NEWS

14 hour math test leaves Hendricken teams in top 20% nationwide

By DANIEL FRANCHETTI
Posted 3/31/22

On February 25, ten Bishop Hendricken High School students cut their February break short for a long test. While a test of two or three hours would be considered long, this test would clock in at 14 …

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NEWS

14 hour math test leaves Hendricken teams in top 20% nationwide

Posted

On February 25, ten Bishop Hendricken High School students cut their February break short for a long test. While a test of two or three hours would be considered long, this test would clock in at 14 hours straight from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. This was all for the sake of solving a single math problem.

Bishop Hendricken’s two teams finished in the top 20% of the 600 schools participating across the country in the MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge. However, this is unlike most regular math tests with defined equations and defined solutions. This annual event provides students with a problem to be solved with theoretical modeling, and submitted in the form of an official paper that proposes a solution. High school students must achieve all this within the span of 14 hours. During this time, students must use the material provided in conjunction with their own independent research during the event to apply real-world data in the solution. The score is determined by the validity and plausibility of the solution meaning that the process of their work is just as important as the results.

Bishop Hendricken fielded two teams working diligently on this year’s challenge which was to calculate the number of remote-ready workers; workers who could easily adapt to a virtual work model. They had to apply a model using the example municipalities of Barry, Liverpool, Seattle, Scranton, and Omaha. This model would not only have to account for the diversity of jobs and populations but also population growth and expected job changes over the next five years.

“I did enjoy the entire day,” said Aidan Cahill, a first-year member of the team, “Even though I feel like I could have contributed more it was a great experience overall.” Despite the enjoyment he had, there was a downside.

 “The first couple of hours I had a bunch of energy which petered out later. It’s 14 hours long, of course I’m going to run out of energy.”

 Indeed, many students experienced an energy rush early on due to the unique situation of collaborating on a single problem for hours on end but in due time, as Aidan discovered, many students felt the weight of several hours of uneasiness in creating solutions that may not work. Aidan said his team noticed the equations they had been working on for hours were wrong and they had to effectively restart.

Although the event was tiring, there were some shining moments when students are locked away with math for 14 hours.

“We calculated for a mass extinction in Liverpool and when the other group came over, they also said that,” said Jake Rademacher after the event. However, the error seemed to have been in an addition formula as Aidan clarified, “I can confirm we later figured out that it was due to an error with Excel.”

 Another humorous revelation that broke the monotony of the monumental math task was also made by Aidan, “we also found it funny that not a single mining or manufacturing job was doable from home. Like, can nobody go in their backyard and just mine?”

After weeks of anticipation, the results were released that although the teams had a strong paper for their research, neither team was approved by the 16 judges to proceed to the third round of judging .  This means that they are ineligible for any part of the total $100,000 scholarship awards for the highest-ranked teams. Nonetheless, Aidan found some solace.

“While it may seem grueling and uncomfortable from the outside, and my team did not win anything from it, the experience is definitely one of the most enjoyable and memorable I have had in my four years at the school, and something I will look back fondly on for years to come,”  he said.

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