The Hardest Math Problem offers fun and engaging math programs that get teachers and students excited about math with the added incentive of a $5,000 grand prize.   The New York Life Foundation’s three-year $300,000 grant to The Actuarial Foundation helped launch the program and now, through continued multi-year funding, supports the fourth year of this national middle-school math competition that helps students practice critical thinking through the art of mathematical computation.

Winners were required to complete an initial challenge (Phase 1) to qualify for Challenge Two (Phase 2) and the grand prize.  Over 6,100 (a 43% increase from 2022-2021) entries were received from students from sixth through eighth grades for the first challenge.  Of those entries, 53.2% were correct and moved on to Phase 2.

Phase 1 of this Year’s Hardest Math Problem Student Contest launched on September 15. Based on an idea voted for by a majority of actuaries at New York Life, students helped pretend fellow students in a middle school Climate Crew club solve problems related to global climate change due to greenhouse gases and CO2 emissions from cars.  In Phase 2, the Actuarial Foundation received 1,867 entries, with 1,455 (78%) correct.


I feel very honored for being recognized as one of the winners of the Hardest Math Problem. It made my year! …I take part in several math and science competitions, but the Hardest Math Problem contest was unique in that it focuses not only on the math but also gave importance to my reasoning. I really would like to thank you for your encouragement, recognition, the scholarship and of course the computer! It is an amazing feeling to be able to win something while doing math, which is a subject that I love.


—Abhinav N., sixth-grade grand prize winner. (pictured above)

Students completed above grade-level, real-world problems that combined reasoning skills with math in a competition for a chance to win the grand prize of a $5,000 deposit to a 529 savings plan and a laptop (first-place winners received a tablet, while winning teachers from each grade received a $500 gift card.)

Generously supported by the New York Life Foundation, the Contest highlights the dexterity and talents of middle school students even under extreme learning conditions like COVID-19.  “The Actuarial Foundation’s The Hardest Math Problem contest is an excellent way to help middle school students establish important foundational skills,” said Marlyn Torres, senior program officer, New York Life Foundation. “Our two-year $200,000 grant enables the organization to help students build their confidence with math while establishing important problem-solving skills that will prepare them for real world work challenges and position them for a successful transition to high school.”  

Once again, this year’s questions (read answers: challenge 1 & challenge 2) were developed with a special focus on appealing to girls, using best practices that encourage and depict girls and diverse students as active participants in real-life scenarios. 

The contest is just one in a series of free middle school math resources produced through the partnership of The Actuarial Foundation, the New York Life Foundation, and Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education and media company.

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Media contact
Lacey Siegel
New York Life Insurance Company
(212) 576-7937

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