At a Glance:

The U.S. has stagnated in how many students are proficient in mathematics on international assessments. The cause for this may be in how we structure our mathematics instruction by focusing on contrived teach-to-the-test methodologies.

Math modeling is one strategy for teachers to re-focus their efforts on real-world, problem-solving mentalities to better engage students in mathematics.

Mathworks Math Modeling (M3) Challenge is an opportunity that high school math educators can use to better engage their students in the math curriculum. Registration for M3 Challenge is open through February 21st, 2020.


 This featured article was written with Mathworks Math Modeling (M3) Challenge. M3 Challenge, sponsored by MathWorks and organized by Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, is an exciting opportunity to connect 11th and 12th grade students with real-world problem-solving challenges. Registration is open through February 21st, 2020.


 

Since the beginning of the modern formal education system, the mathematics classroom has been a kingdom of its own, separated from the world around it. This land of numbers, symbols and signs has its own language. For some students, this is an exciting wonderland where crisp, clean calculations lead to discoveries that capture even the wildest of imaginations. However, for many this kingdom of numbers remains a strange, foreign and often scary land  – one where they do not understand the meaning of the symbols and, perhaps most importantly, one where they do not recognize the importance of even speaking the language.

The 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) showed that student proficiency in math in the U.S. has stagnated at 33%. On the 2015 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), the U.S. ranked 38th out of 71 countries. These numbers have been commonly cited as demonstrations that our schools are failing us. However, the problem is not with our students, or with our teachers, but rather with the way our formal education system separates math into its own walled gardens and demands that students focus on answering simplified, standardized test questions with little connection to the real world. This focus on teaching to the test has ripped a wide gap in mathematics education between the real-world excitement of mathematics and what our students get in their classrooms.

Even though much of the educational system is still based on teach-to-the-test methodologies, there is hope for change. More and more schools have been adopting innovative educational programs that help connect their students with real-world applications of mathematics. In particular, math modeling has become an important subset of these programs demonstrating a great power to help students focus on the problem-solving value and usefulness of mathematics.

 

Math modeling is a process that uses mathematics to represent, analyze, make predictions or otherwise provide insight into real-world phenomena.

 

In 2015, the Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications (COMAP) and Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) released a report, Guidelines for Assessment and Instruction in Mathematical Modeling Education (GAIMME). The report explains how math modeling can be a solution to the challenges many schools face with engaging their students in learning math.

Math modeling is a process that uses mathematics to represent, analyze, make predictions or otherwise provide insight into real-world phenomena. Used in a variety of scientific disciplines, models are abstractions of reality that respect reality, and can lead to scientific advances, be the foundation for new discoveries, and help leaders make informed decisions.

Math modeling is different from simply creating word-problems to help students conceptualize a mathematics process. The example using two trains moving in opposite directions and asking the students to calculate the distance between them is the classic example of a word-problem. These types of problems do little to connect students to the real-world problem-solving power of mathematics.

The GAIMME report illustrates the evolution from a “regular” math problem to a modeling problem through the figure noted above. Further explanation in the distinctions between these problem types were provided from Ben Galluzzo (Clarkson University) in a 2019 NCSM talk on math modeling. Going left to right from a math problem to word problem, to application problem to modeling problem we can see the changes in how students are engaged with the mathematics.

While converting problems into a math-modeling structure will not solve all of our mathematics classroom woes, it does help with many. To help educators do this, SIAM has created a series of resources that can be used to incorporate math modeling problems into the classroom curriculum; find these handbooks, guidelines, videos, sample problems and more under the “Resources” tab on the M3 Challenge website.

Mathworks Math Modeling (M3) Challenge is an opportunity to use custom designed challenges with your students that use this problem-solving structure to engage students. You can learn more about this contest on the M3 Challenge website and find many sample problems from past years that you can use with your students. Additionally, M3 Challenge provides up to $100,000 in scholarship awards to students each year!

Registration for this Challenge is open through February 21st, 2020, and is completely free. We encourage any high school math educator to explore the resources provided through M3 Challenge. The experience is likely to help you increase your students’ engagement and performance on mathematical assessments, as well as truly increasing their interest in mathematics by including a real-world, problem-solving structure in your classroom.

 

170 teams from across the country challenged themselves with qualifying scenarios in the 2019-20 MTF Challenge. This past week The Actuarial Foundation announced the 98 teams that qualified for the project phase of the challenge! These teams have completed one or more intense qualifying scenarios to move forward. Each scenario challenged students to analyze real-world data and respond to questions including statistical analysis, trend projections, risk identification, and critical-thinking.

The qualified teams are now being connected with actuary mentors through The Actuarial Foundation’s network of volunteers. These teams will have until the end of February to complete their own modeling the future project and present a report on how they expect climate change or water access to impact the future of agriculture! See if a team from your state qualified in the list below, and don’t forget to check out the Modeling the Future Challenge website on how you can join the challenge to help model the future next year!

