Major Explorations

The Mathematics curriculum is designed to meet the needs of students preparing for postgraduate work in mathematics or allied careers, as well as to provide the insights of mathematics to other students whose area of specialization lies outside mathematics.

Mathematics majors at Amherst study calculus and linear algebra, with upper-level, required courses in analysis and abstract algebra, as they work to satisfy the learning goals for the major. There is a wide range of elective mathematics courses available to fulfill the major. In addition, mathematics majors may take approved courses that apply mathematics in other fields (such as in Statistics, Computer Science, Physics, and Economics) to help complete the major.   Some Mathematics majors choose to write a thesis in mathematics and graduate with departmental honors in Mathematics. The department also has Prizes and Awards available to students at various steps of their Mathematics major.

To declare the Mathematics major, there are two steps:

  • Complete this Google Form for the department records;
  • Submit a request through Workday to add a major (via "Academics" and "Overview" on your student profile page).

For Non-Majors and New Students

Non-majors and new students may find answers to some of their questions on our dedicated page for those topics. Another good starting page is our Placement page.

Major Requirements

The mathematics major requires students to complete a total of 11 courses, of which two can be non-mathematics electives that apply mathematics (from a list of approved courses). For details, you should check out our detailed major requirements. Students may place out of some courses, particularly the introductory calculus sequence. Competency exams are available for some courses if students do not have a copy of a transcript showing completion of an appropriate course.

As you explore options for completing the major, be sure to check out our page on Getting Started in the Major and example Pathways through the Major.

Comprehensive Examination

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.

Honors Program

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.) Description of the examination. 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 the 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.

Study Away

It is easy to combine the mathematics major with a semester or year spent away.  See our math study away page for more information, or talk with a faculty member.