The limit does not exist for NT mathletes

The team won silver at prestigious international competition


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Left to right: Nathan Liu, Max Hartman, Aruni Chenxi, Nika Chuzhoy, Connor Lane, and adviser Kuklis

On April 25, five New Trier seniors took second place in the MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge, winning a $15,000 scholarship that will be split five-ways. 

The final round of the competition, which was held in New York City by quantitative firm Jane Street, required teams to put together a presentation to solve a real-world problem using mathematical modeling. While the competition was unrelated to New Trier’s Math Team, all five seniors that competed are members.

All the hard work had been done. We had our presentation ready, so we were ready to go.”

— Liu

The topic for this year’s MathWorks Challenge was remote work. According to senior Nika Chuzhoy, who participated in the competition, there were three sub-questions within the topic.

“There were three questions that required us to predict specific things about how remote work would change, also for different groups of people. So we had to give them numbers and make models.”

All of the questions were connected to each other.

“The first was to predict the number of jobs that will be remote-workable in the future; the second was given a person’s specific demographic characteristics, can you say whether they would be allowed to or would choose to work from home; and the third was to predict the number of jobs that will actually be remote in the future,” said Chuzhoy.

The first step of the competition was to write a paper to submit to the competition’s judges.  According to the team’s faculty sponsor Bradley Kuklis, the competitors studied essays from the competition’s previous winners.

“The students spent a lot of time on the weekends getting together and looking at winning papers from past contests to try to learn what were some common techniques used by winning teams and what were some strategies that seemed to work.”

The teams had fourteen hours to write the paper after receiving the prompt.

“The main competition happened back in February…They got the question prompt, and then they spent the whole day working out the different parts of the problem. They did a bunch of coding and some other high-level math analyses and wrote a big paper,” said Kuklis.

According to the MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge website, 612 teams submitted papers to the competition this year. After multiple rounds of judging, the top six teams, including New Trier’s, were selected to present their findings in New York. 

“We had to make a presentation, so we started as soon as we were announced as finalists. We got together every Sunday to work on the presentation a little bit and chip at it until our actual presentation day,” said senior Nathan Liu.

Because of all of their preparation, the actual competition in New York didn’t involve any new writing or mathematical modeling.

“This was just the final presentation in front of a panel of judges. The students were given 15 minutes to present their work and then there was a five-minute Q and A from the judges,” said Kuklis.

For senior Nathan Liu, the actual competition was more relaxed than he expected.

“I thought it was going to be stressful, but it really wasn’t. All the hard work had been done. We had our presentation ready, so we were ready to go.”

The nature of the competition also provided for a very collaborative environment between finalist teams.

“Once you presented, you could stick around and listen to the other presentations. We listened to a team from the UK which we thought was really cool. They took a very similar approach to one of the parts of the question prompt, but they got a different result than us so that was one thing that the students found very interesting. After that team presented, a bunch of people on our team went to go talk to them. It was really cool watching them chit chat and exchange ideas,” said Kuklis.

One of the highlights for the team was getting to see Jane Street, the sponsors of their competition.

“I think one of the coolest parts was going to meet the Jane Street people and seeing the careers that they had,” said senior Aruni Chenxi.

Liu found the competition to be a great experience.

“If I could do it again, I definitely would, because I learned a lot and had a lot of fun.”