Courses of Study 2015-2016 
    Nov 16, 2018  
Courses of Study 2015-2016 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]


In the College of Arts and Sciences .

Course Offerings  

Mathematics is the language of modern science; basic training in the discipline is essential for those who want to understand, as well as for those who want to take part in, the important scientific developments of our time. Acquaintance with mathematics is also extremely useful for students in the social sciences and valuable for anyone interested in the full range of human culture and the ways of knowing the universe in which we live.

The Department of Mathematics faculty has strong groups specializing in algebra, number theory, combinatorics, real and complex analysis, Lie groups, topology and geometry, logic, probability and statistics, mathematical physics, and applied mathematics. Related departments at Cornell have specialists in computer science and operations research. Courses in these topics can be integrated readily into the mathematics major.

The department offers a rich variety of undergraduate courses, and many of its beginning graduate courses are suitable for advanced undergraduates as well. Under some conditions, a student may carry out an independent reading or research project for college credit under the supervision of a faculty member.

Members of the department are available to discuss with students the appropriate course for their levels of ability and interest, and students are urged to avail themselves of this help. Students who want to take any of the courses numbered 3000 or above are invited to confer with the instructor before enrolling.



L. Saloff-Coste, chair; M. Aguiar, M. Anderson, A. Back, D. Barbasch, Y. Berest, L. Billera, X. Cao, R. Connelly, R. K. Dennis, F. Frick, R. Gomez, J. Guckenheimer, A. Hatcher, T. Healey, T. Holm, J. Hubbard, M. Huntley, Y. Ilyashenko, M. Kassabov, A. Knutson, L. Levine, J. Manning, K. Meszaros, J. Moore, C. Muscalu, A. Nerode, M. Nussbaum, I. Peeva, R. Ramakrishna, T. Riley, A. Roberts, D. Rubin, S. Sen, F. Shokrieh, R. A. Shore, R. Sjamaar, C. Smart, J. Smillie, B. Speh, M. E. Stillman (DGS), R. Strichartz, S. Strogatz, E. Swartz (DUS), N. Templier, M. Terrell, R. Terrell, A. Vladimirsky, K. Vogtmann, M. Wegkamp, J. West, D. Zywina. Emeritus: J. Bramble, K. Brown, S. Chase, M. Cohen, C. Earle, R. Farrell, L. Gross, D. Henderson, J. Hwang, P. Kahn, H. Kesten, G. R. Livesay, M. Morley, A. Schatz, M. Sweedler.

Course Selection Guidance:

For guidance in selecting an appropriate course, including how to factor advanced placement or transfer credit into that decision, please consult First Steps in Math ( under “Courses”). New students will have an opportunity to ask questions about math placement during fall orientation at the Arts & Sciences Open House.

Advanced Placement:

Students who have had some calculus should carefully read “Advanced Placement ”. Those who have not taken an advanced placement exam should take a placement test at Cornell during fall orientation. For guidance in selecting an appropriate course, please consult First Steps in Math ( under “Courses”).


Students who need to take Calculus I (MATH 1106  or MATH 1110 ) but are lacking the necessary prerequisites may take MATH 1101  to prepare. Courses labeled “college algebra” or “precalculus” at other universities are not eligible for transfer credit to Cornell.

Calculus and Linear Algebra:

Students should consult their advisors and keep major prerequisites in mind when planning a suitable program. The following are general recommendations. Consult First Steps in Math ( under “Courses”) for more detail. The director of undergraduate studies will gladly meet with students to offer further advice.

  1. Students who expect to major in mathematics, economics, or a science for which a strong math background is recommended should take MATH 1110 MATH 1120  or MATH 1110 MATH 1220  and continue with MATH 2210 MATH 2220  or MATH 2230 MATH 2240 .
  2. MATH 1910 MATH 1920 MATH 2930 MATH 2940  is required for engineering students and recommended by some advisors in fields strongly related to the mathematical and physical sciences, such as astronomy, computer science, physics, and physical chemistry.
  3. MATH 1110 MATH 1120  and MATH 2130  or 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 mathematics. MATH 1110 MATH 2310  is an option for students who need some linear algebra but not a full year of calculus.
  4. 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 MATH 1220  or AP credit), and Linear Algebra (MATH 2210 ). Multivariable Calculus (MATH 2220 ) 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.

Switching between calculus sequences is often difficult, especially at the 2000-level. Students should not attempt such a switch without consulting the director of undergraduate studies.

Special-Purpose Sequences:

Students who will take no more than two semesters of mathematics can gain a broader view of the subject by taking one semester of calculus and one non-calculus mathematics course. The following options are particularly useful for students in the life and social sciences and will satisfy the mathematics requirement for most medical schools.

