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Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014

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Undergraduate math team wins Putnam prize

Three undergraduates from Princeton's Department of Mathematics have won the team prize in the 67th William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition. Ana Caraiani, Andrei Negut and Aaron Pixton took top honors for Princeton for the first time in the contest's history, beating out 507 other university teams from the United States and Canada.

For the team's achievement, the department will be awarded $25,000, which will go toward supporting student activities, and each member of the team will receive $1,000 to use in any way he or she chooses. Negut and Pixton also ranked among the top 15 individual competitors, which netted each of them an additional $1,000.

Though the team victory is a first for the University, Princeton students have ranked among the top five individuals in previous Putnam competitions, and Caraiani was the top woman competitor in 2003 and 2004.

Administered by the Mathematical Association of America in December, the competition is an annual event for college students consisting of a 12-question test. The questions require mathematical knowledge of algebra and calculus, plus a considerable amount of original thinking. Many problems were solved only by one or two of the 3,640 students who took part.

The competition was established in 1938 in memory of Putnam, whose conviction regarding the value of organized team competition in college academics inspired his widow, Elizabeth Lowell Putnam, to endow the awards. Over the years many of the winners have become distinguished mathematicians, including several Fields medalists and Nobel laureates in physics.

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