SJSU Problem Solvers

Mathematical problem solving is a fun and valuable skill; it comes up not just in class, but also in technical interview questions, puzzles / contests, and industry work. The SJSU Problem Solvers program offers problem solving challenges, prizes, and training for interested undergraduate students and graduate students. The organizers are Dr. Daniel Brinkman and Dr. Yan X Zhang.

We do 2 main activities:

  • Putnam Exam: we host and choose the SJSU team for the Putnam Exam (a nationwide problem solving competition, see below). Everyone is welcome to take the exam, and you do not need to be in the team to participate. 
  • SJSU Problem Solvers Club: We have a Discord channel where we discuss and train problem-solving. Furthermore, for one hour a week, we meet to solve problems and learn how to solve problems better. You are welcome regardless whether you want to take the Putnam exam or not, though it does help us select the team. 

If you want to join any of these activities, or just have questions, please join our Google Group or email Dr. Brinkman. You do not need to participate in any of them to do the other ones. 

The Putnam Exam

The competition is meant to measure problem solving skills and not mathematical knowledge. It looks for clever problem solvers who may not have taken that many math classes but can solve problems ingeniously, similar in spirit to tech interview brainteasers.

  • The problems are hard, but meant to be accessible to anyone with a few undergraduate math classes.
  • The most knowledge required is 1 semester each of abstract algebra and analysis. 90% of the problems are doable with just "high school math" such as geometry, counting, high school algebra, and calculus.

Please let us know if you are interested in participating - it is free and the only commitment is one day of your time, and there is no requirement besides showing up.