For 12th Straight Year, Simpson Leads Nation in Math Modeling Participants

By Mallory Dirks ’17

Once again, Simpson College has excelled in its annual participation in the Mathematical and Interdisciplinary Contest in Modeling (MCM/ICM).

For the 12th straight year, Simpson has fielded more teams – 24 — than any other college or university in the United States.

They were also the only college or university in Iowa to have meritorious winners – and four of them, at that.

In addition to those four, Simpson also had nine honorable mention teams, and 11 successful participant teams.

“This competition challenges a team of students to propose solutions to open ended real world problems,” said Rick Spellerberg, professor of mathematics. “The competition is designed to develop and advance problem solving skills as well as competence in written communication.”

In the competition, teams of three students have 96 hours to choose and solve a real-world problem, such as modeling the spread of Ebola or water shortage and sustainability.

“These problems don’t appear to have a large math component, but it just takes a different way of looking at them to find out that they really do,” said junior Maggie Long of Des Moines, a two-year participant in the competition.

Maggie was a member of one of the four meritorious teams from Simpson. She said that professor Spellerberg emphasized the competition when she was in the college decision-making process.

“The fact that Simpson goes above and beyond in the competition was one of the reasons that Simpson stood out to me compared to other schools,” she said.

Long said she was repeatedly told by peers and professors that competing is a good way to apply everything learned in the classroom to real world problems.

“We have found potential employers and graduate programs truly value this experience,” Spellerberg said. “This fact provides our students a serious competitive edge when it comes to landing internships, full time employment and acceptance to graduate school.”

While Maggie is triple majoring in Mathematics, Neuroscience & Biochemistry, you don’t have to be a math student to participate in this competition.

Junior Madison Behney, a Public Relations major from Kearney, Mo., was a member of a successful participant team, all because her best friend asked her to join.

“I think anyone can be a part of the MCM/ICM contest,” she said. “I was worried going in because I thought everything was going to be way over my head. I try to avoid math-related things at all costs, but I really felt like I contributed to the group.”

Both Maggie and Madison said the competition sounds intimidating, but it is actually beneficial to those who participate. They said it gave them a chance to work out of their comfort zone and join forces with people they normally wouldn’t.

“A math competition that requires a model and 15-20 page paper in 96 hours sounds intimidating,” Maggie said, “but with good teamwork and sleep deprivation, it’s very possible to finish and to be very successful.”





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