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Left to Right: Zach Godkin, Ryan Mortonson, Mike Weidner, Gabe Guralnick, and Savir Maskara. (Picture by Nicolet High School)

Zach Godkin, Gabe Guralnick, Savir Maskara and Ryan Mortonson recently placed third in the MathWorks Math Modeling (M3) Challenge, which is a contest for high school juniors and seniors. These four Nicolet High Students earned $10,500 of scholarship money, which they’ll divide equally amongst themselves.

According to their coach and teacher, Mike Weidner, the students exceeded his expectations.

“In the past, I have had teams compete in this difficult contest, but none of them had even answered all three questions before,” Weidner wrote in an email. “These students did that, and I was pleased. But, to finish in the top six in the nation – I was shocked.”

Before advancing to finals in New York, the students were given a 14-hour challenge. They were to create a solution to a real-world issue using mathematical modeling. Mortonson said they were able to figure out the challenge by using everyone’s strengths to their fullest potential.

Mortonson said it was their trust, comfortableness and respect for each other that helped them succeed and persevere through the challenge.

“Starting was the hardest part,” he said. “A part of the problem is failure and learning through failure.”

But they didn’t fail. They spent two hours figuring how to tackle the problem, before actually solving it and advancing to finals.

Over 4,000 students participated from around the nation but only six went to finals.
In preparation, the students met with Weidner once a week and had phone meeting with just each other after school.

“I thought it would be good experience to go beyond what we normally do in the classroom,” said Weidner on why he gave his students these type of math problems.

He added that he thought he would help them in the long run, but he never thought it would lead to scholarship money.

Mortonson couldn’t be reached in time for an update after the finals.

For more information on MathWorks Math Modeling (M3) Challenge, visit m3challenge.siam.org

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