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

Team from Eltham College will win a portion of ~£75,000 in scholarships in MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge

For 14 straight hours in early March, a small group of Eltham College 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 – Oles Chaban, Atharv Gupta, Ben Robinson, Alice Sanderson, and Ethan Southward of London-based Eltham College – make up one of the eight finalist teams in MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge (M3 Challenge), a unique competition that drew nearly 3,000 11th and 12th graders in the U.S. and sixth form students in the U.K. this year. 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 ~£75,000 in scholarships, with the champion team receiving ~£16,000 in 2023.

In addition to Eltham College, the other finalist teams hail from schools in Alexandria, Virginia; Berwyn, Pennsylvania; Gainesville, Florida; Houston, Texas; Lincolnshire, Illinois; Lincroft, New Jersey; and Mason, Ohio.

“Many competitions exist to test student prowess in pure mathematics, sciences, or computing,” says Eltham College teacher-coach Ben Eastley. “However, there are very few opportunities to integrate these disciplines into a coherent whole with significant time constraints under which teams solve real-world problems. M3 Challenge encapsulates the complex reality of practical mathematical modelling in an exhausting 14-hour stretch. I cannot recommend it highly enough for students who wish to discover for themselves what can be achieved with judicious use of applied mathematics.”

Team members Oles Chaban and Ben Robinson found M3 Challenge to be an exhilarating math experience that reinforced their passion for mathematics. “M3 Challenge has provided us with an unrivalled opportunity to develop skills when applying mathematical content to new situations. This has opened our eyes to the global impact that mathematical modelling can incur, something which is not stressed enough in the standard school curriculum. It was energizing to see how concepts we’d learned in the classroom could be used in real-world problems and it motivated us to pursue our mathematics studies with renewed diligence and enthusiasm!”

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, visit

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