During the Fall quarter, the Stanford Mathematics Department offers the Pólya Problem-Solving seminar, an informal, dinner-time problem-solving practice session, on Mondays, 6:00–7:30pm.
One of the major aims of this seminar is to motivate students to participate in the Putnam competition, a challenging opportunity for you to test your mathematical mettle. The Putnam usually takes place on the first Saturday of December; there are two sessions, morning from 8:00 to 11:00 and afternoons from 1:00 to 4:00. The competition emphasizes ingenuity rather than knowledge, so freshmen are not at much of a disadvantage compared to seniors. Interest in or experience with problem solving is a plus. Not only math majors have done well; many recent winners have come from nearby disciplines, including physics, computer science, and engineering.
Completely solving even one of the twelve problems is a significant achievement, and in almost all years would place you well above the median. (Keep in mind that the particpants are self-selected from among the best in the continent.)
The Pólya seminar is also being offered as a 1-credit course, MATH193. You do not need to sign up for the course in order to participate in the seminar. But if you do sign up for the course, then to get credit it is expected that you will attend all of the seminars, and take part in presenting solutions from time to time.
The introductory meeting for the Pólya seminar will be at 6:00pm on Monday, September 20, in Room 383-N (Third Floor) of the Math Building. You can sign up for the Putnam there. If you're interested in signing up for the Putnam, but cannot make it to the meeting, please email me.
George Pólya was, perhaps, the most famous person to think about understanding mathematical problem-solving. He was a professor at Stanford. You can read about him here.
This year we are generously funded by Two Sigma Investments.
“Two Sigma Investments, LLC, is a leading technology and finance firm. At Two Sigma, we work each day in small teams to develop and improve analytical and measurement tools for the financial markets. Our casual culture celebrates rigorous thought and encourages the generation of great ideas. Two Sigma was founded in July 2001. The Firm currently has over 250 employees in New York, Houston, and London, and several billion dollars under management. Visit us online at twosigma.com/careers.html.”
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