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FCS Math Team Named National Finalist in Mathematical Modeling Competition
Posted 01/27/2017 02:30PM

Friends’ Central’s outstanding and innovative math program earned national prominence once again when the Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications (COMAP) awarded the team of Samuel Weiss ’17, Jiwei Cheng ’17, Harrison Burdge ’17, and Neil Goldader ’17 the designation of National Finalist in the 19th Annual High School Mathematical Modeling Contest (HiMCM), placing them in the top 2% of teams competing from around the world. They are now moving on to compete in The International Mathematical Modeling Challenge, IM2C, a 5-day international competition that will take place in April 2017.

The contest, which took place in November, includes 36 hours of continuous work on a particular math modeling problem. This year’s problem, entitled “Shop and Ship,” required teams to analyze and choose optimal placement and number of warehouses for an expanding company to meet the one-day ground shipping requirement, how it will affect customers’ tax liability and meet the needs of the greatest number of customers, analyze warehouse locations if clothing and apparel were added to the inventory, and write a letter to their company’s president summarizing recommendations; in total, the report was approximately 30 pages.

Julie Plunkett, Upper School math teacher and advisor for the Mathematical Modeling Club, comments, “By participating in this club and the COMAP competition, students really have a chance to dip their toes into applied math, coding, and programming.

With a variety of needs and abilities for team members, mathematical skills aren’t the only skills necessary for this competition. Members must have strong writing skills, as well as program experience. Those elements made this year’s Friends’ Central team so strong and enabled them to work well together. Jiwei explains, “Neil and Sam were mainly responsible for the algorithm and programming end, since they have a programming background. Harrison and I did the taxes section and most of the writing. We all had to have a pretty strong math background, but we each brought different strengths to this year’s team – that cooperation on different ends and how they worked together made a big difference.”

Last year’s competition and the success and interest garnered in just its first year sparked Jiwei and Sam, both members of last year’s National Finalist team, to create the Mathematical Modeling Club at Friends’ Central in spring 2016. That level of participation and interest enabled FCS to enter not just one but three teams in the math modeling competition this year, and they’ve been fortunate to hear from some impressive guest speakers, including the Operations Research Professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). Plunkett shares, “I think the kids in this club are so enthusiastic because it’s student-centered – it was founded by kids and is led by kids. Our seniors have ignited enthusiasm among the juniors, and they have very strong plans to continue on with the Club and with participating in these types of competitions in the future.”

Whether participating for the first time or the second, the competition has been a true confidence builder for the team’s participants. Sam says, “I didn’t expect it, but participating in this competition has given me a lot of confidence, and being able to apply the knowledge I have of math modeling to a real-world problem and work on it for 36 hours straight, it helps us see how math can be used in real life issues long after high school.” Neil, who is participating in the competition for the first time, agrees. “Three years ago, I never would have thought that I would be interested in something like this, but it’s given me a lot of confidence in math.”

For the National Finalist team, the next step is The International Mathematical Modeling Challenge (IM2C) a 5 consecutive day competition that takes place in April and gives students a deep experience of how math can explain things in our world and what it looks like to work with math in the real world. This year’s team is excited to qualify for and participate in this higher level competition for the first time. 

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