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MathWorks Mathematical Modelling Challenge (M3) - The Ultimate Guide


If you are passionate about math and particularly keen on pushing yourself to apply it to real-world scenarios, then mathematical modeling should be right up your alley!

The MathWorks Mathematical Modelling Challenge, also known as M3, is an opportunity you cannot afford to miss. In this comprehensive guide, we will embark on an exciting journey to explore this competition's intricacies, its structure, eligibility criteria, potential costs, geographic locations, essential dates and deadlines, and coveted prestige. Moreover, we'll provide invaluable tips and resources to empower you to participate and triumph in this exhilarating mathematical odyssey.



What is the MathWorks Challenge (M3) about?

The MathWorks Mathematical Modelling Challenge is a prestigious international competition designed to engage and challenge young minds in mathematical modeling. It is a cost-free competition open to high school juniors and seniors in the United States and sixth-form students in England and Wales.


This contest takes place entirely online, with no requirements for registration or participation fees. Each year, $100,000 in scholarships, equivalent to over £75,000, is granted to deserving winners. The competition is known for its real-world relevance, as participants tackle complex problems that require creative and mathematical solutions. M3 encourages critical thinking, teamwork, and problem-solving skills, making it an excellent platform for aspiring mathematicians.



What are the eligibility requirements?

M3 is open to high school students with a passion for mathematics and ready to tackle challenging problems. The competition often categorizes participants into different divisions based on their grade level, ensuring fair and exciting competition for all.


Overview of eligibility

  1. High schools in the United States, including U.S. territories and DoDEA schools, are eligible. Schools in England and Wales with sixth-form students (ages 16-19) are also eligible.

  2. Each school may register a maximum of two teams, comprising three to five students and one teacher-coach.

  3. Teams must consist of high school juniors and seniors or sixth-form students (ages 16-19) from the same school, with no exceptions for first-year students.

  4. Dual enrollment programs or initiatives involving students from multiple schools may be eligible under certain criteria, subject to SIAM's discretion.

  5. International and exchange students may participate if they meet all requirements and are officially enrolled at an eligible school.

  6. Homeschool and cyber school students have two options: they can either form their teams or request to join a team at a local school within their district or community, with all communication efforts managed by the homeschooled or cyber-schooled student. For self-formed teams, specific guidelines apply, including submitting relevant affidavit forms.

  7. Online high schools and hybrid organizations should review the eligibility criteria to ensure compliance with location, team limits, grade levels, and school name requirements.

  8. Relatives of SIAM employees and MathWorks Challenge staff team members are ineligible to participate in the MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge.


How is the competition structured?

M3 features a unique structure that distinguishes it from other mathematical competitions:

  • Team-Based: Participants work in teams, fostering collaboration and teamwork skills. The program requires the teams to be registered with a coach, so contacting your local Math Club or an advisor is great!

  • Real-World Problems: The competition presents real-world problems that require mathematical modeling to find innovative solutions.

  • Multistage: M3 typically consists of multiple regional, national, and international stages.

  • Oral Presentations: In the final rounds, teams present their solutions to judges, enhancing their communication skills.

Once a team is registered, the competition runs on a 14-hour time frame, which a team of pre-selected judges will later assess.

  • Work Hours: Teams should align their schedules with Eastern Standard Time (EST) or convert to it during the Challenge weekend. The 2023 Challenge weekend runs from 6:00 a.m. EST on Friday, March 3, to 11:00 p.m. EST on Monday, March 6. Once the problem is downloaded, the team's 14-hour countdown begins and cannot be paused. To maximize their 14-hour window, it's advisable to download the problem with at least 14 hours remaining before the Challenge weekend ends. Teams can work from any location and use available resources but cannot seek external help or discuss the problem with anyone except their teammates. Detailed rules can be found on the Official Rules and Guidelines page.

  • Judging: Over 125 Ph. Ph.D.-level applied mathematicians serve as judges across three rounds. Teams are notified of results in late March or April. Finalists and Technical Computing Scholarship winners must present in person at the final round in New York, NY, with expenses covered as per M3 Challenge Team Travel and Expense Reimbursements Guidelines. For prize details, visit the Scholarships and Recognition section.


What are the associated costs for the program?

Participation in M3 may involve a registration fee, which can vary depending on your location and the division in which you compete. However, many organizations, schools, or sponsors often cover these costs to encourage participation. Otherwise, there is no personal cost out of pocket for yourself!



Where do you compete?

M3 is a global competition with regional, national, and international stages. Depending on your location, you may participate in regional competitions at your school or travel to a designated location for national and international rounds. If you make it to the final round, you will be covered for a trip to New York City to compete with other finalists.



What are important dates and deadlines?

The exact dates and deadlines for M3 can vary from year to year, so staying updated with the official competition website or your school's mathematics department for the most current information is crucial. Typically, the competition spans several months, starting with regional rounds and culminating in the international finals.


The confirmed dates for this year are as follows:

In November 2023, registration opens, and it closes on February 23, 2024. Teams can request free software licenses until February 16, 2024. The Challenge Weekend runs from March 1 to 4, 2024, during which teams choose a 14-hour work period. Parental/guardian consent is required before the Challenge Weekend. Coaches and students can make team record changes until March 5, 2024.

Triage judging occurs between March 7 and 15, 2024, followed by contention judging from March 21 to 24, 2024. On March 27, 2024, teams are notified of their status as Finalists, semi-finalists, honorable mentions, or technical computing award winners. The confirmation judging and awards ceremony in New York City is on April 29, 2024.


