Math Contests at Illinois
The UI Math Contest Program is one of the most extensive and most visible in the country. Activities include weekly training sessions and practice contests; several local math contests with substantial prize purses; and the William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition, a math problems contest for undergraduates at colleges in the U.S. and Canada that has been called the "world's toughest math test".
To receive news and announcements about contest activities at Illinois, sign up for the UI Putnam Mailinglist, by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your email address (i.e., NetID) at illinois.edu. Put "Putnam Mailinglist" in the subject line.
2013/2014 Activities and Events
- Math Contests at Illinois. Poster with an overview of the 2013/2014 activities.
Mondays/Wednesdays, 5 pm - 6 pm, 145 Altgeld Hall, Sept. 9, 2013
through end of fall semester:
Putnam training sessions.
No registration required; just show up!
The Monday sessions are aimed at Freshmen and
newcomers to the contest scene; the Wednesday sessions are targeted at
those with more experience. If you are unsure where you best fit, try
Click on the above link for more information and materials
and handouts from the training sessions.
***NEW THIS YEAR***. Putnam Master Class. Advanced level, individualized training sessions for experienced contest takers.
- Monday, Sept. 23, 2013, 5 pm - 7 pm, 245 Altgeld Hall: UI Freshman Math Contest. An entry level math contest, restricted to UI Freshmen. PRIZE MONEY: Up to $300 in prize money to the top scorer. No registration required.
- Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, 5 pm - 7 pm, 245 Altgeld Hall: UI Mock Putnam Exam. Similar in format and content to the Putnam, but shorter (2 hours instead of 6). This contest serves, in part, to identify candidates for the UI Putnam Team. PRIZE MONEY: Up to $300 in prize money to the top scorer(s). No registration required.
- ***NEW THIS YEAR***. Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, 9 am - 11:30 am, 245 Altgeld Hall: Virginia Tech Regional Mathematics Contest (VTRMC). A Putnam-style contest, held simultaneously at campuses of participating institutions; see the above link for more information. This is the first time Illinois will be participating in this contest; UIUC students can register at http://go.illinois.edu/VTRMCregistration.
- Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, 9 am - 5 pm, 245 Altgeld Hall:
The real thing. To register, go to
log in with your NetID, and fill out the registration form.
Online registration closes on October 6, 2013.
LATE REGISTRATION: If you missed the October deadline, you can participate on a walk-on basis, by filling out the Late Registration Form.
- Saturday, February 15, 2014, 1 pm - 4 pm, 245 Altgeld Hall. UI Undergraduate Math Contest. The main contest event in the spring semester. PRIZE MONEY: Up to $300 in prize money to the top scorer(s). No registration required.
- Tuesday, April 8, 2014, 5 pm - 8 pm, Illini Union Ballroom. Department of Mathematics Awards Banquet. All math contest winners will be invited to this ceremony and will be presented with their awards.
News and Announcements
- Results of the 2014 U of I Undergraduate Math Contest. The 2014 UI Undergraduate Math Contest was held February 15, 2014. The winner, and recipient of the $300 top prize, was Haidong Gong, a freshman in Mathematics. The runner-up prize of $200 went to Pufan Liu, a freshman in Material Science. See the above link for more information and links to contest problems and solutions.
- Putnam Wrapup.
The 2013 Putnam Contest took place Saturday, December 7.
26 U of I students participated.
Results will be available in late March 2013.
Problems and unofficial solutions can be found at
(Kiran Kedlaya's backup of) the AMC Putnam Archive.
and at the
Putnam Forum of the "Art of Problemsolving" website.
Thanks to everyone who participated, good luck on your finals, and happy holidays!
- Results of the 2013 Virginia Tech Regional Undergraduate Mathematics Contest. This year marked the first time the University of Illinois participated in the Virginia Tech Regional Undergraduate Mathematics Contest (VTRMC), a nationwide math contest held in October of each year, simultaneous on campuses of participating institutions. With 23 UI students participating, and more than half placing in the top 20% nationwide, it has been an unqualified success, and the event will likely become a permanent fixture on our contest calendar. The top-ranking local participant was Yifei Li, who placed 20th among the 726 participants nationwide. For more information click on the above link.
- UI Fall Math Contest Results. This year's math contest season got off to a fantastic start with a a record 71 students participating in the first two events, the UI Freshman Contest on Sept. 23, 2013, and the UI Mock Putnam Exam on Sept. 25, 2013. Haidong Gong and Xinglun Li were co-winners of this year's UI Freshman Contest; Tong Li was the runner-up. Luvsandondov Lkhamsuren, the runner-up in last year's UI Freshman Math Contest, won this year's UI Mock Putnam Exam; Yijun Cheng took second place; and Haidong Gong and Moon Lee tied for third place. See the above link for more information, and links to contest problems and solutions.
