Mason Students Surpass Thousands to Advance to Finals in Prestigious International Math Competition


(Contributed photo) William Mason team from the left: Katie Wilson, David Zhang, Matthew Qiu, Jason Wang, and Oliver Gao.

Contributed story from William Mason High School

MASON, OH -- For 14 straight hours in early March, a small group of William Mason High School students came together to participate in an international online math modeling competition. A combination of math smarts and creative thinking has added up to a spot in the finals for the team, whose submission was selected as one of the best solutions to questions around the predicted growth of e-bike use and its impact on society.

The students – Oliver Gao, Matthew Qiu, Jason Wang, Katie Wilson, and David Zhang of Mason-based William Mason High School – make up one of the eight finalist teams in MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge (M3 Challenge), a unique competition this year that drew nearly 3,000 11th and 12th graders in the U.S. and sixth form students in the U.K. The team, whose work underwent intense scrutiny by judges in the first two rounds of assessment, has one last hurdle on April 24, when they present their findings to a panel of professional mathematicians for final validation. 

Using mathematical modeling, students had to come up with solutions to real-world questions: 

  • How many e-bikes will be sold in the next two years? 
  • Of the many factors that contribute to e-bike use and sales growth, which are most significant? 
  • For a given country or region, can we quantify the impact that e-bike use has on carbon emissions, traffic congestion, or other key factors? 

A total of 650 teams submitted papers detailing their recommendations. Roughly 45% of those submissions included technical computing to support and enhance their solutions, and those coding skills make them eligible for additional scholarship prizes.

"News feeds, magazines, and everyday discussions seem to be filled with talk of ‘the future of the automobile,’” says M3 Challenge judge and lead problem developer Neil Nicholson, University of Notre Dame. “In the past couple years, though, the rise in popularity of smaller electric personal transportation devices has somewhat changed the conversation. While these changes can be meaningful at the individual level, they also are shaping larger scale policy-related questions. It is really interesting to see how the modelers attacked these questions, because understanding how the past influences the future will surely provide insight into these big real-world issues."

Now in its 18th year, M3 Challenge is a program of Philadelphia-based Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) and is sponsored by MathWorks. It spotlights applied mathematics as a powerful problem-solving tool and motivates students to consider further education and careers in applied math, computational and data sciences, and technical computing. Winning teams will be awarded a share of $100,000 in scholarships, with the champion team receiving $20,000 in 2023. 

“This group of five students and friends took the initiative to pursue this challenge all on their own,” says William Mason High School teacher-coach Colleen Everett. “Their combined skillset allowed them to successfully create a product they were proud of.”

Team member Oliver Gao found M3 Challenge to be a memorable math experience that brought his team closer together. “This was an unforgettable experience full of ups and downs, from eating together to rushing to make the 14-hour deadline. It wasn't just an academic competition; it was also the formation of an unbreakable bond within our team,” Gap said.

In addition to William Mason High School, the other finalist teams hail from schools in: 

  • Alexandria, Virginia; 
  • Berwyn, Pennsylvania; 
  • Gainesville, Florida; 
  • Houston, Texas; 
  • Lincolnshire, Illinois; 
  • Lincroft, New Jersey; and 
  • London, England.

For more information about M3 Challenge, visit  To access this year’s challenge problem, visit To see the full list of finalist, semi-finalist, and honor mention teams click here

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