How Mathematical Skills Develop at Each Stage of the MTFC

Hello, I am Omkar, a Modeling the Future Challenge Finalist for the 2022-2023 year. The MTFC Challenge was an amazing experience that greatly enhanced my mathematical and critical thinking skills!

The MTFC is an actuarial science challenge with three phases, where groups can progress through the competition by performing well in each phase. 

The first phasethe Scenario Phase—is a primer and a filter for the second. It involves analyzing a scenario and answering a set of questions. The first phase will help you develop basic actuarial skills, such as cleaning data and probability. Broadly, actuarial science involves analyzing risks and finding solutions to mitigate those risks.

To move to the Project Phase—which involves writing an original paper on your chosen project topic—your team must submit a project proposal. The proposal includes basic information regarding what will be included in the project. While it is far from a final draft, it should give the reader an idea of what the actual project will be about. Typing up the proposal involves basic research—such as introductory data sources and background information to provide motivation for the project. The project proposal teaches participants how to effectively communicate their research findings.

The Project Phase is the core of the MTFC. It involves typing a research paper as a team, based on your project proposal. An exceptional paper should include an analysis of relevant risks, along with a discussion of solutions to mitigate said risks. Risk analysis can consist of many things, ranging from characterizing risks to forecasting and simulations. Solutions would include things like preventative measures and measures to minimize damage. The massive effort and time that goes into the second phase is highly rewarding. As a participant, you’ll develop in-depth research and analysis skills. And because the MTFC is a group project, students who participate as teams will also gain valuable collaboration skills!

The third phase—the Finalist (Presentation) Phase—involves refining your project based on feedback from judges, and then creating a presentation to show the project to a panel of judges. This phase further refines your initial project proposal by bringing it full-circle to create a presentation.

In my personal experience, the MTFC has been very valuable to me. I have participated for two consecutive years, making semifinalist and finalist in the first and second years, respectively. The past year’s MTFC allowed me to explore mathematical topics that I would have otherwise never encountered in school and allowed me to become familiar with the struggles and joys of using real-world data. 

Some of the topics my group and I gained experience in were: 

  • data interpolation
  • time series analysis
  • symbolic regression
  • and Monte Carlo simulation

None (or very few of) these topics are offered in current curriculums across schools, so the MTFC allowed us to see what mathematics “in the real world” looks like. Beyond just the research done for the project, the MTFC sparked my interest in a variety of different mathematical areas like Markov chains, compartmental modeling, and stochastic differential equations.

Overall, the Modeling the Future Challenge provided a rigorous introduction to the application of mathematics through a research-based project. It allowed me to gain a depth of mathematical knowledge and understanding that I would not have acquired otherwise. To anyone even tangentially interested in mathematics or, more broadly, risk, I cannot recommend it enough.