The 2015 Putnam Mathematical Competition
Date: 
December 5, 2015 

Time: 
Session A: 10:00 AM
– 1:00 PM 

Location: 
To be determined (it will be 
Introduction: (From the
competition literature) “The competition began in 1938, and was designed to
stimulate a healthy rivalry in mathematical studies in the colleges and
universities of the United States and Canada. It exists because Mr. William
Lowell Putnam had a profound conviction in the value of organized team
competition in regular college studies.” Eligibility: The contest
is open to regularly enrolled undergraduates who have not yet received a
college degree and who have not yet competed four times. (High school
students may participate, as long as they are aware of the overall
limit of four competitions per person.) Scoring: There are
twelve questions, each of which is graded on a basis of 010 points. Thus,
the maximum possible score on the Putnam exam is 120 points. Partial credit
is sometimes given, but they are very stingy with it; even a single
point requires "significant and substantial progress toward a
solution". Here
are the median scores, in chronological order, from the years 20002012:
The
scores needed to be among the top 200 participants in the world,
again from 20002012, were: (Again,
keep in mind that these scores are all out of 120 possible points!) This means a
student who gives a complete, correct answer to even one question (out
of twelve) usually will rank among the top half of all participants,
and a student who can completely solve three or four problems is likely to
rank among the top 200 participants overall (which is an enormous
accomplishment). On the other
hand, the median score has been very close to zero every year in
recent history that is, less than half of the participants manage any
more than minor progress on one question out of twelve! This is an
important point: every year, thousands of very bright, talented and
successful students score zero points on this exam. So, don’t be
intimidated  the worst that can happen is that your score will be the
same as the majority of the other students in the world who took the same
exam! The point of
this competition is not to evaluate you in any way, but rather to
introduce you to some fascinating, challenging, and sometimes beautiful
mathematical questions that you'd be unlikely to encounter within the
standard undergraduate curriculum. Just like professional mathematicians,
you’ll have the opportunity to learn by struggling with difficult problems,
and by discussing them later on with your colleagues. Awards and
Recognition: On the national level, there are cash prizes for the
individuals and teams with the highest scores  these are detailed on the
Putnam Competition's home page (see above). Additionally, Putnam competition
results are reported to graduate programs across the country, so doing well
on the Putnam may help those of you who are applying (or planning to apply)
to graduate school in the future. Among SU participants, the highest scorer each year has his/her name added to a plaque that is on display in the department. (Note: this is not a "participation award;" you must score at least one point to have your name added to the plaque.) Links to
Problems and Solutions: · A Few Sample Problems –
just to get started… ·
Putnam
Competition Exam Archive with Solutions (19382003) ·
Putnam
Competition Exam Archive (19802010)
· The Puzzle Toad – a collection
of challenging (nonPutnam) problems About the
Putnam Competition: · Official Putnam Competition Homepage · History of the Putnam
Competition (19382012) by Joe Gallian
· http://math.stackexchange.com/questions/305700/studyingfortheputnamexam ·
http://mathforum.org/library/drmath/view/66991.html
Last update: 8/28/2015 