The Mathematics Major

Overview

The mathematics major adapts to a number of purposes. It can emphasize the theoretical or the applied. It can be appropriate for professionals and nonprofessionals alike, and can be broad or narrow. It can also be combined easily with serious study in another subject in the physical, biological, or social sciences by means of a double major and/or concentration.

Undergraduates who major in mathematics at Cornell are enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences and are awarded the Bachelor of Arts degree upon graduation. In addition to the major requirements outlined below, all students must meet the college graduation requirements.

How to Apply

Download the Math Major Application (a fillable PDF form), complete the first page*, and send it to the undergraduate coordinator using Secure File Transfer. Major applications will be reviewed and processed on a weekly basis, and students will receive an email confirmation when they are admitted to the major. A student may be provisionally admitted to the major when the last prerequisite course is in progress.

*Please limit your responses to the allotted space. Longer responses may be cut off.

Applying to the Math Major as a Transfer Student

Student Grade Option

Courses must be taken for a letter grade in order to count toward admission to the math major or to satisfy any math major requirement. This requirement is waived for all classes taken in spring 2020, including courses taken toward an outside concentration, and an "S" grade will be accepted regardless of the usual minimum grade requirements.

Transfer Credit

Courses taken at another institution may be used to satisfy the math major prerequisites and to replace at most two courses toward the major requirements. These courses must be approved for transfer credit and appear on the Cornell transcript with Cornell course equivalents.

See transferring credit from another institution for more information.

Major Prerequisites

Students are admitted to the major after successfully completing:

  • a semester of linear algebra — MATH 2210, 2230, or 2940 with a grade of B– or better;
  • a semester of multivariable calculus — MATH 2220, 2240, or 1920 with a grade of B– or better;
  • a 3- or 4-credit computer programming course with a grade of C– or better. (Eligible courses include CS 1110, 1112, 2110, and 2112. AP credit is also accepted.)

The department recommends MATH 2210-2220 or MATH 2230-2240. Students who have taken a course in linear algebra and/or multivariable calculus during high school should consider taking MATH 2230-2240.  This sequence gives a more abstract, proof-oriented treatment of the material.  Students with an advanced background in linear algebra and/or multivariable calculus should contact a faculty member in the Math Department for advice as soon as possible.  Note that 4000-level linear algebra courses are generally not regarded as meeting the prerequisites for the math major.

MATH 2130 and MATH 2310 are not recommended for students planning a math major; however, MATH 2130 with a grade of B+ or better may be accepted as a substitute for MATH 2220, and MATH 2310 with a grade of B+ or better may be accepted as a substitute for MATH 2210.

Credit for MATH 1920 may be obtained by passing a placement exam during orientation; however, a score equivalent to a B- or better is required to satisfy the prerequisite for the math minor. Students who score below a B- and wish to join the minor may not attempt the exam a second time but should instead enroll in a multivariable calculus course.

Students who receive below the minimum grade in one of the prerequisite courses should contact the undergraduate coordinator immediately. Any repeated attempt to fulfill a math major prerequisite requires preapproval from the math majors committee.

Major Requirements

For students admitted to the major July 1, 2018 or later: At least 5 courses with a MATH prefix numbered 3000 or above must appear on the student’s transcript.  Double majors enrolling in cross-listed courses should pay particular attention to this constraint.

Double Majors

A double major with computer science, economics, or physics can be facilitated by the corresponding concentrations. The Departments of Computer Science and Economics permit double majors to use courses in the corresponding concentrations to satisfy the requirements of both majors.

Double majors with physics may count eligible physics courses toward both the physics major and the math major’s math physics concentration; however, the Physics Department will not approve courses for an outside concentration if they are being used toward another major or minor.

For students admitted to the major July 1, 2018 or later: When enrolling in cross-listed courses, double majors must take care that at least 5 courses with a MATH prefix numbered 3000 or above will appear on their transcript.  Students should consult other major departments about any further conditions they may have.

Taking Graduate Courses

Some exceptional undergraduates, upon completing a rigorous foundation of 4000-level math courses, may wish to further develop their understanding of the material in subsequent graduate courses that the math department offers.  The core courses from the mathematics graduate program — MATH 6110, MATH 6120, MATH 6310, MATH 6320, MATH 6510, and MATH 6520 — represent a good first exposure to graduate-level mathematics.  MATH 6150, MATH 6160, MATH 6210, MATH 6220, MATH 6710, and MATH 6720 cover some additional material in a manner suitable to advanced undergraduates. 

Undergraduates taking graduate courses should have completed advanced undergraduate courses on the same topic with a grade of A– or better.  Interested students should discuss the possibility of taking graduate courses with their faculty advisor in the Math Department prior to enrolling in the course.

Honors

The Department of Mathematics awards honors (cum laude) and high honors (magna cum laude and summa cum laude) to graduating mathematics majors who have performed outstandingly in the major program.

The awards are determined by the Mathematics Major Committee in the latter part of the semester before graduation. The committee will primarily be looking for excellent performance in mathematics courses, particularly in challenging courses at the 4000 level or beyond. Independent study at a high performance level can also contribute to honors. Students interested in any level of honors should consult their major advisors or a member of the Mathematics Major Committee concerning suitable courses. Outstanding performance in the core graduate classes (MATH 6110-6120, MATH 6310-6320, MATH 6510-6520) or an excellent senior thesis can contribute to high honors.

Additional Information

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