Putnam Competition

About the Putnam Mathematical Competition

The annual William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition is held on the first Saturday in December. The competition is open to all undergraduates. It consists of 12 challenging problems. The problems are hard (some very hard), but they are almost all accessible to virtually every student, and certainly to students who have had a year of calculus. Prizes are awarded to the individuals and teams with the highest scores. Questions will be included that cut across the bounds of various disciplines, and self-contained questions that do not fit into any of the usual categories may be included.

Northwestern University Team

The university will be ranked based on the performance of three students picked by the supervisor as members of the university team. In order to make an informed decision in picking the members of the team a selection test is given prior to registration. Students not in the team can and are encouraged to participate too as individual contestants.

Putnam Competition Training

To help prepare for this exam, we will be holding weekly problem-solving sessions. Any student interested in tackling difficult problems is welcome, regardless of whether s/he is planning on taking the Putnam exam.

The Competition Examination Is Constructed to Test:
  • originality as well as technical competence
  • familiarity with the formal theories embodied in undergraduate mathematics.
  • references to qualitative existence theorems and subtleties beyond the routine solution devices.
  • familiarity with the body of mathematical lore commonly discussed in mathematics clubs or in courses with such titles as “survey of the foundations of mathematics.”
  • elementary concepts from group theory, set theory, graph theory, lattice theory, number theory, and cardinal arithmetic  

More information about the Putnam Competition can be found here.

2017 Putnam Examination Results:

The Seventy Eighth Putnam Examination was held on Saturday, December 2nd, 2017.  Six undergraduates from Northwestern participated in the competition.  According to the results announced in February 2018, the Northwestern University team got a total score of 77, and a rank of 36, meaning the 36th place (out of 575 institutions). Our team members Ruohong Zhang and Tymothy Zhou ranked in the 207-497.5 rank category. The full list of winners can be found here.

2018 Registration

In order to participate in the Putnam examination, eligible students must register in early October. Details on training sessions and organizational meetings will be available in Fall of 2018. 

Contact putnam@math.northwestern.edu with any questions.

Complete information on the competition and the prizes can be found at http://math.scu.edu/putnam.

More on Putnam Training and other Resources
William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition - MAA web page
William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition - SCU site