Biola University School of Science, Technology and Health students scored in the top 23% of math departments eligible to participate in last year’s Putnam Competition — a prestigious national competition administered by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA).

Mathematics students Zachary Ellington, Rachael Combes, Joshua Lowrance, Abigail Ho, and Benjamin Lanz as well as computer science student Asaf Correa participated in the 84th annual Putnam Competition during the 2023-2024 academic year. Students prepared vigorously for the difficult exam.

“The Putnam Exam, run by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), is the most prestigious math contest for undergraduates in the US and in Canada,” said Dr. Joseph DiMuro, associate professor of mathematics.

DiMuro led weekly Putnam Exam prep sessions. Despite the exam now being taken individually, he shared that study sessions preparing for the exam typically bond students as a team. With the complexity of the exam, scoring one point is seen as a great accomplishment. The exam totals up to 120 possible points. The median this year was 10 points, but often the median is a few points or zero.

Scores for the exam are released every spring semester and institutions are ranked according to the sum of their top three applicants. Every 4-year higher education institution qualifies for the exam and more than 4,000 students take the exam every year.

The released test scores showed that all six students scored one point or above on the exam — Ellington scoring 19 and Lowrance scoring 18. Correa, an international freshman student, scored a three — a big accomplishment for the first time attempting the test. Similarly Ho, who is also a freshman, scored a 10. Combes and Lanz scored a nine and two respectively. With their scores, the students placed Biola in the 77th percentile among the 471 institutions that participated, meaning that Biola is considered in the top 23% of math departments who are eligible to participate in the exam. Among other participating schools are MIT, Princeton and Harvard.

Biola students have participated in the Putnam Competition since the 1980s. The competition is a six hour exam divided into two sections, each lasting three hours. Each section includes six difficult math problems that students complete individually. Ranks are based on the combination of the scores of the three highest-scoring participants, which added a team aspect to the competition since students are always required to register for the test under the higher education institution they attend.

A Putnam Exam Hall of Fame plaque is located in the Alton and Lydia Lim Center for Science, Technology and Health that features names of students since 1980 who have scored a 10 or higher on the exam.

Learn more about the department of Mathematics and Computer Science and Science, Technology, and Health

Written by Grace Morales, University Communications intern. For more information, contact Media Relations at Image shows from left to right: Zachary Ellington, Benjamin Lanz, Joshua Lowrance, Rachael Combes, Abigail Ho, and Asaf Correa.