University of Rochester Mathematical Olympiad

The University of Rochester Mathematical Olympiad (URMO) is an annual mathematics competition for undergraduates in Western New York. The URMO is organized by Dr. Dan-Andrei Geba of the University of Rochester. However, each participating college or university administers the contest on its own campus. Participants take the exam individually. The URMO occurs on a Saturday in February (prior to 2011 the event was held in March). The first Olympiad was given on March 31, 2007 and involved Rochester, Cornell, RIT, Nazareth, SUNY Brockport, and St. Bonaventure.

The University of Rochester Mathematical Olympiad was created to be a challenging competition, but friendlier than the Putnam Exam. (The Putnam Exam, an annual competition open to undergraduates in the United States and Canada, is widely regarded as the most challenging undergraduate math competition in America.)

The URMO is a three-hour exam consisting of four problems. (By contrast, the Putnam is a six-hour exam consisting of twelve problems.) Two of the problems are below Putnam level and two are at Putnam level. Of the two problems at Putnam level, one is at the level of the first one or two problems on a Putnam exam and one is at the level of the middle Putnam problems. Like the Putnam, the URMO tests both technical competence in undergraduate mathematics and problem-solving skills. Three prizes are awarded: first prize is $250, second prize is $200, and third prize is $150.

As a practical matter, students should have taken MATH 152. Calculus II and MATH 207. Discrete Mathematics I before attempting the URMO. Students will be alerted in mathematics classes and by email when the date of the next URMO is known. The URMO is administered at SBU by Dr. Chris Hill (De La Roche 301-C,

Bona’s students who participate in the URMO will be treated to lunch at the Beef-n-Barrel Restaurant immediately after the contest.

URMO Resources

  • University of Rochester Math Olympiad page, in the University of Rochester's web site, lists the winners of past Olympiads and provides pdfs of past exams.
  • Free paper copies of past URMOs may be found in the "Resources" bookcase in the Mathematics Suite (De La Roche 301).

The Problem-Solving Seminar

MATH 281. The Problem-Solving Seminar is offered during the fall semester and prepares students to take the URMO. In this one-credit course, techniques of mathematical problem-solving are studied and applied to a wide range of problems (including problems from previous Putnam Exams). The prerequisites for Math 281 are MATH 152. Calculus II and MATH 207. Discrete Mathematics I. Math 281 may be repeated for credit. During previous Problem-Solving Seminars, students solved problems posed in the problems sections of the national undergraduate journals Math Horizons, The College Mathematics Journal, and the Pi Mu Epsilon Journal.