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MIT Team Takes Top Spot in 2009 Putnam Competition

The results of the 70th William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition, which took place Dec. 5, 2009, are in. The top five teams were from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ($25,000), Harvard University ($20,000), the California Institute of Technology ($15,000), Stanford University ($10,000), and Princeton University ($5,000).

The MIT team’s victory marked a return to the top spot, ending a four-year drought in which individuals earned the best results but the team itself fell short. Last year’s highest ranking team was from Harvard.

Rounding out the top ten teams were Duke University; University of Maryland, College Park; University of Toronto; University of Virginia; and University of Waterloo.

Maryland’s team ranked first among U.S. public universities, the fourth time that the university has scored in the top 10. “Our team’s ranking reflects the extraordinary talent and effort of the team members, who spent 6 intense hours competing on a Saturday late in the semester,” said Brian Hunt, team faculty adviser.

Harvard's Arnav Tripathy was among the five highest ranking individuals (Putnam Fellows) for the third time. He received a prize of $2,500. The other four Putnam Fellows were William A. Johnson (University of Washington), Xiaosheng Mu (Yale), Qingchun Ren (MIT), and Yufei Zhao (MIT).

MIT’s Jacob N. Steinhardt, Bohua Zhan, and Sergei S. Bernstein were among the top 15 individuals, garnering $1000 each, while the institute's Whan Ghang, Panupong Pasupat, and Colin P. Sandon finished in the top 25. Ren, Zhan, and Zhao made up MIT’s team.

MIT’s performance in the 2009 exam may have been its best ever, said Richard P. Stanley, the team’s adviser.

Preliminary solutions to the 12 problems in the 2009 competition were published in the February Mathematics Magazine. The official solutions and complete results will appear in the October American Mathematical Monthly.

A total of 4,036 students from 546 colleges in Canada and the United States participated in the recent competition, which is administered by the MAA. Consisting of a six-hour written exam, the premier undergraduate mathematics competition in North America stresses a healthy rivalry in mathematical studies and covers such topics as group theory, set theory, graph theory, lattice theory, number theory, and cardinal arithmetic.

Sources: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (March 22, 2010); University of Maryland, College Park (March 30, 2010).

News Date: 
Tuesday, March 30, 2010