The Actuarial Foundation announces the winners of The Hardest Math Problem student contest

April 24, 2020

The Actuarial Foundation is proud to announce the winners in this year’s Hardest Math Problem student contest, a national middle school math competition designed to help students practice critical thinking supported by accurate computation. Competing for a chance to win a $5,000 grand prize, students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades completed extra challenging story problems combining reasoning skills with math.  Grand prize winners receive a $5,000 deposit to a 529 savings plan and a laptop. First-place winners receive a tablet. Winning teachers from each grade receive a $500 gift card. The contest is just one in a series of free middle school math resources  produced through the partnership of the Foundation and Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education and media company.

Winners were required to complete an initial challenge to qualify for Challenge Two and the grand prize. Over 12,000 students entered the first challenge (more than double the entries from last year, the Contest’s inaugural year) and over 1,400 students submitted entries to Challenge Two. From those correct submissions, sixth grader Lauren K. from A.I. Root Middle School was selected as the grand prize winner. Cael R., a sixth grader from Dallas Center Grimes Middle School, won the tablet. Ian K. from Nathaniel Greene Middle School was the seventh-grade grand prize winner. Eli V. from Sellwood Middle School won the seventh-grade first place prize. The winner of the grand prize for eighth grade was Jie T. from The Bell Academy and the first prize winner was Mingjia Z. from Mason Middle School.

Generously sponsored by New York Life Foundation, the Contest highlights the dexterity and talents of American middle school students. “The Actuarial Foundation engages middle school students with math in a fun way that helps kids use their  critical thinking skills and develops their  reasoning skills to make informed decisions and solve complex problems,” said Marlyn Torres, senior program officer, New York Life Foundation. “Despite these challenging times, students demonstrated their overwhelming desire for a creative outlet to test their ability to solve real world problems.”

The Hardest Math Problem student contest was judged by a team of actuaries who evaluated students’ answers on how well they communicated their mathematical argument, their mathematical precision and their attention to detail. The theme of the Contest this year focused on helping fictional chef Carlita Kahn launch her environmentally responsible cookbook by deciphering logistics with her publisher. One of the judges, Gabrielle Brochard, FSA, MAAA, had this to say about reviewing student entries, “The level of engagement was amazing to see, with students from every state rising to answer the challenge of these difficult problems.  Seeing the talent of these young people during the final judging was really a bright spot in recent times.”