(May 5, 2015)

Math students receive high marks on Putnam Exam

SHREVEPORT, LA — This spring Centenary students Ryan O'Donnell and Luke White were among the 4,320 students from 557 colleges and universities across the United States and Canada who took part in the Putnam competition, the premier mathematics contest for undergraduates. The exam is made up of 120 notoriously complicated questions. More than half of participants do not solve a single problem fully.

White's (pictured left) Putnam exam score put him in the top 52 percent of his peers while O'Donnell's (pictured right) result placed him in the top 46 percent

"With a score of 2, Ryan is in the top 46 percent and a score of 3 Luke is in the top 52 percent," said Chair of the Mathematics Department Dr. David Thomas. "The median score on this test is normally zero and it was the first time either student has taken the Putnam."

Shreveport native O'Donnell '15, who graduated with a double major in Math and Economics, will attend UT-Austin this fall for a Master's program in Operations Research.

"The Putnam Exam is designed to not only test your knowledge of mathematics, but also to test your understanding and creativity of how to solve very strange mathematical problems," said O'Donnell. "We prepared for the exam by meeting once a week for an hour for about 6 weeks, and worked on solving past Putnam problems."

White '16, also a Shreveport native, is a math and biophysics double-major and hopes to pursue an MD/PhD program in biomedical engineering upon graduation. He successfully met his goal of beating the median score.

"Most Putnam problems are extremely difficult; I think I spent more time feeling confused and lost than actually solving problems," said White who scored as high or higher than 2,218 students. "But when I finally did figure one out, the victory was that much sweeter."