The mathematics major is fun and rewarding and can lead to great jobs!
If you are thinking about majoring in math, you should go to Seeley Mudd and talk to a math professor. In the meantime, this page provides an outline of the requirements for a major. (The catalog is the official word on these matters, so read it, too.)
Once you have decided to declare the major, you will need to obtain the appropriate form from the Registrar's page, complete it, and have the current Math Department chair, as well as your current advisor, sign it, before returning it to the Registrar.
As you proceed through the major or are trying to decide if you can complete it, check out our checklist for the Math Major:
You might also want to check out our example pathways through the mathematics major.
Clarification on Intro Stats for Math Majors
Due to the introduction of the major in statistics, minor changes were made in the mathematics major. If you read below, you can find all the updated details on the mathematics major. In particular, note that MATH 130 has been renamed STAT 111. STAT 111 will NOT count towards the mathematics major (but STAT 135 does count as a mathematics elective toward the math major). However, students that took the course while it was still MATH 130 may count it towards the mathematics major as a mathematics elective. We strongly encourage students with questions about the mathematics and statistics majors to talk to a faculty member in the Department.
- Introduction to the Calculus (Mathematics 111) (formerly 11)
- Intermediate Calculus (Mathematics 121) (formerly 12)
- Multivariable Calculus (Mathematics 211) (formerly 13)
- Linear Algebra (Mathematics 271 or 272) (formerly 21 or 22)
- Groups, Rings and Fields (Mathematics 350) (formerly 26)
- Introduction to Analysis (Mathematics 355) (formerly 28)
Depending on background, mathematics majors may place out of several of these core courses. Starting with the class of 2016, students who place out of MATH 271/272, MATH 350, or MATH 355 must replace each such course with an additional Mathematics course numbered 135 or higher (see details of this policy below). Mathematics majors may not take any of the core courses MATH 111, 121, 211, 271/2, 350, or 355 pass/fail (exceptions by petition to the department).
Elective Mathematics Courses
Along with the required courses, a major must complete three elective courses in Mathematics numbered 135 or higher. For majors declared after May 12, 2017, two of these electives must be numbered 200 or higher, and the remaining elective must be numbered 135 or higher. In addition, a major must complete two other courses, each of which is either an elective course in Mathematics numbered between 135 and 490 or a course from outside Mathematics, but in a related field, chosen from among COSC 201 or 211, 301 or 311, and 401; ECON 300, 301, 361, and 420; PHIL 350; any Physics course numbered 116 or higher (excluding PHYS 227); and any Statistics course numbered 200 or higher (Statistics courses cross-listed with Mathematics count as Mathematics electives). Note that this requirement can be satisfied by taking two math electives, one math elective and one related-fields course, or two related-fields courses. Requests for alternative courses must be approved in writing by the chair of the department in consultation with the Mathematics faculty via a petition from the student. To submit a petition, email the chair of the department with relevant information about the course to be considered, for example, a syllabus from a recent semester of the course or a link to the course description. For study abroad petitions, approvals are contingent on submission of a transcript showing the grade earned in the course, in order to aid in student advising. Honor students may petition the department to count one math thesis course as an elective toward the major.
Students who have taken MATH 130, 230, 330, or 335 may count those towards the Mathematics major.
Students who declared their Mathematics major before May 17, 2014, may count toward the major an approved outside course together with a requisite for that course chosen from the same discipline.
Old course numbers for related fields electives are as follows: Computer Science 20, 30, and 38, any Physics course numbered 16 or higher, excluding Physics 27, Philosophy 50, Economics 54, 58, 65, and 67.
