Mathematics Major

Goals for Math Major/Minor and the Stats Minor

Students will learn to

  1. Perform mathematical calculations, implement numerical algorithms, and use computational software or programming language to produce viable solutions, and gain facility in selecting the appropriate tool.
  2. Draw from existing knowledge and extend it, applying concepts to solve novel problems in new contexts.
  3. Use mathematical and statistical structures to represent real world phenomena, gain insight, extract patterns, and answer questions.
  4. Identify, describe, and explain patterns. Connect ideas across disparate contexts, within one course as well as through sequential courses.
  5. Write and present logical arguments clearly and concisely to a variety of audiences.  This includes writing for mathematical scholarship as well as communicating to collaborate and also creating a narrative to present the development of an idea to their peers.
  6. Appreciate the intellectual development of mathematics. Majors understand mathematics as a powerful tool and a dynamic, growing body of knowledge. Students recognize the progression to mastery, via experimenting to identify patterns, and that sometimes the way to uncover the right solution is through learning from wrong attempts.  Students see the role of creativity and appreciate the beauty of deep mathematical ideas and connections.

Requirements for the Mathematics Major

Students majoring in mathematics must complete MATH 115 and one of MATH 116/MATH 120 (or the equivalent) and at least eight units of 200-level and 300-level courses. These eight units must include MATH 205, MATH 206, MATH 302, MATH 305, and two additional 300-level courses.  The courses counting towards the major must come from MATH or from among the following STAT courses: STAT 218, STAT 220, STAT 221, STAT 228, STAT 260, STAT 318, STAT 320.  

Majors are also required to present one classroom talk in either their junior or senior year. This requirement can be satisfied with a presentation in the student seminar, but it can also be fulfilled by giving a talk in one of the courses whose catalog description says "Majors can fulfill the major presentation requirement in this course." In addition, a limited number of students may be able to fulfill the presentation requirement in other courses, with permission of the instructor.

Students expecting to major in mathematics should complete the prerequisites for MATH 302 and MATH 305 before the junior year. Students may wish to consult the chair of the Department of Mathematics or their current mathematics instructor in deciding when to take MATH 302 and MATH 305. Independent study units (MATH 350, MATH 360, MATH 370) may NOT count as one of the 300-level courses required for the major.

Students expecting to do graduate work in mathematics should elect MATH 302, MATH 305, and at least four other 300-level courses, possibly including a graduate course at MIT. They might also consider acquiring a reading knowledge of one of the following languages: French, German, or Russian.

Honors in Mathematics

The department offers the following options for earning honors in the major field:

  1. Completion of MATH 302, MATH 305, and four other 300-level courses, and two written comprehensive examinations
  2. Two semesters of thesis work (MATH 360 and MATH 370).

An oral examination is required for both programs. 

To be admitted to the honors program, a student must have a grade point average of at least 3.5 in all work in the major field above the 100 level; the department may submit a petition for a student if her GPA in the major is between 3.0 and 3.5. See Academic Distinctions.

Teacher Certification in Mathematics

Students interested in teaching mathematics at the secondary-school level should consult the chair of the mathematics department and the chair of the education department. Students interested in taking the actuarial science examinations should consult the chair of the mathematics department.

Placement in Courses and Exemption Examinations in Mathematics

The mathematics department reviews interested calculus students and places them in MATH 115, MATH 116, MATH 120, or MATH 205 according to their previous courses and summer placement results. Please refer to the descriptions for these courses. 

Students may receive course credit toward graduation through the AP tests in mathematics and the IB Higher Level mathematics exam. Students with scores of 4 or 5 on the AB Examination or an AB-subscore of 4 or 5 on the BC Examination, or a score of 5, 6, or 7 on the IB Higher Level mathematics exam receive one unit of credit (equivalent to MATH 115) and are eligible for MATH 116 or MATH 120. Those entering with scores of 4 or 5 on the BC Examination receive two units (equivalent to MATH 115 and MATH 116/MATH 120) and are eligible for MATH 205. Students with a 5 on the AP examination in statistics receive one unit of credit. Neither AP credits nor IB credits may count toward the major or minor.

Transfer Credit in Mathematics

In order to obtain Wellesley credit for any mathematics course taken at another institution, during the summer or the academic year, approval must be obtained from the chair of the department, preferably in advance.  Normally, the core courses Math 206, 302, and 305 should be taken at Wellesley.  Advanced students are encouraged to elect MIT courses that are not offered by the Wellesley College mathematics department.