A Math Challenge on a Timely Topic ($)

By Sean Cavanagh — March 17, 2009 1 min read

Businesses, philanthropies, and other organizations have been staging math and science competitions and contests for years as a way to motivate students to take on independent projects and have their work judged by experts in the field.

If you’re interested in a competition with a theme pulled from the day’s headlines, have a look at the Moody’s Mega Math Challenge 2009, known as “M-3.” This year, participating teams from schools around the country were given the following mission:

—Determine which elements of the $787 billion economic-stimulus plan will produce the greatest increases in employment;
—Figure out how quickly the money could have an impact on the economy; and
—Evaluate whether a second stimulus package is needed.

The contest is sponsored by the philanthropic arm of Moody’s, the global financial and research firm, and it’s sponsored by the Society for Industrial and Applied Math, or SIAM. Students are competing for college scholarship awards valued at between $2,500 and $20,000, which will be divided up evenly among team members.

Students were encouraged to use resources from authoritative sources on federal spending, such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Congressional Budget Office, and the White House Council of Economic Advisers. The deadline for submitting answers was last week.

The Moody’s competition traditionally focuses on financial and economic issues. The 2008 challenge question asked students to examine the economic implications of replacing traditional gas with ethanol. In 2007, students were asked about a hypothetical investment portfolio. My question for readers: Of the other school math competitions out there, how many of them center on financial or budgetary themes? Is the focus of these competitions changing, given the issues of the day?

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.