Carnegie Mellon University
March 27, 2023

Tartans Place Among the Top 10 in Putnam Math Competition

By Heidi Opdyke

Jocelyn Duffy
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Carnegie Mellon University had the second most students among the top 500 competitors and the CMU team placed in the top 10 of the Mathematical Association of America's 83rd William Lowell Putnam Competition, the premier mathematics competition for undergraduate students in North America.

The team comprised Adam Bertelli, a junior in mathematical sciences; Howard Halim, a senior in computer science; and Brad Zhang, who graduated with a degree in computer science in December. Zhang placed in the top 100 individual competitors and received an honorable mention. In addition, 231 students took the test individually.

The highest score on the six-hour exam was 101 out of 120 possible points.

"No matter how well a student performs in the competition, the experience of engaging intensely with challenging problems develops the student's mathematical power and creativity, said Daniel Ullman, the competition director.

This is the 10th year in a row that Carnegie Mellon has had the second highest number of students (47) in the approximate top 500 of any university, demonstrating the excellence in mathematics among Carnegie Mellon undergraduates across the university's colleges and schools. Overall, more than 3,400 students for 456 institutions participated in the competitive competition on Dec. 3, 2022.

"Having so many students in the top 500 competitors shows how deep the math talent is at Carnegie Mellon," said Po-Shen Loh, associate professor of mathematical sciences and the team's coach.

A line chart shows the rise of students from MIT and Carnegie Mellon as having the most students in the top 500 places of the annual Putnam Competition since 1997. In 2022 MIT had 147 and CMU had 47. Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Waterloo, Berkeley, Caltech, Harvey Mudd and Cornell are also represented with having fewer than 25 each.
A graph shows 10 universities with the most students in the top 500 spots of the annual William Lowell Putnam Competition since 1997. For the past decade, Carnegie Mellon has had the second most participants after the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Loh also is the lead coach of the U.S.A. Mathematical Olympiad team, a national program organized by the Mathematical Association of America, with training hosted at Carnegie Mellon. Under Loh's guidance, the United States has placed first four times since 2015.

With top-ranked programs in math, finance, computer science and statistics as well as support and mentorship from award-winning research faculty, the environment at Carnegie Mellon provides a space for students in any college or major who are enthusiastic about engaging in math and problem solving.

Loh also offers weekly seminars prior to the Putnam exam where students can work together to develop sophisticated problem-solving techniques and inspire discussions about more advanced mathematics.

"We seek to develop a collaborative team spirt among sharp and motivated students," Loh said. "Students who take the Putnam exam are among the most creative analytical thinkers at Carnegie Mellon. Taking the time to support each other and learn together has made all of the students stronger problem solvers in their different disciplines."