Students electing a double major in Mathematics and Statistics may count MATH 111, MATH 121, MATH 211, and MATH 271 or 272 towards both majors. A maximum of one additional course taken to complete the Mathematics major may be counted towards the Statistics major. Ask a statistics or mathematics faculty for assistance if you are trying to figure this out! In short, a minimum of 17 courses (or 19 with the new statistics requirements) would be needed to complete both majors with this overlap. We also have a checklist for double majors in mathematics and statistics:
A comprehensive examination for majors who are not participating in the Honors Program will be given near the beginning of the spring semester of the senior year. (Those who will complete their studies in the fall semester may elect instead to take the comprehensive examination at the beginning of that semester.) The examination covers MATH 211, 271 or 272, and a choice of MATH 350 or 355. Information describing the comprehensive examination can be obtained here.
Students are admitted to the Honors Program on the basis of a qualifying examination given at the beginning of the spring semester of their junior year and the acceptance of a thesis proposal. (Those for whom the second semester of the junior year occurs in the fall may elect instead to take the qualifying examination at the beginning of that semester.) The examination is described here. A thesis proposal will typically be due in early April of the junior year. If a student is accepted to the Honors Program, they will finalize a topic in consultation with Mathematics faculty. After intensive study of this topic, the candidate will write a report in the form of a thesis which should be original in its presentation of material, if not in content. In addition, the candidate will report to the departmental colloquium on their thesis work during the senior year. Honors candidates are also required to complete MATH 345 and at least one Mathematics course numbered 400 to 489. See Recent Theses for a list of recent theses and Thesis Regulations for thesis regulations.
The department will work to accommodate as many suitable thesis proposals as possible, but it may be the case that not all proposals will be accepted if we have a very large group of students seeking to write theses. Note that submission of a proposal after passing the Honors Qualifying Exam does not guarantee getting to write a thesis in Mathematics.
Juniors who passed the Honors Qualifying Exam, but either did not submit a thesis proposal or submitted an unsuccessful thesis proposal, will still have passed the Mathematics Comprehensive Exam and will not need to take the exam in their senior year.
Other Aspects of the Mathematics Major
- Departmental Colloquium: All students majoring in Mathematics are expected to attend the departmental colloquium during their junior and senior years.
- For a student considering graduate study, the Departmental Honors program is strongly recommended. Such a student is advised to take the Graduate Record Examination early in the senior year. It is also desirable to have a reading knowledge of a foreign language, usually French, German, or Russian, as this is a requirement of many graduate programs in mathematics.
- Honors Student Office: All students in the Honors Program in Mathematics can use the Honors Student Office (013 Seeley Mudd). Depending on the space available, other senior Mathematics majors may petition the Chair to use the Honor Student Office.
- Study Abroad: It is easy to combine the mathematics major with a semester or year spent abroad. See our math study abroad page for more information or talk with a faculty member.
Policy on Competency Exams for MATH 211, 271/272, 350 and 355
Mathematics majors who wish to place out of MATH 211, 271/272, 350 or 355 must either produce a transcript from a college or university for an equivalent course approved by the Department or take a competency exam administered by the Department. In the latter case, it is important that the competency exam is taken in a timely fashion. In particular:
1) If a math major skips one of these four courses and wants to take a subsequent course that requires the skipped course, then the appropriate competency exam must be taken before the subsequent course begins.
2) It could happen that a student declares the math major as a junior or senior and has taken a course such as MATH 350 without having taken MATH 271 or 272. For example, the student could be a Physics major who was given consent to take MATH 350 on the basis of having taken Physics 227. In this situation, the student must take the competency exam for the skipped course by the end of the semester in which they declared the math major.
A student has only one chance to pass the competency exam, so careful preparation is strongly recommended. Advisors are responsible for reminding their advisees of this policy (approved May 6, 2015).
Upon completion of the Mathematics major, we expect our graduates:
To have acquired both proficiency at calculation and a theoretical understanding of single-variable calculus, multivariable calculus, and linear algebra.
- To have developed an ability to read and understand mathematical proofs, as well as to construct and communicate their own mathematical proofs.
To have demonstrated in a variety of courses the ability to learn and apply new mathematical concepts, definitions, theorems, reasoning skills, and proof skills.
For honors students, to have delved deeply into an advanced topic and written a clear and detailed exposition in the form of a senior thesis.