GBCC Professor Prepares High School Teams to Compete in National Math Challenge

02/13/2015 by Lisa Proulx

PORTSMOUTH – On Friday, February 13th, teams of students from Noble High School and Raymond High School recently gathered at Great Bay Community to learn college-level math and “R Studio” one of the top programming languages, all  in preparation to compete in “Moody’s Mega Math (M3) Challenge” a national math challenge awarding up to $125,000 in scholarships.

Through the encouragement of Great Bay Community College Associate Professor of Mathematics, Mary Rudis, the teams will be participating for the first time together in the challenge, an internet based contest, which draws upwards of 1000 teams and 5000 student participants nationally each year. The free contest is designed to motivate students to study and pursue careers in applied math, economics, and finance and is sponsored by The Moody’s Foundation and organized by the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM).  According to Rudis the teams represent the largest number of participants from New Hampshire known to date.

During the internet based competition held on February 28 and March 1, high school Juniors and seniors are given 14 hours to solve an open-ended problem using applied math modeling and mind mapping, before submitting their final analysis proposal. Teams are judged based on their solution papers, and the top 6 teams are invited to New York City where they are required to present their findings to a panel of judges. Past challenges have addressed problems ranging from determining what the most favorable regions in America to build high-speed rail lines are to determining the unintended implications of using ethanol as biofuel.  “A lot of what the students will be doing in this contest and what we are teaching is data-driven problem solving – trying to take a real-world problem and put it into mathematical terms” said Rudis.  

New Hampshire high school team members became motivated to enter the challenge this year after Rudis, along with team coaches Adina Hunter and Chad McCormack from Noble High School agreed to provide an added format for enhancing the student’s experience. In addition to providing a “Best of the Seacoast” award for the best presentation among the area participants, Rudis also hosted Friday’s camp, aptly named, a “Winter Math Modeling Camp with R”. Similar to a theme -based summer camp, students met for a full-day where they reviewed previous challenges and solutions and had access to a college-based math and programming curriculum.  “During the camp, we gave students tools other teams may not have” said Rudis. “To assist with problem solving, they were exposed to certain applied and computational mathematics and “R”, a programming language taught here at GBCC  - one of the top 20 programming languages (according to IEEE) today and something  not currently taught in high schools.”

According to Noble High School Senior, Simon Yu, an exchange student from China currently living in North Berwick the camp offered a great opportunity to learn a new language. “The professor has been very detailed, going over things step by step” said Yu. “I also like the thought of using the program language “R”.  It looked very strange at first but it is a perfect tool for math and statistics.”  Raymond High School Senior Garrett Marshall agreed “The camp is teaching us how to use programming and math to real-life problem solving.”