MIT students win the 84th Putnam Math Competition for the fourth year in a row

Unique Achievements of MIT Students in the William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition

For the fourth consecutive year, MIT has once again dominated the William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition by securing all top five Putnam Fellows positions. This impressive feat marks the fourth instance in the history of this prestigious contest.

Among the distinguished group of Putnam Fellows are notable individuals like Papon Lapate and Luke Robitaille, both sophomores and previous top-five rankers, alongside junior Brian Liu, junior Ankit Bisain, and first-year Jiangqi Dai. Each of these outstanding students is awarded $2,500 for their exceptional performance.

MIT’s stellar showing extended to the team level, with the 2023 Putnam Team consisting of Bisain, Lapate, and Robitaille clinching the first-place title. This victory signifies MIT’s eighth triumph in the past decade, with the institution receiving a $25,000 award for fielding the winning team. Additionally, each team member is granted $1,000 as a reward for their collective achievement.

Isabella Zhu, a first-year student at MIT, was recognized as the top-scoring woman in the competition and was honored with the Elizabeth Lowell Putnam Prize, accompanied by a $1,000 award. Zhu is the seventh MIT student to receive this esteemed accolade since its inception in 1992.

A remarkable 68 out of the top 100 test-takers who participated in the December 2, 2023 exam were MIT students, showcasing the institution’s mathematical prowess. Furthermore, MIT students claimed significant portions of the top ranks, with eight of the subsequent 11 spots earning $1,000 each, and seven of the following 10 places receiving $250 each, in addition to securing 48 out of 75 honorable mentions.

Continuing the trend of dominance, MIT undergraduates also excelled in the 101-200 spots, with a total of 97 students from MIT occupying top positions. The institution’s strong representation continued in the 201-500 finishers category, emphasizing the mathematical talent nurtured at MIT.

Yufei Zhao ’10, PhD ’15, an associate professor of mathematics at MIT and a three-time Putnam Fellow, expressed immense pride in the exceptional performance of MIT students at the competition. Zhao commended the dedication and skills demonstrated by the participants, reflecting on the historical significance of their achievements.

The William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition stands as a prestigious platform for university-level mathematics enthusiasts in the United States and Canada. MIT students, known for their passion for mathematics, congregated at Walker Memorial for the grueling six-hour exam, with the median score this year hovering around 10 points out of a perfect score of 120.

Professor Michel Goemans, the head of the MIT Department of Mathematics, praised the students’ remarkable involvement in the competition, underscoring their enduring dedication to mathematical pursuits. The department lauded the high participation rate as a testament to MIT students’ enduring love for mathematics.

Enabling students to prepare for the rigorous competition, the Undergraduate Mathematics Association hosts engaging Putnam practice events, while Yufei Zhao guides first-year students through the Putnam Seminar (18.A34), fostering a supportive community centered around mathematical problem-solving.

In a noteworthy connection, half of the top scorers are alumni of MIT math’s PRIMES program, with several former PRIMES students excelling in the Putnam Competition. This strong representation underscores MIT’s commitment to nurturing exceptional mathematical talent through programs like PRIMES.

Pavel Etingof, a prominent math professor and chief research advisor for PRIMES, highlighted the continued success of PRIMES alumni in the Putnam Competition, emphasizing MIT’s role in attracting and developing top-tier mathematical minds nationwide.

MIT’s enduring influence in the Putnam Competition is further exemplified by the participation of individuals with MIT affiliations in various organizational capacities within the competition. Notably, MIT alumni and faculty members have actively contributed to the impactful legacy of the Putnam Mathematical Competition, solidifying MIT’s prominent role in shaping the mathematical landscape.

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