The William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition is the preeminent mathematics competition for undergraduate college students in the United States and Canada. The Putnam Competition takes place annually on the first Saturday of December. The competition consists of two 3-hour sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. During each session, participants work individually on 6 challenging mathematical problems.
The Putnam began in 1938 as a competition between mathematics departments at colleges and universities. Now the competition has grown to be the leading university-level mathematics examination in the world. Although participants work independently on the problems, there is a team aspect of the competition as well. Prizes are awarded to the participants with the highest scores and to the departments of mathematics of the five institutions the sum of whose top three scores is greatest.