Woodlands' Charlie's Angles advance in national competition

Members of a Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart independent math study class have passed the first round and are now semi-finalists in the Modeling the Future Challenge sponsored by the Actuarial Foundation and Institute of Competition Science. The team, known as Charlie’s Angles, consists of juniors Gianna Keuer and Aanya Sahu and seniors Sophia Gammel and Ann Kelly.

They completed a qualifying scenario and wrote a project proposal to clear the first round of the competition and are now working on their project, "The Financial Risks of a College Education," in the semi-finals. There were 227 teams in the first round, which have been narrowed to 111 semi-finalists. In addition to Woodlands Academy, an all-girls college-prep high school in Lake Forest, 13 other teams from Illinois – including Stevenson & New Trier high schools – are competing in the semi-final round. Teams advancing to the finalist rounds could win college scholarships.

The Modeling the Future Challenge is a real-world competition for high school students combining math modeling, data analysis and risk management into a single challenge. The goal is to expose participants to the actuarial sciences through a scenario that utilizes the actuarial process. First, they needed to complete a qualifying scenario in which they used mathematical modeling to do a risk analysis of data provided by the foundation and suggest a mitigation of the problem. Charlie’s Angles members worked together to complete the scenario. Then they needed to devise a project that would allow them to use the actuarial process to do a risk analysis and determine a plausible solution. The Woodlands Academy team chose to do a risk analysis on going to college. Their qualifying scenario and proposal scored high enough to qualify for further development in the competition’s semi-final round.

“This is the first year that Woodlands has participated in this challenge, so becoming a semi-finalist team is exciting,” math/chemistry teacher Valerie Rickert, Ph.D., said. “Once we obtained the qualifying scenario, the students worked cooperatively and combined their knowledge from all the courses they had taken. The amount of data that needed to be analyzed was daunting, but the students broke it down to manageable pieces.” 

Modeling the Future Challenge participants learn how mathematics applies to cutting-edge industries and technologies. Their research projects include making recommendations to companies, organizations, government agencies or other groups based on their own mathematical models, real-world data analysis and risk management. Participants also learn about highly sought-after careers as actuaries and other STEM-related professional opportunities.

Woodlands Academy is an independent Catholic day-and-boarding high school for young women in grades nine through 12 that promotes academic, artistic and athletic excellence along with global awareness, social responsibility and strong faith. Its goals include empowering students to become young women in pursuit of career fields such as STEM.

According to research cited by the International Coalition of Girls' Schools, all-girls schools lead the way in graduating women who become our nation's scientists, doctors, engineers, designers and inventors. Research shows that girls' school graduates are more likely to consider majoring in math, science and technology and are more likely to consider engineering careers than girls who attend coed schools.