Lincroft, NJ –Over a weekend for 14 straight hours in late February, a group of High Technology High School students came together to participate in an international online math competition. A combination of math smarts and creative thinking has added up to a spot in the finals for the team, whose submission was selected as one of the best solutions to the question of whether remote work is a fad or the future.
The students – David Chang, Andrew Eng, Kevin Guan, Alexander Postovskiy, and Ivan Wong of Lincroft-based High Technology High School – advanced to one of the top six spots in MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge (M3 Challenge), a unique competition that drew more than 2,700 11th and 12th graders in the U.S. and sixth form students in the U.K. this year. This team is also a finalist for the Technical Computing Scholarship Award, recognizing outstanding use of code to support their solution. The team, whose work underwent intense scrutiny by judges in the first two rounds of assessment, has one last hurdle on April 25, when they present their findings to a panel of professional mathematicians for final validation.
Using mathematical modeling, students had to come up with a solution to a real-world question: will the shift to remote work last, and to what extent? The M3 Challenge problem asked teams to create a model to predict what percentage of workers’ jobs are remote-ready, and whether an individual worker whose job is remote-ready will be allowed to and will choose to work from home. It also had participants estimating the percentage of workers who will work remotely into the future. A total of 612 teams submitted papers detailing their recommendations. More than a third of submissions included technical computing to support and enhance their solutions, making them eligible for extra prizes for those coding skills.
“This year’s topic touches on several relevant issues we are facing as a global community,” says M3 Challenge judge and lead problem developer Karen Bliss, Virginia Military Institute. “As a result of the pandemic, many people suddenly shifted to working from home. While they may have initially been unprepared, for many people work from home is the ‘new normal.’ We’re at a critical juncture where businesses are deciding whether to allow workers to stay home, go back to the office, or have some hybrid model moving forward. There are many facets to consider, not least of which is the current labor shortage in many fields. It is very exciting to see how teams think about remote work and whether they predict that it is here to stay.”
Now in its 17th year, M3 Challenge is a program of Philadelphia-based Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) and is sponsored by MathWorks. It spotlights applied mathematics as a powerful problem-solving tool and motivates students to consider further education and careers in applied math, computational and data sciences, and technical computing. Winning teams will be awarded a share of $100,000 in scholarships, with the champion team receiving $20,000 in 2022.
The second participating High Technology High School team received the distinction of Honorable Mention. In addition to High Technology High School, the other finalist teams hail from schools in Mequon, Wisconsin; Osprey, Florida; Lincolnshire, Illinois; Winnetka, Illinois; Watford, England; and Huntsville, Alabama.
“M3 Challenge is a special opportunity for students to study and analyze current real-world phenomena that have wide ranging impacts on society,” says the team’s coach, Dr. Raymond Eng. “Especially this year’s problem, many of these impacts are not yet fully defined or understood. The student team must synthesize a mathematical model from an immense amount of data and incomplete information. This challenge is a new experience for students where there is not a definitive answer. The real-life lesson is how to construct a logical model based on the readily available and incomplete information to support a projection of future human behavior, a near impossible task. The team gets to experience what an analyst must deal with in the real world.”
Team member David Chang found M3 Challenge to be an inspiring math experience, and a fruitful one, too. “M3 Challenge was a uniquely rewarding experience that demonstrated to our team the potential of mathematical models for describing complex real-world situations. Through learning to analyze a problem, develop models with technical computing, and communicate results effectively, we gained valuable insight into using mathematics as a powerful interdisciplinary tool. Ultimately, it inspired us to continue investigating current issues both now and into the future.”
For more information about M3 Challenge, visit m3challenge.siam.org.
To access this year’s challenge problem, visit https://m3challenge.siam.org/practice-problems/2022-challenge-problem-remote-work-fad-or-future .
To see the full list of finalist, semi-finalist, and honor mention teams, visit https://m3challenge.siam.org/sites/default/files/M3%20Winners%202022_complete%20list%20pre%20final%20event.pdf.