Last week, my colleague Erik Postma and I had the pleasure of spending a few hours with a group of bright and motivated high school students at the Math for Real: High School Math Solves Real Problems workshop held at the Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences in Toronto, and sponsored by the Fields Institute and NSERC PromoScience. The purpose of this three-day workshop was to train students for the International Mathematical Modeling Challenge, also known as IM2C.

The IM2C is hosted by York University and run by the IM2C-Canada committee, consisting of parents and high school teachers, as well as faculty and students in York’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics. In this competition, students working in small teams have five days to solve a mathematical modelling problem in diverse application areas. To support the “Real World” aspect of the contest, students are expected not just to showcase their mathematical creativity and problem-solving skills, but they are also asked to clearly communicate their analyses and conclusions through a written report and visualizations.

The contest allows students to use appropriate software tools to help them with their tasks. Of course I am biased but I can’t help thinking that Maple is the perfect tool for students wanting to do a combination of prototyping, modelling, visualization and document-preparation. The IM2C organizers also thought that the students could benefit from our software, so Erik gave an hour-long introduction to Maple. I was impressed by the students’ enthusiastic remarks and sometimes challenging questions, though admittedly they were partly motivated by the chance to receive as prizes our highly coveted limited-quantity “Math Matters” t-shirts.

The workshop also introduced the students to other software products, taught modelling and writing skills, and had them work on fun practice problems. Over the lunch break, I was struck by the sense of camaraderie at this event, which probably should not have surprised me, as unlike many other competitions involving mathematics, this one is a true team-based activity. Both Erik and I are eager to see what the students will be doing with Maple. Responding to the students’ enthusiasm and interest, Maplesoft has agreed to offer complimentary Maple licenses to all students participating in IM2C. 

As a Corporate Affiliate of the Fields Institute, Maplesoft is pleased to provide training and support to students and researchers that come to Fields for its many events. Developers like myself are encouraged to participate in the institute’s events when possible, and I’ve had the opportunity to attend a number of workshops in the past few years. I encourage you to look at their wide range of activities and to consider visiting the culturally diverse city of Toronto!

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