Archive for December 7th, 2008

2008 Putnam

December 7, 2008

Godzilla using a calculatorThe 2008 William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition officially took place this weekend! Yup, six hours of grueling math problems. We had a record number of students take it this year: 21! [That’s just 21, not 21 factorial. That would be an impressive number.]

Here’s one of the videos that our students watched while they were gathered around my dining room table Friday night eating dinner (because we totally bribe our students with food: dinner the night before at my house, bagels for breakfast, and lunch at the local pub in between the two three-hour sessions). It’s “I Will Derive” and I know it’s made its way around the internet, but I still think it’s fabulous:

And here’s the problem (A2) that caused the most discussion over lunch:

Alan and Barbara play a game in which they take turns filling entries of an initially empty 2008×2008 array. Alan plays first. At each turn, a player chooses a real number and places it in a vacant entry. The game ends when all the entries are filled. Alan wins if the determinant of the resulting matrix is nonzero; Barbara wins if it is zero. Which player has a winning strategy?

Here’s my favorite problem (A1) because I was able to solve it right away and do you know how often that happens? Not very.

Let f : R2 -> R be a function such that f(x,y)+f(y,z)+f(z,x)=0 for all real numbers x,y, and z. Prove that there exists a function g : R->R such that f(x,y) = g(x)-g(y) for all real numbers x and y.

You can see the rest of the problems here, and pretty soon you should be able to find the answers hereEdited Monday 12/8 to add: yes, the answers are posted!

No, of course Godzilla didn’t really use a calculator on an exam. He’s a stickler for following the rules.

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