HMC Math

Problem Solving and The Putnam CompetitionThe Putnam Icosahedron

The William Lowell Putnam Competition

The Putnam Exam (officially known as the William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition) is a very challenging, six-hour mathematics exam taken by about 3,600 undergraduates in the United States and Canada each year. It is given on the first Saturday in December, and is composed of two sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, each with six questions. Each question is worth 10 points (for a total of 120). Typically, the median score for all contestants is approximately one (out of 120).

William Lowell Putnam, a graduate of Harvard in the class of 1882, believed strongly in the value of academic competitions. To this end, Mrs. Elizabeth Lowell Putnam, the wife of Mr. Putnam, created a trust fund for supporting such competitions. Two experimental competitions were held, one in English, and one in mathematics, before the competition assumed its present form.

Harvey Mudd College (HMC) has a long history of participation in the Putnam, and in recent years, the school has done very well. In 2011, we placed 6th in the country and in 2003, we placed 5th. We are often the only undergraduate college to place in the top ten. We also regularly sport the highest participation rate in the country with roughly 10% of our students taking the exam!

Here are the 2011 Putnam Exam Questions and Solutions.

Harvey Mudd Putnam Links

Pizza and Problem Solving Sets from the Park City Math Institute

Online Mathematical Resources

Putnam Competition Sites

Putnam Preparation Web Sites

Here is just a selection of Putnam Preparatory Seminars at various colleges. Note some of these sites move frequently.

Other Online Problem Competition and Sources

Some Useful Problem Books

Putnam level and some easier problems grouped by subject:
Collections of elementary problems appropriate for freshmen:
Collection of Putnam probems:
Collections of Putnam level problems:
A classic on problem solving strategies:

College Mathematics Journals with Problem Sections


Disclaimer: The sites listed here at the time of the composition of this page were available openly on the web.  I expect these sites to move and migrate over time. Moreover, much of the material referenced may be protected by copyright and other intellectual property law.   The user of these resources is encourage to acknowledge the source of problems used and to obtain permissions to copy problems, solutions, resources and other documents as appropriate.

Putnam Homepage * Mathematics Department * Harvey Mudd College

Maintained by Andrew J. Bernoff
Last Updated on 01-08-13