If you’re someone who loves calculus and math learned in classrooms, but seek an event to apply your skills even further, the High School Mathematics Contest in Modeling (HiMCM) is a perfect competition for you.
What is the High School Mathematics Contest in Modeling?
The High School Mathematics Contest in Modeling (HiMCM) is an annual competition that encourages students to use their problem-solving skills and mathematical talent to develop creative solutions to real-world problems. With an emphasis on collaboration and teamwork, the HiMCM offers a unique opportunity for students to showcase their talents and gain valuable experience in utilizing classroom math material to real-world modeling.
For the past 23 years, the HiMCM presents an annual set of unique and thought-provoking problems that require students to work together to develop innovative and effective solutions. Teams of up to four students have fourteen days to develop a mathematical model and present their findings in a written report. The competition does not require you to have an extensive knowledge of math modeling, but does a require a passion for learning and exploration.
HiMCM is an excellent way for students to explore uncharted areas in mathematics and to develop valuable skills that will serve them well past graduating high school. With a focus on collaboration, creativity, and problem-solving, the HiMCM is a unique opportunity for students to challenge themselves and to demonstrate their abilities in modeling, as no other competition circuit is like this.
Who is Eligible to Participate in the HiMCM?
Anyone around the world, high school grades or younger, is eligible to participate in the HiMCM. Students may participate by themselves or in teams of four students. The competition is open to students from all countries and regions, as long as they have internet access and can submit their reports in English, as the competition is judged by a central panel of English-speaking judges. If interested, find three other passionate students and one adult mentor, and you may join the competition!
It is also important to note that this competition is unique in that while the founding non-profit, The Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications, is US-based, many of the competitors are international students!
Is the HiMCM Prestigious?
The HiMCM is considered a prestigious competition in the field of mathematics. The top participants and winners are recognized by top universities and academic institutions around the world, and participation in the competition can enhance a student's college application and career prospects. A strong performance in HiMCM demonstrates exceptional problem-solving skills, creative thinking, and mathematical aptitude. The competition's challenging problems and emphasis on collaboration and teamwork provide an excellent opportunity for students to develop important skills that are highly valued in academic and professional settings.
Timeline and Structure of the HiMCM
HiMCM takes place annually, beginning with the release of the problem set in early November. Teams of up to four students will have fourteen days to work collaboratively to analyze the problem, develop a mathematical model, and prepare a written report to be electronically submitted. The HiMCM judging committee then evaluates each submission and announces the winners in early February of the following year.
The top performers, which is defined by any team that scores Meritorious or above, has the opportunity to participate in the International Math Modeling Challenge in March and April, which is the competition one level above HIMCM, run by the same nonprofit. According to their website,
Meritorious - The team's solution report was excellent in many aspects of modeling and problem solving, analysis, conclusions, and communication. The report addressed all requirements in a clear, well-supported, well-organized, and well-presented manner.
Finalist - The designation Finalist recognizes teams whose solution reports are exemplary and therefore reached the final round of judging. These papers present complete and logical analysis in an organized and clear presentation above and beyond simply addressing the requirements. These papers are easy to read, easy to follow, logical, and comprehensive. Finalist papers are among the best of all team submissions.
Outstanding Winner - The designation Outstanding recognizes teams whose solution reports are determined, in the final round of judging, to be the "best of the best." These teams' reports are at the highest level relative to the contest submissions in terms of exemplary student work in modeling and problem solving, analysis, and communication. COMAP may publish and use all or part of these submissions as examples of outstanding student work.
Tips and Resources to Win the HiMCM
Here are some tips and strategies to help you win the HiMCM:
Understand the problem to create a plan: Read the problem carefully and make sure you understand it before you start working on it. Identify the key variables and constraints, and break down the problem into smaller parts to simplify your approach. The problem can be very daunting at first glance, but can be an easier to understand approach once broken down into small parts. Afterwards, develop a clear plan that outlines the steps you will take to solve the problem. Make sure everyone on the team understands the plan and their roles in implementing it.
Use appropriate tools and techniques: Make sure to analyze the problem closely by reading it over and doing some research in order to choose the appropriate mathematical and statistical tools and techniques. Use programming languages such as Python or MATLAB to implement your solutions and models and visualize the results through clear and visually-appealing graphs and charts.
Collaborate effectively: HiMCM is a team-based competition, and the best teams are teams that can work together effectively. Make sure that all team members are actively contributing their strengths, ideas, and deliverables to the overall project. Working together is crucial for overall success. Remember that pure knowledge can only bring you so far, but a team can take you to the finish line, regardless of your mathematical knowledge.
Test your solutions: Test your solutions thoroughly to make sure they are accurate and reliable. Check your work for errors and validate your results by comparing them to real-world data or other sources of information. Make sure that there are no edge cases or niche cases that your model does not cover, as this can be the difference between an honorable mention and a meritorious to bring your team to an international level.
Write a clear and concise report: Write a report that is just as long as you need, well-organized into subheadings and properly written equations, and easy to follow. Present your findings and conclusions in a logical and compelling manner, and use charts, tables, and diagrams to illustrate your results. Judges have many, many, many different reports to read and overlook, thus the more concise, easy to read, and appealing your report is, the more likely the judges will have a favorable opinion of your paper.
Take some time beforehand to practice and prepare: Practice solving similar problems to improve your skills and build your confidence. Utilize time before the competition starts to prepare coding software, research papers, and notes, so that the fourteen days of the competition can be specifically devoted to the question at hand. There are 25 years of history for your team to learn from and utilize their test questions as practice.
If you’re looking for another chance to explore your passions in STEM, or want another opportunity to build your own independent project and research paper, then consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program. Last year over 2100 students applied for about 500 spots in the program. You can find the application form here.
Aaron Zheng is a sophomore at Harvard University, studying Bioengineering. He is passionate about biotechnology, business development, and aiding students get to college, regardless of background. In his spare time, he looks to read, journal, and explore the world.
Image source: HiMCM logo (2019)