Math 17
How to Solve it
Fall 2014-15
Tuesday 7:00 PM // 159 Sloan
Course Description | Policies | Textbooks | Lecture Notes | Handouts | Homework | Sections

Instructor:  Liubomir Chiriac, 158 Sloan, 626-395-4373, lchiriac [at] caltech {dot} edu
After class, or by appointment




Course Description

The William Lowell Putnam Mathematics Competition is the most prestigious annual contest for college students. While the problems employ topics from a standard undergraduate curriculum, the ability to solve them requires a great deal of ingenuity, which can be developed through systematic and specific training. This class aims to assist the interested students in their preparation for the Putnam exam, and also, more generally, to treat some topics in undergraduate mathematics through the use of competition problems.


Grading will be based on attendance and homework.

You are expected to attend class and submit homework every week. As some of the homework problems are quite difficult, it is expected that you will not be able to solve them all in a reasonable time. It is perfectly acceptable to submit solutions to only some problems in a set; or to submit partial solutions explaining what progress you have made and where you are stuck; or anything else that shows that you gave some thought to the problems. 

While collaboration is encouraged, your goal in this class is to learn the largely individual skill of problem-solving. You should spend a significant amount of time tackling a problem on your own before you ask a friend. Even if you arrive at your solution through collaboration, your write-up should be entirely your own.   


The William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition 1985-2000: Problems, Solutions and Commentary, by Kedlaya, Poonen and Vakil.

The William Lowell Putnam mathematical competition, Problems and solutions: 1965-1984, edited by Alexanderson, Klosinski and Larson.

The William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition. Problems and Solutions: 1938-1964, by Gleason, Greenwood and Kelly.

Putnam and Beyond by Gelca and Andreescu.

Lecture Notes

Date Description


Date Description


Due Date Homework  Solutions
10/07/14, in class
Homework 1

10/14/14, in class
Homework 2

10/21/14, in class
Homework 3

10/28/14, in class
Homework 4

11/04/14, in class
Homework 5

11/11/14, in class
Homework 6

11/18/14, in class
Homework 7

11/25/14, in class
Homework 8

12/02/14, in class
Homework 9


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