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College of Arts & Sciences
Department of Mathematics

Majoring/Minoring in Mathematics

Why Study Mathematics?

Mathematics is beautiful, fun, exciting, and powerful. Mathematics is the ongoing creation of a giant tapestry woven over millenia by human beings of every sort for reasons of their own, from desperation to inspiration. People pursue mathematics for money, for pleasure, for fulfillment, for entertainment, for status, out of envy, out of lust for power, out of hope for the future. In short for the same reasons that people compose music, write plays, and design bridges.

G. H. Hardy, an Oxford don and one of the eminent mathematicians of the 20th century said

A mathematician, like a painter or poet, is a maker of patterns. If his patterns are more permanent than theirs, it is because they are made with ideas.
G. K. Hardy (from A Mathematician's Apology, London 1941)

If you want to become a maker of mathematical patterns, what will it take? How will it change you? It takes hard work. To attain a level of accomplishment in mathematics will require your time, your energy, your attention, and a lot of your personal resources---if mathematics can command this kind of personal effort and commitment from you, then the rewards can be considerable. The successful study of mathematics will change you. It will instill in you a profound discipline of mind, an attention to detail,a keen sense of elegance, an ability to understand many aspects of the world out of reach of the mathematically unsophiscated, and a peculiar ability to see underlying concepts. You will not only become a skilled solver of problems, but you will begin to see where the problems are.


But can you get a job? At least every student's parents, if not every student, wants to know. People who major in mathematics do the most surprising things. They go to medical school, they go to law school, they go to business school, they get jobs in Hollywood. Maybe the largest employer of mathematics majors is the National Security Agency. They work in industry and in government laboratories teamed with engineers and scientists. Because mathematics is an international enterprise, some mathematicians travel in the world on a regular basis. One of the great mathematicians of the 20th century, Paul Erdős, became a kind of mathematical troubador, almost without permanent abode, travelling the world giving mathematical performances, seeking out prodigies, and collaborating with anyone whose brain was open.

Click here for more information about careers of math majors.


Four Routes Through the Mathematics Major
    • The General Mathematics Option
      Students pursuing the general mathematics option must choose one of the following two tracks.
      • The General Mathematics Track
        This is the most common route through the major. It gives the most flexibility and offers solid background for a wide variety of options after graduation, from graduate school (and not just in mathematics) to a spectrum of careers.
      • The Mathematics Education Track
        This path through the major is designed for students who plan to become high school mathematics teachers. It includes a cognate in Education and is compatible with the University's five year Master of Teaching program leading to certification.
    • The Actuarial Mathematics Option
      This path through the major prepares students for careers in risk management and, more broadly, in the finance and insurance industries, as well as those who intend to go to graduate school for advanced degrees in business administration and economics. This path is a collaboration with the Department of Statistics and the Darla Moore School of Business.
    • The Applied Mathematics Option
      This path through the major prepares students to apply mathematics in other disciplines (notably the sciences and engineering). It provides a solid foundation for advanced degrees, as well as a wide assortment of careers in the public and private sectors.

Remaining Graduation Requirements
  • The General Education Requirements
    These are requirements for a B.S. in Mathematics established by the College of Arts and Sciences to ensure that each graduate has basic competence in languages and mathematical/analytical reasoning, as well as an intellectual foundation across the liberal arts, the fine arts, the social sciences, and the physical sciences.
  • The Mathematics Premajor Requirements
    These requirements provide a foundation for the more advanced mathematics courses that are the heart of the major, as well as ensuring that our graduates have a grounding in the adjacent fields of statistics and computer science.
  • Cognates, Minors, Double Majors, and Dual Degrees
    Each of our graduates is required to study a second academic discipline at significant depth. Roughly speaking, this means passing at least 4 courses in the other discipline which are intended for the majors in that discipline.
  • Retention Requirements for the Major


Two Mathematics-Based Minors