Math 3794 Problem Seminar 2019 Spring

Welcome to the problem seminar and let’s have fun with mathematics!  Our intention is to have a great time while expanding our mathematical horizons in a challenging way. Basically, we give you problems — many, many problems — and you solve a few of them.  In class, solutions are presented or problems are discussed with the aim of working toward solutions.  The problems will resemble the style of problems on the Math Olympiad or Putnam exam, with very basic prerequisites — MATH 1122, 1132, 121, 1152, 2142 — but sometimes involve difficult tricks.  We will try to rotate topics to cover as many problem-solving tricks as possible.

Even if you are not registered for this class, you are welcome to attend the lectures.

This course should be good preparation for the Calculus competition in Spring 2019 and the Putnam competition in Fall 2019.  Most, if not all, of you should plan to take the competition. It is in no way required, but is a good way to enhance your problem-solving experience.

Course Organizers

Grading scheme

There will be homeworks assigned after the meetings.  You must submit your solutions before the next meeting.  No extension will be given.  The highest score on each homework is 20 points, so the total is 120 points. The letter grade of the class will be based only on your homeworks.  The following table lays out the conversion.

  • A    90 and up;         B    75-90;        C    60-75;        D    below 60.

Each homework consists of 10-20 problems. Each problem is labeled with a number from 1 to 10 indicating the difficulty: 1 is easy, 4 is at the level of Putnam A1-A2-B1-B2, and 8 is at the level of Putnam A3-A4-B3-B4. Of course, remember that this is a subjective measurement.

Each problem will be graded by correctness from 0 to 3. The total points earned for a problem is the product of its difficulty and correctness. The score of each homework cannot exceed 20 points, but you are always welcome to do more.

You can work together on the problems, but unlike in many other courses, we do not particularly encourage you to do so. In any case, you need to write up the solution on your own.

Course Schedule

We will meet 8 times this semester, all on Monday 4:00-5:30 PM in room MONT 226. On  Here is  a list of tentative dates and topics.


 Dates Instructor Topic Homeworks
 January 28  Mihai Fulger   Probabilities   Homework 1
 February 4  Liang Xiao   Recurance and sequences   Homework 2
 February 11  Liang Xiao   Inequalities   Homework 3
 February 25  Maksym Derevyagin   Sequences and limits   Homework 4
 March 11  Maksym Derevyagin   Sequences and series   Homework 5
 April 1  Mihai Fulger   Complex numbers   Homework 6
 April 15  Ovidiu Munteanu   Matrices and Determinants I   Homework 7
 April 29  Ovidiu Munteanu   Matrices and Determinants II   Homework 8

Useful Resources

  • Kiran Kedlaya keeps a list of past Putnam problems here (after 1985)

Past Putnam Competition Results

2017 Putnam Competition

  • Team rank: 103
  • Top scores at UConn: 1. John M. Cizeski; 2. Oliver F. Kisielius, Ahmad-Fikri Anuar; 3. Keegan T. Yao, Jake A. Murphy.

2016 Putnam Competition

  • Team rank: 49
  • Top scores at UConn: 1. Timothy Smits; 2. Patrick Adams, Surath Fernando, Vyas Krishnamurty; 3. Lindsay Cadwallader, Ellizabeth Lauri.

2015 Putnam Competition

  • Team rank: 60
  • Top scores at UConn: 1. Patrick Adams (top 500 nationwide); 2. Lindsay Cadwallader; 3. Timothy Smits.

2014 Putnam Competition

  • Team rank: 85
  • Top scores at UConn: 1. Daniel O’Connell (top 500 nationwide);   2. Patrick Adams;   3. Lindsay Cadwallader, Nicole Chubet, Neil Dokurno, Elizabeth Lauri.

Past Problem seminar pages