Adding up to a big win: MIT dominates at annual Putnam Math Competition (MIT News)

A cylinder shape cut into eight equal-sized wedge-shaped pieces, with four vertical cuts through the center.

It’s easy to see that a cylinder of cheese can be cut into eight identical pieces with four straight cuts. Can this be done with only three straight cuts? For the answer, see OCW’s 18.S34 Problem Solving Seminar.

As reported last week, some MIT math students recently racked up a big honor.

MIT swept the board at this year’s prestigious William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition, winning the team award and placing five students among the top six individual spots, an achievement that earns each the title of “Putnam Fellow.”

The Putnam competition, the premier undergraduate mathematics contest in the U.S. and Canada, is notoriously tough: The median score for the latest exam, held last Dec. 6, was just three points out of a possible 120; more than half of the participants did not solve a single problem fully.

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With OCW, you can try some of the same training methods as these stellar mathletes. The course 18.S34 Problem Solving Seminar is geared to “students who enjoy solving challenging mathematical problems and who are interested in learning various techniques and background information useful for problem solving.” In fact, students that take this course are expected to compete in the Putnam competition.

Congratulations to the MIT Putnam Fellows — senior Zipei Nie, sophomore Mark Sellke, sophomore Bobby Shen, sophomore David H. Yang, and sophomore Lingfu Zhang — and the entire MIT team!

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