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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

Math Students Finish Among Top Universities at Elite Competition

Team placed in the top 12% at the Putnam Mathematical Competition.

Feb. 21, 2020, by Dan Bernardi

Xuerui Yang.jpg
Xuerui Yang, a senior majoring in mathematics, placed in the top 6% at the Putnam Mathematical Competition.

A team of three undergraduate students from the College of Arts and Sciences’ (A&S’) Department of Mathematics recently finished 58th out of 488 participating institutions in the William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition. The math contest is the preeminent mathematics competition for undergraduate college students in the United States and Canada and is organized by the Mathematical Association of America. According to Leonid Kovalev, professor and associate chair for undergraduate studies in the mathematics department, this is the highest ranking for a team from Syracuse University in at least a decade.

Connor Ritchie, a freshman majoring in mathematics, placed in the top 30% of all participants, Yantao Wu, a junior majoring in mathematics and physics, placed in the top 15% and Xuerui Yang, a senior majoring in mathematics who is also a Newton Fellow, placed in the top 6%. Competing students spent six hours working on 12 challenging problems, covering a wide range of mathematical topics. Answering the questions required creative thinking and the ability to support claims with rigorous proofs.

To prepare for the competition, the students attended weekly training sessions during the fall semester coached by Kovalev and Anusha Krishnan, the Philip T. Church Postdoctoral Fellow in Mathematics.

“The training sessions and the competition itself develop problem-solving abilities that propel students to success beyond their undergraduate career,” Kovalev says. “Success in the Putnam competition increases the chance of admission to competitive graduate programs.”