Mathematics competitions see WUSTL students excel

The University placed two students in the top 100 finishers — and another two in the top 200 — in the recent national William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition.

That’s out of approximately 3,349 participants from 376 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada.

The University also had winning teams in the Missouri Collegiate Mathematics Competition, which it hosted in April.

The Putnam competition is an exam open to undergraduates in the United States and Canada. Students work individually and are graded individually.

For Washington University, Aaron Hauptmann was 61st nationally and received an honorable mention, and Adam Marcus was 92nd.

Bryce Johnson and Andrew Foerster were in the second hundred.

Twelve other WUSTL undergraduates were in the top 25 percent.

A school can designate three students in advance to be the school’s team. The school’s ranking is based on how well the team members do.

The University’s team was 58th nationally and was coached by Carl M. Bender, Ph.D., professor of physics, and Richard Rochberg, Ph.D., professor of mathematics, both in Arts & Sciences.

The exam consists of 12 difficult questions, each worth 10 points. The difficulty of the exam is indicated by the fact that a score of 3 out of 120 is enough to put a student in the top half of the people who take the exam; a score of 56 out of 120 was good enough to place a student in the top 100 this year.

Sponsored by the Missouri section of the Mathematical Association of America, the Missouri Collegiate Mathematics Competition was held as part of the annual section meeting.

Only two official teams were allowed to enter the competition from each school, and only those teams were eligible for awards. Unofficial teams could also be entered.

A total of 26 official teams and six unofficial teams participated. Team participants included about 93 undergraduate students from 16 Missouri colleges and universities.

The two official WUSTL teams ranked in first place (Ben Birnbaum, Aaron Hauptmann and Nat Watson) and fourth place (Matt Dobson, Adam Marcus and Ben Robinson.)

The University also entered two unofficial teams. One of these (Chris Hrdlicka, Matt Ince and Nate Ince) actually ranked second of the 32 teams in terms of test scoring; the other (Do-Hsiang Lai) ranked 10th.

The trophy for the first-place win will be displayed in the case at the east end of the first floor hall of Cupples I Hall.

Rochberg coordinated the Mathematical Association of America contest teams. Blake Thornton, Ph.D., coordinator of lower-division teaching, coordinated the logistics for the University to host the contest.