Putnam Competition Fall 2006
Department of Mathematics

  • Introduction and General Information
  • The official Putnam webpage
  • Putnam Winners and Prizes
  • Useful Link


    (June 2nd, 2006)
  • This year the William Lowell Putnam Competition will take place Saturday, December 2, 2006, in MS 6221. The Putnam Competition is a USA and Canada wide mathematics competition open to regularly enrolled undergraduates. No student can compete more than four times.
  • Each student works individually, but each participating college designates three students whose combined results count for the team score.
  • Any number of UCLA students may participate. In 2005 we had 9 participants, but we expect to have more participants in 2006. In recent years we have had up to 20 participants.
  • The registration form has to be sent in by the end of the second week of UCLA's fall quarter. So we would like to get people to sign up now in the spring, or by the beginning of the fall quarter. It is not necessary to sign up in person. Just send an email giving your name and student ID number to: Geoffrey Mess (mess@math.ucla.edu), Olga Radko (radko@math.ucla.edu), or Luminita Vese (lvese@math.ucla.edu).
  • Starting this year 2006, the Department of Mathematics is awarding annually the Basil Gordon Prize for the best Putnam performance by a UCLA student. The prize is $1000. It is due to the generosity of Basil Gordon that the department is able to award the Gordon Prize. I am sure we all feel grateful for Basil Gordon's generous encouragement of energetic involvement of undergraduates in mathematics. The 2006 Gordon Prize went to Samantha Nieveen.
  • In the fall we will be holding practice sessions. If there is enough interest we may propose practice problems by email over the summer or on this website.
  • The Putnam problems are very interesting and challenging. The format of the competition is always the same: there are 6 problems to be attempted in the morning session of three hours. There is a break for lunch, and the department takes all competitors out for pizza. Then there are 6 problems to be attempted in the afternoon session of three hours.
  • Usually some of the problems do not require any specific knowledge that most freshman don't already have, and the problems are always chosen so that it doesn't matter if you have taken specialized upper division courses (for example Differential Geometry, or Complex Analysis, or Partial Differential Equations). Nonetheless the problems are hard. In 2005, there were a total of 3545 contestants from 500 institutions. Nearly half scored 0/120, but the median score was 1/120.
  • If you have any questions contact: Geoffrey Mess (MS 5372), Olga Radko (MS 5366), or Luminita Vese (MS 7620D).


    Professors Geoffrey Mess, Olga Radko, and Luminita Vese.
    Professor Radko also runs the department's Problem of the Week .


    Every Tuesday 3-5pm, room: MS 5138. There are also Friday sessions from time to time, 3-4pm, MS 6118.

    Week 1 (Oct. 3rd): Tuesday, 3-5 pm, location MS 6943.
    Week 2 (Oct. 10th): Tuesday 3-5pm, Continuation on inequalities and telescoping sums.
    Week 3 (Oct. 17th): Tuesday 3-5pm, Combinatorics problems. New location MS 5138.
    Week 4 (Oct. 24th): More on combinatorics problems.
    Week 5 (Oct. 31): More on inequalities.
    Week 6 (Nov. 7): More on combinatorics.
    Week 7 (Nov. 14): Recurrence relations.
    Bruin Math Contest: Thursday, November 16, time 7-9pm (open to all UCLA undergraduates).
    Week 8 (Nov. 21): TBA
    Week 9 (Nov. 28): TBA
    Putnam competition: Saturday, Dec. 2nd, in MS 6221. Remember to arrive by 7.50am.


    Emily Eder, Yu Man Tan, Andini Christina Wibowo, Jin Du, Omid M. Noorani, Irina Kukuyeva, Felipe Garcia Hernandez, Haining Ren, Roy Natian, Samantha Nieveen, Matt McNeely, Elia Baida, Daizo Shiono, Deanna Lau, Lincoln Atkinson.


  • How To Solve It, by G. Polya. (An interesting book, but Polya's suggestions about how to attack problems aren't really specific enough to help a lot.)
  • Mathematical Problem Solving, by A. Schoenfeld. It's a serious book about the psychology of problem solving. It won't immediately make you better at solving mathematical problems, but you might gain from becoming more reflective about your mathematical thinking.
  • Problem Solving through Problems, by L. Larsen.
  • The Green Book of Mathematical Problems, by K. Hardy and K. S. Williams
  • The Red Book of Mathematical Problems, by K. Hardy and K. S. Williams
    (These two books are Dover paperbacks, $8.95 each, so you could easily afford one.)
  • Techniques of Problem Solving, by S. G. Krantz
  • The William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition. Problems and Solutions: 1938-1964, by Gleason, Greenwood and Kelly.
  • The William Lowell Putnam mathematical competition. Problems and solutions: 1965-1984, ed. Alexanderson, Klosinski and Larson.
  • The William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition. 1985-2000. Problems, Solutions and Commentary, ed. Kedlaya.


  • Set I (posted on August 18, 2006, prepared by Geoffrey Mess).
  • Some geometry problems (posted on September 4, 2006, prepared by Olga Radko).
  • Some trigonometry problems (posted on October 2nd, 2006, prepared by Geoffrey Mess).
  • Problems and notes on Inequalities (posted on October 3rd, 2006, prepared by Olga Radko).
  • Some combinatorics notes (posted on October 17, 2006, prepared by Luminita Vese).
  • Summation problems (posted on October 20, 2006, prepared by Geoffrey Mess).
  • Pigeonhole Problems (posted on November 05, 2006, prepared by Geoffrey Mess).
  • Recurrence relations problems (posted on November 14, 2006, prepared by Luminita Vese ).


  • An archive of old Putnam problems (almost complete)
  • Another archive of Putnam problems
    We strongly suggest that you start working the problems without looking at solutions.