New Student Enrollment Recommendations


Prospective math, science, and computer science majors will almost certainly need a math course their first semester at Cornell.  Students with an interest in economics are also advised to get an early start on their math requirement. Math pre-enrollment is not necessary for new students who are more inclined toward the arts, languages, humanities, or social sciences. If desired, math may be added during the add/drop period following a conversation between student and faculty advisor.

Students are strongly discouraged from taking two courses in the calculus and linear algebra group at the same time, especially if one course is a prerequisite for the other. The temptation to double up in an effort to get ahead can often lead to poor grades in one or both courses and an unnecessarily stressful semester. If you are concerned that you are falling behind, please speak with the director of undergraduate studies in math before attempting to double up on your math courses.

Calculus and Linear Algebra

There are several options for those who need calculus and/or linear algebra.

Students who expect to major in mathematics, economics, or a science for which a strong math background is recommended would do well to take MATH 1110-MATH 1120 and continue with MATH 2210-MATH 2220. These courses provide a strong foundation in mathematical theory and solid preparation for advanced math courses. Students with a 5 on  the Calculus BC exam and a strong interest in challenging theoretical mathematics may consider MATH 2230-MATH 2240, especially if they have had some prior exposure to linear algebra and multivariable calculus. MATH 2230-MATH 2240 are challenging (and fun!), digging into the theoretical underpinnings of calculus and linear algebra. They are also taught at a much higher level of sophistication than MATH 2210-MATH 2220. Students in these courses invest considerably more time on coursework and are responsible for learning a significant amount of material independently. The decision to attempt them should be weighed against the many other demands on a student's time. If in doubt, pre-enroll in MATH 2210 and speak with a math advisor during orientation before deciding whether to transfer into MATH 2230 during add/drop.

In fields strongly related to the mathematical and physical sciences, such as astronomy, computer science, physics, and physical chemistry, some advisors recommend that their students take MATH 1910-MATH 1920-MATH 2930-MATH 2940, the core sequence for engineering students. Topics in this sequence are covered in the order they will be needed for undergraduate physics courses. MATH 1910 assumes students have already taken a good first course in calculus, which can be satisfied with a 5 on the Calculus AB exam or a course like MATH 1110.

MATH 1920-MATH 2940 is also a perfectly viable route to the math major. As these classes delve less into theory than MATH 2210-MATH 2220 and MATH 2230-MATH 2240, students who take them are encouraged to consider a 3000-level MATH course to gain experience writing proofs before attempting a 4000-level course. In particular, the department suggests MATH 3040 as a first upper-level course.

MATH 1110-MATH 1120 followed by MATH 2310 is a good choice for students who need to master the basic techniques of calculus but whose majors will not require a substantial amount of math. MATH 1110 followed by MATH 2310 is an option for students who would benefit from some linear algebra but do not need a full year of calculus. MATH 2310 focuses on the practical applications of linear algebra rather than the theory. It is a useful course for students in information science, statistics, economics, and the life sciences who don’t expect to continue with more advanced math classes. Students who have taken MATH 2310 may need more foundational coursework before pursuing further study in mathematics and should consult the director of undergraduate studies for advice before continuing.

MATH 1106 (spring only) is an option for students whose major requires only one semester of calculus. Some topics are covered in less depth than in MATH 1110, while more advanced topics are introduced. MATH 1106 focuses on modeling using examples from the life sciences. It introduces some fundamental concepts of calculus and provides a brief introduction to differential equations. Students who may take more than one semester of calculus should take MATH 1110 rather than MATH 1106.

Students who are undecided about their future studies at Cornell, but think they may involve a substantial amount of math, can keep their options open by taking Calculus I (MATH 1110 or AP credit), Calculus II (MATH 1120 or AP credit), and Linear Algebra (MATH 2210). Linear Algebra is a pre-requisite for Multivariable Calculus (MATH 2220), which would be the next step for students who are still leaning in the direction of a math-related major and may wish to take more advanced mathematics.

Alternatives to Calculus

There are many options other than calculus for students who simply need one or two math courses to fulfill a general requirement. Examples are included under Mathematics for the Arts & Sciences Student.

Preparing for the Math Major or Minor

Students may be admitted to the math major or math minor after successfully completing a semester each of multivariable calculus and linear algebra. Additional prerequisites for the major are admission to the College of Arts and Sciences and a 3- or 4-credit computer programming course with a letter grade of C– or better. Eligible courses include: CS 1110, CS 1112, CS 2110, CS 2112. Advanced placement and transfer credit are accepted. Prospective math majors are strongly encouraged to take the programming course during their first year.

NEXT: Advanced Placement Credit for Calculus