These contests are run every year on campus by faculty members of the mathematics department. For the latest dates and coordinators of the contests, please visit the department’s Putnam website, Mathematical Modelling Contest website, or browse through the Supplemental Calendar

The William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition

Almost every year since 1938, The William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition (“the Putnam”), organized by the Mathematical Association of America (America, by the way implies North America :) ) has been written in North America by keen students of mathematics. For the last several decades it has been given on the first Saturday in December.

York’s Mathematics Department provides a free lunch to every student who writes the exam! Students are given six problems to solve in the morning three hours, and another six in the afternoon three hours. The problems are far more interesting and difficult than those encountered in standard university math courses, and considerably more difficult than problems on, say, the Waterloo high school math competitions from the CEMC.

It is a mystery why the exam is given at a time (early December) when few undergraduates are willing to spare six hours of hard work from preparation for fall term exams. Perhaps the Mathematical Association of America wants to make sure that only the most dedicated math students take the exam.

Nowadays, over 3500 undergraduates from around 500 colleges and universities write the Putnam exam each December. About half of these students typically solve zero — yep, none — of the twelve problems. That is how difficult the problems are. It is very difficult to get part marks on a problem — the graders usually give almost full marks or almost zero on a problem. In 2001, the top score on the Putnam by a York student was 21 out of 120. In 2000, no York student got above 0 out of 120. In 1998, two York students managed scores of around 50 out of 120. That is extremely good.


If you think you might like to try “writing the Putnam” this year, please send an email to the Putnam coordinator at York. Do this very soon, no later than early November.

The exam paper will be written each December. The morning session is from 10 a.m. till 1 p.m., and the afternoon session follows the lunch break, and runs from 3 p.m. till 6 p.m. Accommodations are made, often, for religious reasons; the supervisors have a few times wound up the final writing session around midnight Saturday or 1 a.m. on Sunday.

One Putnam rule is that people who already have a Bachelor’s degree are not eligible to write the paper for marks (but in 2008, one person with a Bachelor’s unofficially wrote the paper at York).

There is a lot more information about the Putnam in general, and exams and some solutions from past years, in publications such as The American Mathematical Monthly and Crux Mathematicorum.

Training material can be found at York through Dr. Youness Lamzouri’s website.

Previous years’ problems and solutions can also be found at Kiran Kedlaya’s website It is a super source for problems, solutions, history etc. as far back as 1985, and it has links to many other relevant web pages.

The Mathematical Association of America republished in 2003 two of the older books in its series of the Putnam exam. In addition, a third book in the series was published:

  • The William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition problems and solutions: 1938-1964, edited by A. M. Gleason, R. E. Greenwood, L. M. Kelly (Washington, D. C.: Mathematical Association of America, 2003; ISBN 083854627).
  • The William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition problems and solutions: 1965-1984, edited by Gerald L. Alexanderson, Leonard F. Klosinski, Loren C. Larson (Washington, D. C.: Mathematical Association of America, 2003; ISBN 083854635).
  • The William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition problems and solutions: 1985-2000, edited by Kiran S. Kedlaya, Bjorn Poonen, Raki Vakil (Washington, D. C.: Mathematical Association of America, 2002; ISBN: 088385807X).

Mathematical Contest in Modeling (MCM)

The Mathematical Contest in Modeling (MCM), organized by COMAP (Consortium for Mathematics and Its Applications), is a contest where teams of undergraduates use mathematical modeling to present their solutions to real world problems. Each team can have a maximum of three members who work together to find a solution to one of three posed problems. The solution may include mathematics as well as computer simulation. The team must also write a report on their solution. Problems are designed to be open-ended and are unlikely to have a unique solution. Attention must be focused on clarity, analysis, and design of the solution.

美国数学及应用联合会网站 / 美國數學及應用聯合會網站 / Contest information in Chinese are also available.

In past years York has entered two or more teams in the contest. In general, York’s teams excel and have received several Meritorious Winners, and Honourable Mentions.


The modelling contest will take place February. If you are interested in participating in this, please send an email to the coordinator at York. Be in touch by late January.

Historical Information:

2015Successful (Problem A, B)
2014Successful (Problem A)
2013Successful (Problem A)
2012Honourable Mention (Problem B)
2011Honourable Mention, Honourable Mention, Successful
2007Honourable Mention, Honourable Mention
2006Honourable Mention, Successful
2005Honourable Mention, Successful, Successful
2004Successful, Successful
2003Meritorious, Honourable Mention
2001Meritorious, Honourable Mention
2000Honourable Mention, Successful

Statistics by Winner Category:

Honourable Mention10
Source: The Mathematical Contest in Modeling (MCM)/Interdisciplinary Contest in Modeling (ICM) Results