Mathematics for the Engineering Student


The engineering calculus sequence MATH 1910-MATH 1920-MATH 2930-MATH 2940 is required for most students in the Engineering College and the CALS biological and environmental engineering programs. Some engineering programs do not require MATH 2930. (Students should consult the Engineering Undergraduate Handbook for a complete list of requirements for their chosen major.)

MATH 2930 and MATH 2940 can be taken in either order because MATH 2930 is not a prerequisite for MATH 2940. However, MATH 2930 is a prerequisite or co-requisite for PHYS 2214 and PHYS 2217. Students who expect to take either of these physics courses will most likely need to take MATH 2930 before MATH 2940.

Previous Calculus Experience

First-year students are expected to have already taken a good first course in calculus. MATH 1910 is essentially a second-semester calculus course, and MATH 1920 is a third-semester calculus course. Students who have not taken any calculus are expected to take MATH 1110 during the 6-week summer session at Cornell or an equivalent course at another university before their freshman year.

Advanced Placement

Engineering students with an AP Calculus BC score of 5 may place out of MATH 1910 and take MATH 1920, although they receive 4 credits instead of 8 credits because Calculus I is not part of their Cornell curriculum. In addition, credit for MATH 1910 and/or MATH 1920 may be awarded to students who take the Engineering Math Advanced Standing Exam during orientation; students with a BC score of 4 are encouraged to take this exam if they believe their score does not fairly reflect their preparation.

Transfer Credit

The Mathematics Department routinely awards transfer credit for MATH 1910, MATH 1920, and MATH 2940, but very few universities offer a course like MATH 2930, which covers both ordinary and partial differential equations. MATH 2930 spends about one-third of the semester on Fourier series and PDEs (heat, wave, and Laplace). A substitute course must do the same. A 3-credit course may be used to replace one of the 4-credit math courses, but the total number of credits for the first three math courses (MATH 1910, MATH 1920, and either MATH 2930 or MATH 2940) must be at least 11; otherwise another math course is required.  Transfer credit for the fourth, major-dependent, math course must be at least 3 credits.

Mathematically advanced high school students who have taken a linear algebra, multivariable calculus, or differential equations course will not receive transfer credit if the course was taught in a high school to high school students (even if the college provides a transcript) or if the course is used to satisfy high school graduation requirements. Repeating the material at Cornell may be necessary.

Minimum Grades

Students who receive below a Cā€“ in MATH 1910, MATH 1920, MATH 2930, or MATH 2940 must repeat the course immediately, before taking the next course in the sequence. Minimum grades required for major affiliation vary some from major to major. Consult the Engineering Undergraduate Handbook for details.

One Course at a Time

Students are strongly discouraged from taking two Engineering Math courses in the same semester. These courses move rapidly and are challenging and time-consuming, even for students who have already been exposed to some of the material. Exams in these courses are given simultaneously, so students enrolled in two courses must take make-up exams. The deck is stacked against them, and often their performance suffers. A better strategy for getting caught up, if necessary, is to take a course over the summer, either at Cornell or elsewhere. Transfer credit approval should be requested in advance.

Summer Session

MATH 1910, MATH 1920, MATH 2930, and MATH 2940 are all offered during the 6-week summer session at Cornell.

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