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.
Putnam Mathematics Competition:
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!"
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.
Background on the Putnam Competition
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,
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
Mathematics Problem Archive
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