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 supports the third 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 4,300 entries were received from students from sixth through eighth grades for the first challenge. Of those entries, 51.5% were correct and moved on to Phase 2.
Phase 1 of this Year’s Hardest Math Problem Student Contest launched on September 25. Based on an idea submitted by Joshua Becker, FSA, Vice President & Actuary at New York Life, students helped the pretend EARTH club solve problems related to honeybee populations. In Phase 2, the Actuarial Foundation received 773 total entries, with 357 (46.2%) correct.
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 Foundation, the Contest highlights the dexterity and talents of middle school students even under extreme learning conditions like COVID-19. “The Actuarial Foundation engages middle school students with math in an entertaining way that helps students test their critical thinking and reasoning skills to solve challenging real-world problems,” said Marlyn Torres, senior program officer, New York Life Foundation. “Despite the pandemic, students demonstrated their overwhelming desire for a creative outlet to test their ability to solve complex problems.”
Once again, this year’s questions (answers link here) were developed with a special focus on appealing to girls, using best practices that encourage and depict girls as active participants in real-life scenarios.