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Putnam Competition

The William Lowell Putnam Competition is an annual mathematics competition for regularly enrolled undergraduates in colleges or universities of the United States and Canada, who have not yet received a college degree. Prizes are awarded to individual participants and institutions.

The Putnam examination tests originality, technical competence and familiarity with the formal theories embodied in undergraduate mathematics. Questions cut across the bounds of various disciplines, and include self-contained questions that do not fit into any of the usual categories. These self-contained questions can involve elementary concepts from group theory, set theory, graph theory, lattice theory, number theory or cardinal arithmetic.

In Fall 2016, the competition will take place on Saturday, December 3rd in Geology 3656.

The UCLA Mathematics Department coordinates the UCLA Putnam team and runs activities such as

  • A "Problem solving" course (Math 100) is offered each fall. This is an excellent preparation for the Putnam competition. In Fall 2016 the course is taught by Prof. Manolescu and meets MWF 10:00-10:50 in MS 6221.
  • An introductory preparation session, open to all students (whether or not enrolled in Math 100), will take place on Friday, September 23, 4:30-6:00pm in MS 5200​. Also, we will have a practice exam on Tuesday, September 27, 4:00-7:00pm in Geology 4645.
  • The top scorers on the practice test are invited to be part of the extended UCLA Putnam team, which receives intensive weekly preparation in the Advanced Problem Solving Seminar (Math 101, Tuesdays 4-7pm).  
  • Year round consulting for students who want to learn more about the Putnam competition, for example study old exam questions. Professor Ciprian Manolescu cm@math.ucla.edu is available to help.
  • Free pizza for lunch on the day of the competition.

Participation: All enrolled UCLA undergraduate students which do not have a college degree may participate in the Putnam exam. There is a four time limit for any participant. Three team members are designated every year prior to the competition, and their score will contribute to the UCLA team score. In addition, they and all the other participants compete for individual scores. The top performing UCLA student (whether a team member or not) will receive the Basil Gordon Prize, valued at $1000.

Reasons to participate: Students taking part in and preparing for the competition learn a lot about general mathematical skills such as solving problems and proving statements. Graduate schools and other employers can be impressed by high Putnam scores.

Preparation: Check here for more resources and information about how to prepare for the exam.

Time and Location: The Putnam examination takes place every year on the first Saturday of December. There are two sessions, a morning session from 8 am to 11 am and an afternoon session from 1 pm to 4 pm. There are 6 problems in the morning session and 6 problems in the afternoon session. Each contestant works independently with no collaboration. Results of the competition become known around March of the following year.

Registration: Participants should register prior to the competition: this year the registration deadline is Friday, September 30, 2016. However, most years there are spots available for late registration because some registered students drop out.

Contact: If you want to register, click here. For problems registering contact Connie Jung at ugrad [at] math [dot] ucla [dot] edu in MS 6356.

Past results:  In 2016, the UCLA team (Emre Girgin, Xiaoyu Huang, Konstantin Miagkov) was ranked #7 out of 415 institutions.

A total of 4164 students from 568 colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada participated in the competition.  Among them were 25 UCLA students.  The top scorers from UCLA were: Xiaoyu Huang (87 points, ranked #13 overall), Konstantin Miagkov (68 points, ranked #42), Yunbei Xu (68 points, ranked #42), Wenjun Cai (41.8 points, ranked #182.5), Ken Willyard (40 points, ranked #221.5), Osman Akar (39 points, ranked #248), Johannes Hosle (39 points, ranked #248), Luke Harmon (37 points, ranked #284.5), Emre Girgin (33 points, ranked #318), Ruizhe Jia (29 points, ranked #460.5), Ryo Kudo (28 points, ranked #501), Qiyao Zhu (28 points, ranked #501). The Basil Gordon Prize was awarded to Xiaoyu Huang. Konstantin Miagkov and Yunbei Xu received Honorable Mentions.

Other recent results:

  • 2015: Team rank: 6; Basil Gordon Prize: Dillon Zhi (49 points, ranked #68)
  • 2014: Team rank: 10; Basil Gordon Prize: Tudor Padurariu (63 points, ranked #30);
  • 2013: Team rank: 12; Basil Gordon Prize: Peihao Sun (40 points, ranked #136)
  • 2012: Team rank:  3 (best result in UCLA's history); Basil Gordon Prize: Tudor Padurariu (66 points, ranked #11);
  • 2011: Team rank: 12; Basil Gordon Prize: Tudor Padurariu (43 points, ranked #40);
  • 2010: Team rank: 32; Basil Gordon Prize: Francisc Bozgan (56 points, ranked #128);
  • 2009: Team rank: 58; Basil Gordon Prize: Junchao Zhang (37.2 points);
  • 2008: Team rank: 28; Basil Gordon Prize: Zhihong Chen (50 points).