The Mathematics Major
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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 awarded the Bachelor of Arts degree upon graduation.
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, 1114, 1115, 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 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.
Students who receive below the minimum grade in one of the prerequisite courses should contact the undergraduate coordinator immediately.
How to Apply
Applications are available in 310A Malott Hall. Please bring along a copy of your transcript; you can get one in B-7 Day Hall. Students may be provisionally admitted to the major when the last prerequisite course is in progress.
A mathematics major interested in a concentration in a subject different from those listed below may develop a suitable individual program in consultation with his/her major advisor.
- Mathematics Concentration
- Applied Mathematics Concentration
- Computer Science Concentration
- Economics Concentration
- Mathematical Biology Concentration
- Mathematical Physics Concentration
- Operations Research Concentration
- Statistics Concentration
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.
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, Physics will not approve outside concentrations in the same area as a student's second major.
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.
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.