 

2019-20 MTF Challenge Qualifying Teams:

Team Name School or Organization City, State
Acton Boxborough Team Acton Boxborough Regional High School Acton, MA
NDBeSmarTigers Notre Dame High School Belmont, CA
Mathmagicians Whitney High School Cerritos, CA
Accurate Actuary Whitney High School Cerritos, CA
Math Modelling Hamilton High School Chandler, AZ
Payton – Team 2 Walter Payton College Prep (Chicago Public Schools) Chicago, IL
Payton – Team 1 Walter Payton College Prep (Chicago Public Schools) Chicago, IL
Cream of the Crop Student Team Clarkstown, NY
Blue Devil Hedge Columbus High School Columbus, GA
CHS Visionaries Columbus High School Columbus, GA
Squad-ratics iSTEM Geauga Early College High School Concord Township, OH
Minute Men iSTEM Geauga Early College High School Concord Township, OH
High Voltage iSTEM Geauga Early College High School Concord Township, OH
Alge-bros iSTEM Geauga Early College High School Concord Township, OH
10% Rule Monta Vista High School Cupertino, CA
Science Bound Science Bound Des Moines, IA
Central Academy A Central Academy Des Moines, IA
Central Academy B Central Academy Des Moines, IA
Unicorn 5 NC School of Science and Mathematics Durham, NC
Unicorn 1 NC School of Science and Mathematics Durham, NC
Unicorn 4 NC School of Science and Mathematics Durham, NC
Purple Potato Donkey NC School of Science and Mathematics Durham, NC
HHS Streaks! Harrisonburg High School Harrisonburg, VA
Falcons Kalani High School Honolulu, HI
Dolphins R Us Arkansas School for Mathematics and Science Hot Springs, AR
ASMSA Arkansas School for Mathematics and Science Hot Springs, AR
Booravo Booravo Irvine, CA
Paxon Eagle Paxon School for Advanced Studies Jacksonville, FL
Paxon Paxon School for Advanced Studies Jacksonville, FL
Jericho A Jericho High School Jericho, NY
Jericho B Jericho High School Jericho, NY
Don’t Spill The Beans Kalaheo High School Kailua, HI
[redacted] Consulting Kalaheo High School Kailua, HI
GSMST-Team 3-5 GSMST Lawrenceville, GA
GSMST-Team 3-3 GSMST Lawrenceville, GA
GSMST-Team 7-10 GSMST Lawrenceville, GA
GSMST-3-2 GSMST Lawrenceville, GA
GSMST-Team 3-1 GSMST Lawrenceville, GA
GSMST-Team 7-11 GSMST Lawrenceville, GA
GSMST-Team 3-7 GSMST Lawrenceville, GA
GSMST-Team 3-4 GSMST Lawrenceville, GA
Atoms High Technology High School Lincroft, NJ
LAHS Team A LAHS Math Modeling Club Los Altos, CA
LAHS Team B LAHS Math Modeling Club Los Altos, CA
MVHS Math Modeling #2 Mountain View High School Math Modeling Club Los Altos, CA
Alphabeta North Hollywood High School Los Angeles, CA
Math Matters Milton High School Milton, GA
Mathigators Everglades High School / Miami Dade College Miramar, FL
Mountain View High Math Modeling Team Mountain View High School Math Modeling Club Mountain View, CA
Team Rocket Hunter College High School New York, NY
team pepe Hunter College High School New York, NY
HCHS Hunter College High School New York, NY
Glenbrook North 1 Glenbrook North High School Northbrook, IL
Wheatley WildCalcs The Wheatley School Old Westbury, NY
Casti Corn Castilleja School Palo Alto, CA
The Bean Team Castilleja School Palo Alto, CA
ESAD Castilleja School Palo Alto, CA
Wayzata Blue Wayzata High School PLYMOUTH, MN
Wayzata Gold Wayzata High School PLYMOUTH, MN
Five Guys Burgers and Math Richard Montgomery High School Potomac, MD
🙂 Richard Montgomery High School Potomac, MD
Bulldog Warriors Winston Churchill High School Potomac, MD
Perfectly Phat Pandas Wootton High School Potomac, MD
Green Independent Redmond, WA
Cutwrongs Maggie Walker Governors School Richmond, VA
Calcoholics Maggie Walker Governors School Richmond, VA
The Wurst Maggie Walker Governors School Richmond, VA
McGERM!! Maggie Walker Governors School Richmond, VA
Crystal Math Maggie Walker Governors School Richmond, VA
Joshua n’ Co. Maggie Walker Governors School Richmond, VA
Zim Boys Never Broke Maggie Walker Governors School Richmond, VA
America’s Next Math Models Lick-Wilmerding High School San Francisco, CA
Tigers Lick-Wilmerding High School San Francisco, CA
Lick-Wilmodeling Lick-Wilmerding High School San Francisco, CA
√-1 2^3 ∑ Π (I Ate Some Pie) Lick-Wilmerding High School San Francisco, CA
Proof School Proof School San Francisco, CA
St. Ignatius Blue St. Ignatius College Preparatory San Francisco, CA
ZOOM East Side Union High School San Jose, CA
MANEssentials East Side Union High School San Jose, CA
Team Darius East Side Union High School San Jose, CA
Static Function Santa Teresa High School San Jose, CA
QLS Math Quarry Lane School San Ramon, CA
Team Geicko West Ranch High School Santa Clarita, CA
Team REKT West Ranch High School Santa Clarita, CA
Maria Carrillo Pumaths Maria Carrillo High School Santa Rosa, CA
Zoomers Academy for Information Technology Scotch Plains, NJ
Cookies ‘n Cream Academy for Information Technology Scotch Plains, NJ
Water Academy for Information Technology Scotch Plains, NJ
SuperBoyz Academy for Information Technology Scotch Plains, NJ
1blair Montgomery Blair High School Silver Spring, MD
Waukee APEX – Foxtrot Waukee APEX Waukee, IA
Waukee APEX – Tango Waukee APEX Waukee, IA
Westtown 3 Westtown School West Chester, PA
Westtown Moose 1 Westtown School West Chester, PA
Westlake Modeling Connecting for Kids Westlake, OH
Differentiation Nation Yorkville High School Yorkville, IL
Team Stemmet Yorkville High School Yorkville, IL