhance their students’ education, especially in cases where the current curriculum lacks critical lessons.

One competition that is making significant headway in bringing crucial skills to students in a fun way is MathWorks Math Modeling (M3) Challenge, an internet-based math competition that incorporates many STEM tools. Students get to put their best thinking to the test using various problem-solving strategies to find solutions to real problems found in industry and society.

Students have just 14 hours to work in teams of 3-5 to solve an open-ended math-modeling problem. Teams then submit a written paper demonstrating their solution with a mathematical model. Writing the solution is an important step because it helps students solidify their findings by explaining them in terms that other people can understand.

The problem students are tasked with solving is different every year, but it always simulates a real-world scenario that mathematicians working in a particular industry might face every day. That means the problem often requires complex, out of the box thinking and the use of computation, statistics, visualization, programming, and simulation.

Learn more about how to register and participate in the M3 Challenge today!

The 2020 M3 Challenge problem asked students to tackle the logistics of big rigs converting from diesel powered to electric powered. While the widespread conversion to diesel-powered trucks is an exciting direction in which our country is headed, it understandably brings with it some dilemmas that will need to be resolved before it becomes standard practice. Some of these are:

  • How many charging stations are needed?
  • Where should charging stations be located?
  • How many different routes do major big rigs travel?
  • Which roads should take priority for the new charging station model?

While hypothetical to the students, these questions are actual problems that must be solved before the trucking industry can move forward with putting an entire fleet of electric vehicles on the road. This means that high school students potentially had a unique opportunity for their findings for reducing the trucking industry’s carbon emissions to be shared with actual companies and industry trade organizations.

To answer these big questions, students are encouraged to think creatively and use whatever mathematical processes they believe will best solve the problem.

While this year’s problem will be entirely different, you can be sure that students will have to bring their best mathematical tools to the table. In doing so, they will experience what it’s like to work with a team of like-minded students, under time constraints, to solve a real-world problem.

If this sounds like something you and/or your students would be interested in, you can still register for this year’s MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge. Registration closes February 19, 2021 and preparation is greatly encouraged, so don’t wait. This year, top teams will be awarded $100,000+ in scholarships to further their education.



Head to our competitions page now to register for this math modeling competition and see what other academic competitions are coming up. Set up your account to follow competitions that interest you and stay up-to-date on all the academic competition news.

If you are interested in participating in more than one academic competition, upgrade to a premium account so you can track your progress in competitions, get insider information on academic competitions, access the ICS competitions concierge, and gain exclusive discounts on ICS-managed programs.