The William Lowell Putnam Competition
- The Putnam Exam (officially known as the William Lowell Putnam Mathematical
Competition) is a very challenging, six-hour mathematics exam taken by about 3,600
undergraduates in the United States and Canada each year. It is given on the first
Saturday in December, and is composed of two sessions, one in the morning and one
in the afternoon, each with six questions. Each question is worth 10 points (for a
total of 120). Typically, the median score for all contestants is approximately one
(out of 120).
William Lowell Putnam, a graduate of Harvard in the class of 1882, believed strongly
in the value of academic competitions. To this end, Mrs. Elizabeth Lowell Putnam,
the wife of Mr. Putnam, created a trust fund for supporting such competitions. Two
experimental competitions were held, one in English, and one in mathematics, before
the competition assumed its present form.
Putnam Preparation Web Sites
Here is just a selection of Putnam
Preparatory Seminars at various colleges. Note some of these sites move
Other Online Problem Competition and Sources
Some Useful Problem Books
Putnam level and some easier problems grouped by subject:
Collections of elementary problems appropriate for freshmen:
Collection of Putnam probems:
Collections of Putnam level problems:
A classic on problem solving strategies:
College Mathematics Journals with Problem Sections
Horizons (MAA) is a magazine aimed at undergraduates with a
very accessible problem section.
Magazine (MAA) is an expository journal of undergraduate
mathematics, with an a good problem section for the undergraduate.
- The College
Mathematics Journal (MAA) provides lively, well-motivated
articles that can enrich undergraduate instruction and enhance
- The American
Mathematical Monthly publishes articles about mathematics and the
profession. Its readers span a broad spectrum of mathematical
and include professional mathematicians as well as students of
mathematics at all collegiate levels. The problem section is quite
challenging, and often contains unsolved problems.
- With a little bit of searching, you can
find practice tests and other useful information.
- This page was inspired by
Harvey Mudd College Math Competition page.
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