Students Participate in Putnam Competition

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The results of the nationwide 2019 William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition were recently announced, and Harvey Mudd College did well, placing 41st out of 570 participating institutions. Twenty-seven HMC students spent Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, taking this very difficult six-hour exam, which requires a unique blend of cleverness and problem-solving skills.

The median score for the competition, in which 4,229 students from the U.S. and Canada participated, was 1 out of a possible 120 (and just one student of the 4,229 received a perfect score). This year, teams were not preselected by their institution, and institutional rankings were determined by adding the ranks of the three highest scores from each institution. The three highest scoring students from Harvey Mudd were Xuming (Evan) Liang ’20, Steven Litvack-Winkler and Mengyi Shan ’21.

“We are proud of all 27 students who sacrificed their time, talent and energies to represent HMC in this year’s Putnam competition,” says mathematics professor and Putnam seminar leader Nick Pippenger. “These students who enjoy problem-solving represent a cross-section of majors at the College.”

Elizabeth Lowell Putnam founded the event in 1927 in memory of her husband, William Lowell Putnam, a Harvard graduate and advocate of intercollegiate intellectual competition. Administered by the Mathematical Association of America, the six-hour exam, composed of 12 problems worth 10 points each, has been offered annually since 1938 to regularly enrolled undergraduates in the United States and Canada who have not yet received a college degree.

Harvey Mudd students first participated in the Putnam competition on Dec. 2, 1961. In 1991, the Harvey Mudd team earned third place.