- UI Undergraduate Math Contest Results. The 2013 UI Undergraduate Math Contest was held March 2, 2013. The winner, and recipient of the $300 top prize, was Danyang Zhuo, a senior in Engineering. The runner-up prize of $200 went to Zehan Chao, a freshman in Mathematics and Computer Science. See the above link for more information and additional results.
- 2012 Putnam Results. Results of the 2012 Putnam Contest are in! The top local participant was Danyang Zhuo, who placed among the top 3 percent of all participants. Three additional local participants made the Top 500 list. See the write-up on the 2012 Putnam for additional information and links to problems and solutions. For an interesting discussion of the 2012 Putnam see the 2012 Putnam Forum thread at the Art of Problem Solving website.
The William Lowell Putnam Competition is an annual student math competition sponsored by the Mathematical Association of America. More than 4000 students from colleges and universities in the United States and Canada participate in this contest each year. The Putnam competition is held simultaneously at participating universities, usually on the first Saturday of December.
The Putnam competition consists of a morning session and an afternoon session of three hours each. In each session, six problems are to be solved. The problems are graded on a 0 - 10 point scale, for a maximal score of 120 points. The problems are challenging and require considerable ingenuity and insight, but little technical knowledge beyond high school mathematics. It is extremely rare that a contestant solves all 12 problems. For example, in the 1996 Putnam competition, the highest score was 98 points, and a score of 10 (the equivalent of a single problem solved correctly) would have placed a contestant among the top third of all 2400 participants! The highest ranking participants from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in recent years have earned scores in the 40 - 60 point range and ranked in the top 100.
The Putnam competition is open to all regularly enrolled undergraduate students; for details on how to enter click on the link below. In addition to the individual competition, there is also a team competition among participating colleges. The team rank of a college is determined by the scores of three participants from that college who have to be named in advance. The team members will, of course, still be ranked as individual contestants. The 25 highest scoring individuals and the five highest scoring teams receive monetary awards. The University of Illinois team has not made it into the money ranks in recent history (the highest rank for the UIUC team was 8th in 1975), but in 2009 one of U of I contestants, Yi-Wei Chan, placed 25th in the individual competition, good for a $250 prize.
- Results of the 2012 Putnam Exam
- Sample problems
- The AMC (American Mathematics Competitions) Putnam Archive
Backup site (temporary backup of AMC Putnam Archive, courtesy of Kiran Kedlaya)
- How to enter the Putnam competition
- Books and other resources
- Official Putnamweb site (from Santa Clara University)
- UI team rank and leading scorers since 1970
The UI Mock Putnam Exam is a local version of the Putnam Exam, held each year in early fall. It is similar in format and content to the Putnam competition, but the problems are somewhat easier. The Mock Putnam Exam serves as a practice test for the Putnam Exam, and a key tool in the selection of the U of I Putnam Team. Prizes of up to $300 are available to the top scorer(s).
- Results of the 2013 Mock Putnam Exam
- Past winners
- Sample problems
- Problems and solutions of past Mock Putnam exams
A new addition to the local math contest offerings, the UI Freshman Math Contest is held in early fall in conjunction with the UI Mock Putnam Exam. Somewhat easier than the Mock Putnam Exam and restricted to Freshmen, the UI Freshman Contest provides incoming students an opportunity to show their problem solving skills in direct competition against their peers.
- Results of the 2013 Freshman Math Contest
- Past winners
- Sample problems
- Problems and solutions of past Freshman Math Contests.
Formerly known as the "Orange and Blue Contest", the UI Undergraduate Math Contest is a long-running, locally organized problems contest, held in the latter part of the spring semester. Prizes of up to $300 await the top scorer(s).
- Results of the 2013 UI Undergraduate Math Contest
- Past winners
- Sample problems
- Problems and solutions to past UI Undergraduate Math Contests
The UI Putnam Newsletter is an email newsletter containing announcements about the Putnam competition and other contest-related activities at the U of I. The mailing list for the newsletter is maintained by Professor Hildebrand; to be put on this mailing list, send an email to email@example.com with your email address (i.e., NetID) at illinois.edu. Put "Putnam Mailinglist" in the subject line.
Note: This is a local newsletter, with announcements of local events and activities that would be of little interest to those not at the U of I. To keep the mailing list manageable, it is restricted to U of I students and faculty, and an illinois.edu address is required.
Of related interest
- Undergraduate research opportunities. The recently created Illinois Geometry Lab provides numerous opportunities for undergraduates to get involved in research and outreach projects. In Fall 2013, 12 IGL projects are being offered in areas ranging from Geometry, Number Theory, Probability, Differential Equations, to applications in Engineering and Architecture.
- Math Honors program. The Math Honors Sequence is a sequence of challenging courses, taught in small sections by carefully selected research-active faculty.
- Math Scholarships, Awards, and Prizes.
Last modified: Sat 15 Feb 2014 08:21:52 PM CST A.J. Hildebrand