Willam Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition

The Mathematics Department’s Putnam Exam team is coached by faculty and is currently one of the highest ranking schools in the United States and Canada.


The BYU Department of Mathematics has seen great success in recent years. Enrollment has skyrocketed, research has expanded, and performance has improved dramatically.

The William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition is a particular area of performance that has drawn attention to BYU as one of the top math departments in the country.

The Putnam Competition began in 1938 as a means to provide academia with a team spirit similar to that of athleticism. Mr. William Lowell Putnam, a Harvard graduate, believed that an intellectual intercollegiate competition would establish good relationships between universities and encourage students to devote more time and energy to their studies. Today, this friendly rivalry inspires students nationwide to study mathematics and prepare to compete in the William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition, which takes place each December on the first Saturday of the month.

The Putnam exam consists of two three-hour tests with 12 problems in total. Each problem is graded on a scale of 0 to 10 points. Undergraduates from the U.S. and Canada take the exam, forming teams to represent their respective universities. The top five teams and the top 25 individuals with the highest scores are awarded scholarships and prize money. The Mathematical Association of America names the five highest scoring contestants Putnam Fellows, and awards each of them with $2500. One Putnam Fellow receives the William Lowell Putnam Prize Scholarship; a $12,000 prize plus tuition at Harvard.

In December of 2011, a total of 4,440 students took the Putnam exam. BYU’s team consisted of more than 30 undergraduates, several of which received outstanding scores. Sam Dittmer’s (Junior) score of 32 placed him among the top 100 scores of all Putnam contestants. Hiram Golze (Junior) scored a 31 and made it among the top 200. Both Matthew Romney (Senior) and Matthew DeCelle (Senior) ranked among the top 500 contestants. Additionally, James Pringle, Eric Lenhart, John Gardiner, Ryan Jones, Robert Schoenhals, and Tianyi (Robert) Yang each placed among the top 1000 contestants.

Given these exceptional results, the BYU Department of Mathematics has high hopes for undergraduates competing in the William Lowell Putnam exam in the coming future.

Students interested in competing in the Putnam Competition can take a preparatory class, Math 391R-004. In addition to helping students get ready to compete, this course also teaches students some deep tricks to solving problems.  Students need not be registered for the class to participate in the Putnam Competition.  In Fall 2020, the class will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:00-12:50 pm in room 203 TMCB.  For more information contact Dr Griffin.