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What do I need to put myself in shape for the Putnam competition?

  1. May 31, 2007 #1
    I'm not sure I even have enough time to prepare (a summer is very short). But still, I want to give myself a shot so I'm asking; what do I need to do good on the Putnam contest? Now I know this may sound like asking a question like "what do I need to one day walk on Mars?". So my real question, would be whether is it possible for me to prepare conveniently for the competition before its being held. I think I am a talented problem solver, and I've had some experience with contest-level problems, but nothing near Putnam of course. If I have the slightest chance of doing well, what would be the things that I need now? I know 99% of it would be practice, but for the remaining 1%, what kind of books or something in the likes should I be looking for?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 31, 2007 #2
    You might take a look at Terence Tao's book:

    http://www.us.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/Mathematics/?view=usa&ci=9780199205608 [Broken]

    EDIT: Another suggestion is try,


    Then go to "International Mathematical Olympiad" link (upper left corner).
    Ask your question there.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  4. May 31, 2007 #3
    have you tried the higher maths olympiad questions posted on the internet?
  5. May 31, 2007 #4


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    our team practices old putnam problems, under the guidance of a professor.
  6. May 31, 2007 #5


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    The canonical book is Larson's Problem-Solving Through Problems. But really, the best way to practice is to go through old Putnam problems.
  7. May 31, 2007 #6
    This is good advice, but the practice you get with your teammates will doubtless not be enough.

    Anyway, the most important thing to remember for the putnam is that the markers are psychotic, so spend time on your write up.

    One perfectly written up problem will be worth 10 points, but two solutions which are close to being right will often be worth 2 points. So if you do half as many questions as you think you can, but write the details perfectly, it will probably be worth it.
  8. May 31, 2007 #7
    Larson's was the book I used recommended to me by a grad/postdoc at the time who was trying to get together a putnam team...see if your school or a local school has a team.

    stats/pigeonhole/counting and geometry...would be really helpful.
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