MIT Sweeps Putnam, Team Takes Third Place

CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE: The April 3, 2007 news article about the William Lowell Putnam Math Competition incorrectly named the three MIT students who were Putnam Fellows in 2005. Oleg I. Golberg ’08, Daniel M. Kane ’07, and Matthew M. Ince ’08 were Putnam Fellows. According to Professor of Mathematics Hartley Rogers Jr., Ince was unsure about his availability for the 2006 competition. Thus, Kuat T. Yessenov ’08, who had the next highest 2005 score, was named to the 2006 MIT team in Ince's place.

MIT’s team took third place in the 2006, 67th annual William Lowell Putnam Math Competition, behind teams from Princeton University and Harvard University. The University of Toronto and University of Chicago rounded out the top five.

The MIT team members, selected by Professors of Mathematics Hartley Rogers Jr. and Richard P. Stanley, were Oleg I. Golberg ’08, Daniel M. Kane ’07, and Kuat T. Yessenov ’08. According to Rogers, the team is generally made up of the three students who receive the highest scores in the preceding year’s Putnam Competition. Golberg, Kane, and Yessenov were among the competitions top five or six highest ranking individuals — called Putnam Fellows — last year.

This year’s Putnam Fellows include Kane and two MIT freshmen, Hansheng Diao ’09 (who declared sophomore standing, according to Rogers) and Yufei Zhao ’10. “It’s too bad we didn’t have them on the team,” Rogers said jokingly. Because of the way the team is selected, freshmen are usually not placed on the team, according to Rogers. “We had no idea how well they’d do,” Rogers said. “Those two will obviously be strong candidates for next year.”

Half of the 26 monetary prize winners and 26 of the top 78 highest scoring participants — including the monetary prize winners and individuals given honorable mentions — were MIT students this year, Rogers said. “We dominated the competition in a way that we never have before,” Rogers said. A total of 129 MIT students took the test this year. For a full list of MIT students in the top 78, see below.

“We had substantially more [students] than any other university,” Rogers said. Harvard had the second highest participation. Of the top 200 scorers, according to Rogers, 49 were from MIT and 28 from Harvard.

The MIT Mathematics Department will be rewarded $15,000 for the third place win and each team member will receive $600.

According to Stanley, he and Rogers teach a fall class for freshmen, called the Problem Solving Seminar (18.S34), which helps stir up interest in the Putnam and in problem solving.

The six hour, 12 problem exam takes place on the first Saturday of each December and is open to any full-time undergraduate student in the United States and Canada. This year, 3,640 students from 508 colleges and universities participated, according to Rogers. There were a total of 402 teams.

The median score for this year’s competitors was zero out of a possible 120 points. The top five scores ranged from 92–101, and the top 78 scores ranged from 53–101. MIT’s median was around 20 points out of the possible 120, according to Rogers.

MIT’s team placed fourth last year and first in 2003 and 2004.

For problems, solutions, a list of winners, and score distributions from this and previous years’ competitions, see http://www.unl. edu/amc/a-activities/a7-problems/putnamindex­.shtml.