Math Team Crunches Numbers, Rivals at Annual Putnam Competition

The Project

The mission of the University Idaho Math Team is to bring together individuals who are excited about math in order to gain career insights, to promote math as a discipline and to build camaraderie around math competitions and the advancement of math knowledge and skills. Earlier this year, members of the University of Idaho Math Team put their skills to the test at the annual William Lowell Putnam Competition, the premier undergraduate mathematics competition. The competition takes three students from each competing school and pits their Putnam exam scores against one other to see which school fares the best.

The Goals

The University of Idaho students in the competition were Jason Fitch, Jonathan Gaffney and Bryan Wilson. All three students were picked to be on the team before they took the Putnam exam, which is used to rank the students by performance; coincidentally, each received the three highest scores of all University of Idaho students who took the exam. Wilson was the best performing student at the University in the individual competition rankings. Along with Fitch, Gaffney and Wilson, seven other students took the Putnam exam, and all received scores higher than both the mean and the median score for the competition. The median score is zero.

The Vision

“I’m thrilled that the University of Idaho team placed in the top 10 percent nationally on an exam where more than half the students who take it score zero points out of 120,” said Jonathan Gaffney, mathematics major and student body president. “Seeing the University’s math students achieve this kind of success is incredible.” Gaffney, who took the Putnam exam last year, said he was happy to have met his personal goal of increasing his score from last year.

The People

University of Idaho Math Team members and students: Jason Fitch, a double major in mechanical engineering and mathematics; Jonathan Gaffney, mathematics major and student body president; and Bryan Wilson, mathematics major and Goldwater scholar. Faculty coaches: Arie Bialostocki, Dora Bialostocki and Matthew Rudd. Visit the William Lowell Putnam Competition or the University of Idaho Department of Mathematics site.