Maths School steps up their modelling game

18 Oct 2023

Teams of XJTLU students scaled new heights at this year’s Mathematical Contest in Modeling (MCM) and Interdisciplinary Contest in Modeling (ICM).

XJTLU’s highest-ranked team reached the finals of the MCM, ranking in the top 2% among 11,296 teams from across the globe. The team was made up of three Year Three students: Yifei Hu and Yuxin Wan from the School of Advanced Technology and Xinyao Zhuang from the School of AI and Advanced Computing.

Overall, XJTLU teams received 13 honourable mentions.

On the back of these results, the University is launching new courses this year to enhance the students’ modelling capabilities further.

The MCM/ICM is an international modelling contest hosted by the Consortium for Mathematics and Its Applications (COMAP) for 39 years. In the four-day contests, participating teams have to finish a series of tasks ranging from modelling, problem-solving, and verification, to paper writing.

After thorough discussions, the team of finalists decided on MCM’s Problem C: To analyse Wordle results and players’ performance in 2022 using a model to predict future results and determine the influence of a word’s attributes on the game’s results.

They also needed to develop a model to predict the distribution of the reported results, and classify solution words by difficulty.

They had cooperated twice before in last year’s China Undergraduate Mathematical Contest in Modeling and MCM, which laid a solid foundation for their seamless teamwork this year.

“Since we all have a background in computer science, we didn’t have a very clear boundary in work distribution,” says Hu. “Yuxin and Xinyao were responsible for algorithm selection and paper writing, while execution of algorithm was based on each person’s skills and areas of expertise.”

He adds: “In addition to the previous experience and the knowledge of modelling and algorithms that we had learned, we also studied some excellent papers and classical algorithms in previous contests beforehand to get better prepared.”

Yifei Hu – a member of XJTLU’s MCM/ICM team that was a finalist in this year’s competition

In their paper , the team analysed Wordle data provided by MCM to predict the number of reported results and classify words by difficulty. They also explored some interesting attributes of different words. Eventually, they developed a model that solved the problem effectively.

says: “In data analysis, we referred to many real indicators of linguistics rather than being limited to the data provided by the contest, thus effectively improving the adaptability and accuracy of the model to the data.

“Additionally, we improved details in the paper’s layout and drew exquisite charts to show the results. We also added elements such as mind maps to the paper, using data visualisation to improve readability further.”

Xinyao Zhuang (left) and Yuxin Wan (right) – members of XJTLU’s MCM/ICM team that was a finalist in this year’s competition

The aims of the modelling contests are to improve participants’ abilities in mathematical modelling, problem analysis, paper writing and teamwork. Since 2008, XJTLU student teams have participated in MCM/ICM every year and achieved great results.

To instruct participating students, the School of Mathematics and Physics continues to invest in teaching, organising study groups, and inviting external lecturers to give seminars and guidance for MCMIn addition, the University’s Department of Foundational Mathematics in the School of Mathematics and Physics has allocated special funds to subsidise the contest registration fees for participating teams.

“We have been working with a team of modelling instructors from the South China University of Technology since 2021, and we have jointly conducted a series of lectures on MCM,” says Dr Fajin Wei, who has been in charge of organising teams for MCM.

“We are also considering restoring the pre-COVID on-campus mock contests and improving them to provide students with opportunities for exercise and evaluation,” he adds.

In the next academic year, the School of Mathematics and Physics will offer two new courses dedicated to modelling, MTH020 Introductory Mathematical Modelling and MTH022 Mathematical and Statistical Models.

“We will work to provide students with more comprehensive and systematic training with modelling at its centre,” Dr Wei says. “This will help students in the field of applied mathematics in the future and increase their competitiveness in related contests.”

By Qinru Liu

Edited by Bo Kou and Catherine Diamond

Translated by Xiangyin Han

Photos courtesy of Xinyao Zhuang, Yuxin Wan, and Yifei Hu

18 Oct 2023