What are the prizes?

The M3 Challenge Finalist Awards recognize the top six teams that excel in their mathematical approaches to the Challenge problem. Finalists must create detailed mathematical models, including assumptions, parameters, processes, and results analysis. These teams are rewarded with an expense-paid trip to New York City and cash prizes:

  • Champion: $20,000 team prize

  • Runner Up: $15,000 team prize

  • Third Place: $10,000 team prize

  • Finalist (three teams): $5,000 team prize each

In addition to these awards, there are other distinctions:

  • M3 Challenge Semi-finalists: Six teams receive $1,500 each.

  • M3 Challenge Honorable Mention: 22 teams receive $1,000 each.

  • All participants receive certificates.

  • The schools of the finalist teams receive prizes to support a department, club, or activity.

Technical Computing Awards are also presented to teams that demonstrate exceptional use of computer programming in their solutions. The award amounts are as follows:

  • Technical Computing Winner: $3,000 team prize

  • Technical Computing Runner Up: $2,000 team prize

  • Technical Computing Third Place: $1,000 team prize

Finalist teams are invited to a trip to New York City, where they present their solutions to a panel of Ph.D. mathematicians. The team delivering the best presentation receives an additional $500 team prize through the Outstanding Communication of Results Award.



Is this a prestigious program?

Winning or performing well in M3 is a prestigious achievement that can open doors to academic and professional opportunities. It demonstrates your prowess in mathematical modeling and can enhance your academic credentials for future college applications.

M3 Challenge has garnered several accolades and acknowledgments, including its inclusion on the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) National Advisory List of Student Contests & Activities since 2010. Additionally, it received the 2009 ASAE Associations Advance America (AAA) Award of Excellence and the 2008 Excellence Award from the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP). Therefore, recognition from the M3 program is a valuable and prestigious title to carry as a participant and a potential winner! In the past, a set of top winners (6), Technical computing teams, and Semi-finalist teams were announced as well as a list of honorable mentions. Learn more about these teams and their projects here!


What are some tips to excel in M3?

To succeed in M3, consider these tips:

  1. Begin your journey early: Prepare well in advance to allow time for research and problem-solving once you've established a team. Practice problems and resources can be found on the website's resources page, which includes practice sets, teaching guidelines, and software assistance.

  2. Establish strong teamwork: Work effectively with your team, as collaboration is a key aspect of M3. When creating a team, consider your team's strengths and abilities, leaning into each other. Curiosity can be a lifelong skill to use in later years.

  3. Take time to understand the problem: Thoroughly understand the real-world problem you are tasked with before attempting a solution. With your team and coach, work to process real-life applications of mathematical inquiry to help guide you into the fast-paced level of the M3 competition.

  4. Keep up with your research and resources: Utilize online resources, mathematical modeling textbooks, and academic papers to enhance your knowledge. The website's resources page is a great start, but continues to expand further by working with your coach and potentially nearby universities who can offer a mentorship with a student in their math department!

  5. Focus on your communication skills: Develop your ability to present your solutions clearly and effectively during the oral presentation rounds. One key factor in this competition is your ability to use public speaking skills in the presentation section of the competition. Therefore, practice not only with your teammates but with yourself!

  6. Stay Informed: Keep up with mathematical news and current events, as M3 often draws inspiration from real-world issues. You can keep up with M3 at their website and newsletters! Check out M3’s resources which also include a youtube video covering some advice from former participants.


M3 also provides a page solely for tips and tricks which can be referenced here!


What are some resources I can use?

In your quest to conquer the MathWorks Mathematical Modelling Challenge, consider these valuable resources:

  1. Official M3 Website: Visit the competition website for updates, guidelines, and practice problems.

  2. Mathematical Modeling Textbooks: Explore textbooks on mathematical modeling to deepen your understanding of the subject. There are various free textbooks or practice set problems thatcan be found on the website which also includes links to different textbooks! This handbook should be your starting point because it’ll help you understand how to define problems and begin thinking of solutions. The next handbook you should look at is the computing and communicating edition so that you can take a spreadsheet or a graphic calculator experience to the next level.

  3. Online Forums and Communities: Engage in online forums and communities dedicated to mathematical modeling to connect with like-minded individuals. You should check out this 7-part video series to understand how students work through problems.

  4. Past Winning Solutions: Analyze past winning solutions to gain insights into effective strategies.

  5. Mentorship: Seek guidance and mentorship from experienced mathematicians or educators.

  6. Mathematics Journals: Stay updated with mathematical journals and publications to discover new techniques and approaches. A great place to start can be on the American Mathematical Society where you can find the most recent up-to-date mathematical research being done by current researchers in your research topic!

  7. Workshops and Seminars: Attend workshops and seminars on mathematical modeling to enhance your skills.

  8. Study Groups: Form or join study groups with fellow participants to collaborate and learn from each other.


The MathWorks Mathematical Modelling Challenge is not just a competition but a mathematical exploration and discovery journey. With dedication, teamwork, and a strategic approach, you can excel in M3 and significantly impact mathematical modeling. If you are looking for other ways to get involved in M3, the program offers internships for winners of the challenges offered after the program.



Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you are interested in doing university-level research in math, then you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.


Tenzing Dolma is a Masters student specializing in research following the Nechung

Oracle and the historical, religious, and cognitive approaches to its presence. She has a bachelors in Neuroscience from Loyola University Chicago and is currently completing her graduate studies at Columbia University. She hopes to help students find their passions through access to programs and organizations the same way she found hers!



Image Source: M3C logo

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