Team earns $5,000 in scholarships as Moody’s semifinalists

NCSSM students (shown with coach Dan Teague, far right) took home $5,000 as semifinalists for their math modeling projections on the future of car sharing.

A team of five students from North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics traveled to New York this week to compete in the national round of Moody’s Mega Math Challenge. The team was named a semifinalists, earning $5,000 in scholarships.

NCSSM’s team was made up of seniors Simon Marland, Vinit Ranjan, Katherine Yang, Sunwoo Yim, and Kelly Zhang. The team entered the competition among a field of 1,100 other teams made up of juniors and seniors from across the country. The contest introduces a real-world question to which each team develops a response using applied mathematics and math modeling. The top six teams are invited to present their papers to a panel of judges at Moody’s headquarters in New York City.

“Our Moody’s teams did spectacularly well in this year’s contest,” says coach and NCSSM Mathematics Instructor Dan Teague. “This year’s challenge focused on the future of car-sharing. In 14 hours, teams of five students researched and modeled car-sharing options and wrote a 20-page paper on their work. NCSSM was the only team in the country with both teams in the top twelve.”

“We’ve realized that you can also use math to model things like social sciences and really, really applicable things, like car sharing,” team member Katherine Yang ’16 told WNCN before travelling to New York. Not only do teams get to explore relevant, real-world topics, the contest is designed to give students the experience of working as a team to tackle a problem under time and resource constraints, just as industrial applied mathematicians do.

NCSSM students have a history of success in the competition, taking both first and second place in last year’s contest. “This is the fifth year in a row we have had a top-six finalist and the fourth year in a row in which both teams have been in the top 12,” says Teague. In February, a second team of NCSSM students — Rose Huang, Sarah Wu, Sicheng Zeng, Rishi Sundaresan, and Michael Yang — finished in the top 12, the top 1 percent of students entering the competition. Each student won $300 in scholarship funds to be sent to their school of choice.

“Our finalist team gave an impressive presentation in New York and defended their work well before the judging panel, giving thoughtful and convincing arguments to support their work,” says Teague. “Being in the top six in the country is a signal accomplishment, as was the professional and poised manner in which they represented themselves and NCSSM in the competition.”

And the trip to New York wasn’t bad either. “The team has approximately 4,297 photos of New York,” Teague says, “and were kind enough to include their advisor in two of them.” 

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