School Bulletin: Finding creative solutions

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- This week four students from Mequon are preparing for the final round of an international math competition. The team from Homestead High School beat out more than 600 teams to earn a trip to the MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge (M3 Challenge) finals in New York City.

In the classroom, the Homestead seniors are learning advanced calculus, but this contest forces them to take a simpler, more innovative approach to answering real-world questions.

"The actual math aspect isn't that tough," Ethan Wang, one of the team members, says. "I think the hardest math that we used this year was a linear regression, which is something we covered in Algebra I. The true difficulty comes in understanding the concepts and being able to apply them to fluid scenarios."

Back in February, each team across the United States and United Kingdom logged in, pressed start and had just 14 hours to answer three questions about working remotely.

"We have all these tiny little tools we learned at school, but how do we put them together in unique ways that maybe we weren't shown in school," Eric Wan, a team member, says.

The Homestead team participated in the M3 Challenge last year, and met weekly for months to prepare for the contest. Plus, the students put in extra work individually. This year, the seniors say they had a better understanding of what to expect.

"This year we kept learning more math techniques, but we also worked on our communication skills," Adam Garsha, a team member, says.

The teams are able to look at past submissions for the M3 Challenge and see how the judges scored the presentations. The students say they've emphasized creativity to incorporate writing, charts and diagrams along with the equations in their submission.

"We had to make the paper as great as possible, make the answers as great as possible," Jacob Schmidman, one of the team members, says.

On Monday, April 25, the Homestead seniors will present their findings to a panel of professional mathematicians for the finale. The champions will receive $20,000 in scholarships, but the team agrees, just getting to the finals made them winners.

"Anything they want to do math-related, they're going to be successful at, or even not math-related," Wolfgang Recht, a math teacher at Homestead High School, says. "They just have that work ethic that whatever they put their mind to, they'll be successful."

If you know a remarkable student, teacher or school making a difference in the community, contact CBS 58 to be featured in the next School Bulletin.

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