Mathematical Contest in Modeling

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The Mathematical Contest in Modeling (MCM) is a multi-day mathematics competition held annually in USA, during the first or second weekend in February, since 1985 by COMAP and sponsored by SIAM, the NSA, and INFORMS. It is distinguished from other major mathematical competitions such as Putnam by its strong focus on research, originality, teamwork, communication and justification of results. It runs concurrently with the Interdisciplinary Contest in Modeling (ICM).


At the beginning of the contest, teams have a choice between two problems. Problem A involves a system that requires the use of continuous mathematics, and thus often involves concepts from geometry, physics, or engineering. Problem B involves a system that requires the use of discrete mathematics. There is also a Problem C, which is open to ICM teams only. The problems tend to be open-ended, and are drawn from all fields of science, business, and public policy. Past problems include

  • Estimate the global effects of a large asteroid impacting Antarctica (1999 A)
  • Study the hunting strategies of velociraptor dinosaurs based on fossil data (1997 A)
  • Develop a more efficient method of boarding passengers onto large commercial jets (2007 B)

Teams have 96 hours to research and submit their solutions in the form of a research paper. During this time, they may consult any available references, but may not discuss their problem with anyone outside their teams. Several guides containing advice and recommendations for teams and/or advisors have been published online or in print.[1][2][3]

Participation and Awards[edit]

Around one thousand international teams of three undergraduates compete to produce original mathematical papers in response to one of two modeling problems. Initially, participation was largely from the United States, however in recent years international participation has grown significantly, particularly from the People's Republic of China, so that in 2007 teams from the United States comprised only 24% of total participation. In 2014, the percentage of teams from the People's Republic of China reached a record high of 92.9%.

After the competition, all papers are judged and placed into the following categories:

  • Unsuccessful Participant
  • Successful Participant (approximately 40% of teams)
  • Honorable Mention (approximately 25% of teams)
  • Meritorious Winner (usually 10 to 15% of teams)
  • Finalist (approximately 1% of teams)
  • Outstanding Winner (less than .5% of teams)

Until 2009, Outstanding Winner papers were published in The UMAP Journal.

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