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A team of University of Tennessee math students placed 17th among 515 teams from the United States and Canada in the 65th Annual William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition.

The annual competition was held on the first Saturday in December, with the same exam given at all participating campuses.

Four UT math students worked in Ayres Hall for two three-hour sessions, on six problems each session from the undergraduate math curriculum.

“These problems require insight and ingenuity,” said Jochen Denzler, UT mathematics professor. “There have been years when more than half of the international participants didn’t score any points.”

While the number of contestants per institution is not limited, three contestants are designated beforehand, and their scores determine the university ranking.

UT’s team was Nicholas Boatman, junior in mathematics from Mascot, Tenn.; Eric Mueller, senior in computer engineering from Knoxville; Hai Nguyen, junior in mathematics and management interest from Hanoi, Vietnam; and a freshman alternate.

Two of UT’s contestants were among the top 175 of more than 3700 contestants.

Denzler hopes this success will not be a one-time event, since two team members are juniors and promising younger students are being recruited in a voluntary Putnam training program the math department hosts to recruit new team members.

“Together with UT’s newly designed math honors program and expanding university honors program, this success may give second thoughts to some of Tennessee’s finest high school graduates who have been contemplating
more expensive out-of-state institutions,” Denzler said.

The Putnam competition is administered by the Mathematical Association of America.

The top five schools in this year’s competition are the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton, Duke, University of Waterloo, and California Institute of Technology.