The Math Department has made a commitment to field competitive teams in the annual William L. Putnam Mathematical Competition, or Putnam Exam.

We’ve done well. Here’s a quick recap.

  • 2012 — 37th among 578 participating institutions
  • 2011 — 41st among 460 participating institutions
  • 2010 — 34th among 442 participating institutions
  • 2009 — 29th among 439 participating institutions
  • 2007 — 25th among 516 participating institutions
  • 2006 — 33rd among 508 participating institutions
  • 2005 — 53rd among 500 participating institutions
  • 2004 — 53rd among 515 participating institutions
  • 2003 — 111th among 479 participating institutions
  • 2002 — 24th among 476 participating institutions
  • 2001 — 54th among 453 participating institutions
  • 2000 — 40th among 434 participating institutions
  • 1999 — 69th among 431 participating institutions
  • 1998 — 62nd among 419 participating institutions

The Putnam Exam is a notoriously challenging exam consisting of 12 mind-numbing problems, six in the morning session and six in the afternoon. These problems cut across many areas of mathematics, and are designed to test “originality as well as technical competence,” according to the announcement brochure.

The exam is usually held on the first Saturday in December. Of the students who take it, three are designated as Lafayette’s “team,” while the others participate on an individual basis. Thousands of other undergraduate mathematics students throughout the United States and Canada take this examination more or less simultaneously at their own institutions. The registration deadline is in mid-October. There is no fee for participating.

Some brochure propaganda

“The competition is open only to regularly enrolled undergraduates in colleges & universities of the United States & Canada, who have not yet received a college degree. No individual may participate more than four times.”

“Prizes and scholarships are available to the highest ranking individuals and to the five winning teams. Institutions throughout the United States & Canada are encouraged to offer fellowships to high ranking contestants in the competition.”

“In addition, the Elizabeth Lowell Putnam Prize will be awarded periodically to a woman whose performance on the Putnam Exam has been deemed particularly meritorious. This prize would be in addition to any other prizes she might otherwise win.”

Visit the Putnam Exam Home Page

We want YOU for the Putnam Examination. Interested? Contact Professors Smith or Gordon.