After its first two years, the race is heating up in crowning the country’s young actuarial champions. Actuaries are at the front lines of major business decisions analyzing data to help project future trends, identify risks and provide recommendations to business leaders about how to best adapt to the expected changes. The Modeling the Future Challenge (MTF) trains high school students in applying their mathematical skills to project future trends and solve real-world problems. However, this challenge is not easy.
Typical math modeling competitions focus on learning how to model systems – what we consider Level 1 modeling competitions. The MTF Challenge takes this two steps further asking students to not only be able to model a system, but to understand how the system will change over time (Level 2), and to understand what that means for people affected by the change and to recommend how they can adapt to it (Level 3).
To be crowned a Modeling the Future Champion, students have to first qualify for the main competition by responding to a set of scenario response topics in the fall semester. Qualified teams are then invited to the main competition in the spring semester where they are matched with an actuary mentor and create their own mathematical model using real-world data to project future change. As the final piece of their project, teams must also present recommendations for how affected organizations should adapt to that change.
In the competition’s first year, 2017-18, 140 students competed on 52 teams to be crowned Modeling the Future Champions. In the 2018-19 challenge that concluded this past April, 873 students competed on 191 teams for the championship. The table below provides a summary of how the results played out each year.
Only being two years into the challenge, it’s hard to identify trends in which schools, or states are standing out in the hunt to crown America’s top young actuarial scholars; however, there are some interesting insights in looking at who made it to the finals these first two years. First of all, California students have led the pack in the sheer number of awards - taking 2nd place and one finalist spot in the first year, and pulling in the top award and another finalist spot in the second year. Not only were these teams from California, but all four of them were from the San Francisco Bay area. This is by far the strongest showing of any metropolitan region in the competition. The next best performing state was Iowa having a 4th place and finalist team finishing each year.
Examining the school level, we can see that there are a few high schools of note. These schools have made an impression in just two years of the competition:
North Carolina School for Science and Mathematics
Even though they did not place in the finals during the second year of the challenge, we cannot discount the ability of the students at this Durham, North Carolina school to take on the actuarial competition and win. Taking first place in the 2017-18 challenge certainly showed their prowess in understanding math modeling and being able to analyze the associated risks from their projections. We look forward to seeing how NCSSM bounces back in the 2019-20 Challenge.
Los Altos High School
Like NCSSM, Los Altos High School students, from Los Altos, California, have demonstrated their ability to come out on top of the actuarial challenge. In the first year of the MTF Challenge in 2018, Los Altos High School was not yet participating in the competition. Could their win in 2019 be the start to a multi-year run for the championship?
This high school from Waukee, Iowa was the only school to have a team reach the finals in both years. Not only did their teams reach the finals, but both years Waukee APEX had a team finish on the podium taking 4th place. Given their strong performance over the first two years of the MTF Challenge, we can certainly expect Waukee APEX to be a contender to look out for in future years.
Maggie Walker Governor’s School
Although they did not place in the finals the first year of the competition, this school from Richmond, Virginia came out strong in the 2018-19 challenge with two out of their eight qualified teams reaching the final competition and both of those teams making it to the podium achieving 2nd and 3rd place respectively. This is a school to keep a keen eye on for the 2019-20 challenge.
The growth in the Modeling the Future Challenge in just its first two years is a testament to the power this competition has to engage and inspire students. “Actuarial Science is a topic that has traditionally been under the radar for students,” said Jason Leppin, executive director of The Actuarial Foundation. “Many students and teachers don’t realize that actuaries use math all the time to help business leaders make some of the most important decisions about the future of their organizations. The Modeling the Future Challenge is our way of demonstrating that math can take you into amazing careers that have a real impact on how we make decisions about the future! And as we can see from our first two years, the students are definitely responding well to the Challenge!”
With two years under the belt, it’s hard to make sweeping statements about which schools are outstanding outliers in actuarial science. Our analysis of the leading schools from the first two years of the challenge doesn’t necessarily mean that these are the schools to beat in next year’s competition. Many schools are still learning about the Modeling the Future Challenge, and the 2019-20 MTF Champions could be from anywhere!
If you are involved with a high school mathematics program and want to learn more about how to participate in the 2019-20 Modeling the Future Challenge, make sure to sign up for the email newsletter here.