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Lafayette College students made an extremely impressive showing in the 60th Annual William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition.

Renowned for its difficulty, the competition is held each year on the first Saturday in December with results available the following April. Open to U.S. and Canadian undergraduates, it is administered by the Mathematical Association of America, the world’s largest organization devoted to the interests of collegiate mathematics.

As a team, Lafayette finished No. 69, placing in the top 16 percent of the 431 participating institutions.

Five Lafayette students placed in the top 25.1 percent of the 2900 individual participants. They were senior Brian MacDonald of Lansdale, Pa.; juniors Bruce Adcock (Watervliet, N.Y.), Brian Bagenstose (Reading, Pa.), and Tim Wetzel (Selinsgrove, Pa.); and first-year student Guangxi Wang of Shanghai, China. All tied with a rank of 729.

Junior Feiyu Wang (Roseville, Minn.) was in the top 35 percent, with a rank of 1015. First–year student Alexandru Balan of Bucharest, Romania, placed just outside the top 35 percent with a rank of 1049.

“The test consists of 12 problems ranging in difficulty from very hard to impossible. Contestants had three hours to do six problems in the morning and three more hours for six new problems in the afternoon,” explains Gary P. Gordon, associate professor of mathematics. “This year’s exam was exceptionally difficult. More than half of the 2900 participants got a score of zero.

“Lafayette’s showing was very impressive, since big universities typically dominate this event,” Gordon continues. “I’m extremely proud of how the students performed.”

The team was led by Gordon and four other members of Lafayette’s mathematics faculty, Associate Professor Tom Yuster, Assistant Professors Ethan Berkove and Derek Smith, and Visiting Assistant Professor Qin Lu.

Categorized in: Academic News