Putnam Mathematics Competition:

Since 1986, I have had the pleasure of coaching the University of Waterloo undergraduates for the annual William Lowell Putnam Mathematics Competition which is held on the first Saturday in December of each year.
Paul Erdos said that God has a book  in which all the most beautiful theorems of mathematics and their perfect proofs are to be found. Of particularly beautiful problems in mathematics we can agree with Erdos that they are "from the book!"

Background on the Putnam Competition

The William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition started in 1938, but was conceived earlier in an article by Wiliam Lowell Putnam in the Harvard Graduates' Magazine of 1921. Putnam proposed the idea of a scholastic competition between colleges, noting that the efforts of individual students were dedicated to personal academic success rather than to college itself. In 1927, his wife established a $125,000 trust fund in her will. Upon her death in 1935, her will appointed her sons George Putnam and August Lowell Putnam as trustees for the fund.

The competition allowed for each college or university from the United States or Canada to be represented by a team of three people. However, allowance was made for all other students at these institutions who wished to participate as individuals. The competition was to be administered by the Mathematical Association of America, with prizes distributed to top teams and individuals.

The Putnam competition is held here at the University of Waterloo (and elsewhere) on the first Saturday in December of each year. The competition is open to any student enrolled full time in an undergraduate program, provided he or she has not written the competition four times or more in previous years. If you would like more information, send me an e-mail message. My e-mail address is: cgsmall((at))uwaterloo.ca. [You will need to replace ((at)) by @ in this address.] Note that you do NOT have to be registered in a mathematics program in order to write the competition.

If you would like to find out more about the Putnam competition, you can go to the homepage of the Putnam competition.

Other Local Competitions at Waterloo

On the first Saturday in November, the Faculty of Mathematics at the University of Waterloo holds the Big E and Special K competitions. The E stands for Euler, the famous mathematician, and the K stands either for Klamkin, or Kellog's, opinion being divided on the issue of how the name arose. Murray Klamkin is a mathematician who was on faculty here at Waterloo a number of years ago. Every year, on the morning of the first Saturday in November, undergraduate students at the University of Waterloo can write one of two exams: the Special K Exam for first year students, and the Big E for all other students. These exams serve as an excellent preparation for each upcoming Putnam competition.

Since 1997, the Bernoulli Trials, an undergraduate mathematics competition, has been held at Waterloo. This is a double knockout competition with "true" or "false" as the answers on each round. The participants have 10 minutes for each question, and drop out after their second incorrect answer.

In 2001, there were 37 student participants in the competition, which lasted 12 rounds. The winner was Marshall Drew-Brook. Second place went to Sabin Cautis. Third place went to Joel Kamnitzer, fourth to Mark Mann and fifth to Masoud Kamgarpour. In keeping with the nature of the answers required, the prizes supplied by the Dean of Mathematics were awarded in coins: 100 "toonies" for first, 100 "loonies" for second, and quarters for third, fourth and fifth.

History of Waterloo in the Putnam Competition

If you wish to know more about the involvement of the University of Waterloo, then visit my page dedicated to this record. It is incomplete. However, by making it available, perhaps I will be able to fill in the blanks.

Mathematics Problem Archive

I have put together a list of problem sheets in GIF and postscript format of mathematics competition problems. Take a look at the Mathematics Problem Archive

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