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Lafayette College students made an impressive showing at the 59th Annual William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition, sponsored by The Mathematical Association of America. Renowned for its difficulty, the competition is held each year on the first Saturday in December with results available the following April.

As a team, Lafayette finished No. 62, placing in the top 15 percent of the 419 participating institutions.

All four members of the Lafayette contingent placed in the top 29 percent of the 2581 individual competitors. Feiyu Wang ’01 of Roseville, Minn., placed in the top 18 percent with a rank of 461. Bill Graveman ’99 of Morristown, N.J., ranked 641, placing in the top 25 percent. Tim Wetzel ’02 of Selinsgove, Pa., and Zain Mecklai ’99 of Karachi, Pakistan, both ranked 733, placing in the top 29 percent.

The team was led by Gary R. Gordon and Thomas R. Yuster, both associate professors of mathematics.

Gordon said, “Lafayette’s showing was very impressive, since big universities typically dominate this event. This exam is very difficult and tests ingenuity and cleverness. I’m extremely proud of how the students performed.”

Under faculty supervision, students try to solve 12 math problems ranging in difficulty from very hard to impossible. Problems are assigned points from zero to ten based on level of difficulty. Contestants have three hours to do six problems in the morning, and, following a lunch break, they spend three more hours on six new problems.

The competition is named after William Lowell Putnam, Harvard class of 1882, who believed in the value of organized team competition in regular college studies. The Mathematical Association of America (MAA), the world’s largest organization devoted to the interests of collegiate mathematics.

Categorized in: Academic News