First there were nearly 1,000 teams — and 5,000 students, from 29 states — vying for $115,000 in prizes in the Moody’s Mega Math Challenge.
Next — after more than 100 noted mathematicians pored over their papers — only 134 teams were left. That was then whittled down to 55.
Now there are 6.
And one is Staples.
Seniors David Haswell, Robert Perry, Matt Silver and Connie Zhou, plus junior Michael Menz, are now hard at work. On April 26 they’ll make a presentation before a panel of Ph.D.-level applied mathematicians, at the Manhattan headquarters of Moody’s Corporation.
Either Staples — or a school from New Jersey, Massachusetts, North Carolina or Florida — will be crowned Moody’s Mega Math Challenge champ.
The contest involved mathematical modeling. Each team had to identify and rank the best regions in the country for establishing high-speed rail lines, as part of a nationwide network. (Yeah, Congress is currently debating the same thing.)
Math knowledge, critical thinking, research and analytical skills were all part of the puzzle. Participants provided mathematically founded recommendations based on potential ridership numbers, cost of implementation, and effects of the program on foreign energy dependence.
Each team had just 14 hours to receive the issue, study it, collect data, devise models, and upload their solutions in the form of a research paper.
The Challenge is now in its 7th year. Staples has competed all 7 times. The school won it all the 1st year, when it was limited to the tri-state area. They finished 6th in 2009, and in the top 15 in 2008, ’10 and ’11.
The top prize is $20,000. Only 5 other schools stand in Staples’ way.
Not bad for 5 teenagers who spent a 14-hour day solving an issue Congress is also grappling with.
Or — looked at another way — it’s the capstone of their 13 years of school, and a lifetime of observing the world, analyzing and synthesizing information, and loving learning.