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High School & Sixth Form Students Tackle Real-World Issues with Math Modeling

MathWorks Math Modeling (M3) Challenge is a contest for high school juniors and seniors. The challenge has been around since 2006 and has been open to student participants in the US, but this year we are excited to share that it’s expanding to also include sixth form students in England and Wales. The challenge is organized by SIAM – Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics and allows teams to work on a real-world problem in a 14-hour window of time with additional resource constraints, to give students a glimpse of the type of problems professional mathematicians encounter in industry.

The M3 Challenge offers students a transformative high school experience and a chance to win thousands of dollars in scholarships. Students use mathematical expertise, research, and brainstorming to evaluate data and build a solution to interesting current world issues. Last year’s problem “Keep On Trucking” had students recommend solutions for the trucking industry’s transition from diesel to electric power. “Better Ate Than Never” by Cleve Moler walks you through an example solution to another previous M3 Challenge problem using MATLAB. This blog illustrates how easy MATLAB makes it to analyze, visualize, and perform computations on data.

Teams determined to have the best solution papers receive special recognition in the form of tuition scholarships for college education. The M3 Technical Computing Scholarship Award honors teams for outstanding use of programming (like MATLAB), which they use to analyze, visualize, and perform computations on data. You can learn more about the particulars of this award here.


Starting with the 2021 season, hundreds of sixth form students (ages 16-18) in England and Wales are expected to join U.S. high school students in competing for more than $100,000 (£79,000) in scholarship prizes. Registration is open through February 19, 2021. Challenge weekend begins Friday, February 26, and runs through Monday, March 1. Of the hundreds of participating teams, nine winning teams are selected as finalists. Submissions are judged by a national panel of 150 largely Ph.D.-level mathematicians. The competition final presentation event and awards ceremony is traditionally held in New York City in late April – an all-expense paid experience for the finalist teams. When the final event last season was derailed due to COVID-19, SIAM encouraged finalist teams to send in video presentations of their work for an extra “Outstanding Communication of Results” award. Check out the creative entry from Pine View School who won the competition in 2020 below.

MathWorks has been supporting the challenge since 2015 and took over as the headline sponsor in 2018. MathWorks offers participants a range of free resources, training materials, and software licenses to help them prepare for the challenge – including complimentary access to MATLAB and Simulink, products widely used across academia and commercial industries around the world.

If you know of any high school juniors and seniors in the US or sixth form students in England and Wales who would be interested in the challenge, encourage them to participate! The challenge is done completely online and there are plenty of reference materials to help teams prepare.  Learn more and register here: To learn more about the different student competitions supported by MathWorks visit our student competitions page. Feel free to leave us a comment below or email us at for more information.


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