  1. MATH 1105 MATH 1106  provides a one-year introduction to the mathematical topics that are most useful to biologists and social scientists. (MATH 1110  may be substituted for MATH 1106 .)
  2. An introductory statistics course (MATH 1710 , for example), taken before or after a semester of calculus (MATH 1106  or MATH 1110 ), teaches students how to work with data and can be more useful in some disciplines than a second semester of calculus.

Students who want two semesters of calculus are advised to take the first two semesters of one of the calculus sequences, but students with excellent performance in MATH 1106  may follow that course with MATH 1120  or MATH 1220 .

Minor in Mathematics:

The mathematics minor is available to students majoring in other disciplines across the university who have an interest in studying mathematics. Students planning a minor in mathematics may seek advice on course selection from Professor Ed Swartz, director of undergraduate studies. Applications for the minor are available in 310A Malott Hall.


Students are admitted to the minor after successfully completing a semester of multivariable calculus and a semester of linear algebra.  The department recommends MATH 2210 MATH 2220  or MATH 2230 MATH 2240  with grades of B– or better; or MATH 1920  and MATH 2940  with grades of B– or better.  MATH 2130  and MATH 2310  are not recommended for students planning a math minor; 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 must complete four 3000- or 4000-level MATH courses. At least one course must be in algebra and one in analysis. Eligible algebra and analysis courses are the same as those listed for the math major requirements (1) and (2) below. At least one of the four courses must be at the 4000-level or above. A course may be counted toward the minor only if it is taken for a letter grade and a grade of C– or better is received for the course.

Major in Mathematics:

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. (See “Double Majors” below for more information.) Questions concerning the major should be brought to a member of the Mathematics Major Committee. Applications for the major are available in 310A Malott Hall.


Students are admitted to the major after successfully completing a semester of multivariable calculus and a semester of linear algebra. The department recommends either MATH 2210 MATH 2220  or MATH 2230 MATH 2240  with grades of B– or better. MATH 1920  with a grade of B– or better may be substituted for MATH 2220 . MATH 2940  with a grade of B– or better may be substituted for MATH 2210 . 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 . A 3- or 4-credit computer programming course with a letter grade of C– or better is also required for acceptance to the major. Eligible courses include: CS 1110 , CS 1112 , CS 1114 , CS 1115 , CS 2110 , and CS 2112 .


Students must complete nine courses, as described in items 1–3 below, under the following constraints:

  • At least two of the MATH courses taken must be at the 4000-level (or above).
  • A course may be counted toward the major only if it is taken for a letter grade and a grade of C– or better is received for the course.
  • No course may be used to satisfy more than one requirement for the major.
  • 2-credit courses count as half courses.
  • MATH courses numbered between 5000 and 5999 do not count toward the major.

Major advisors may make adjustments to the major requirements upon request from an advisee, provided the intent of the requirements is met. In particular, many suitable graduate courses are not listed here.

3. Five further high-level mathematical courses:

The seven alternatives (a–g) below do not exhaust the possibilities. A mathematics major interested in a concentration in a subject different from those below may develop a suitable individual program in consultation with his or her major advisor.

a. Concentration in Mathematics:

ii. One course dealing with mathematical models:

Any course from outside mathematics with serious mathematical content and dealing with scientific matters. Serious mathematical content includes, but is not limited to, extensive use of calculus or linear algebra. Eligible courses include any course from another department that would satisfy one of the concentrations, as well as:


Other 1000-level physics courses and PHYS 2207  may not be used, but some courses in other fields may be accepted. AP credit may not be used.

b. Concentration in Computer Science:

Five additional courses from (iii) and (iv) below, of which at least one is from (iii) and three are from (iv).

c. Concentration in Economics:

Five additional courses from (v), (vi), and (vii) below, as follows: one course from (v), three courses from (vi), and a fifth course from any of (v), (vi), or (vii).

d. Concentration in Mathematical Biology:

Five additional courses from (viii) and (ix) below, with three courses from (viii) and two courses from (ix).

e. Concentration in Mathematical Physics:

Five additional courses from (x) and (xi) below, of which at least one is from (x) and three are from (xi).

f. Concentration in Operations Research:

Five additional courses from (xii) and (xiii) below, of which at least one is from (xii) and three are from (xiii).

g. Concentration in Statistics:

Five additional courses from (xiv), (xv), and (xvi) below. (For students who have not had experience with real-world data, MATH 1710  is recommended before or concurrent with MATH 4710 . It will not, however, count toward any of the math major requirements.)

xv. One additional MATH course numbered 3000 or above:


ORIE 3510  may not be counted toward (xvi) if MATH 4740  is used for (xv). At most one regression course (ECON 3140  or STSCI 4030 /BTRY 4030 ) is allowed for (xvi). At most one of STSCI 4740 ORIE 4740 , or CS 4780  is allowed for (xvi).

Double Majors:

A double major with computer science, economics, or physics can be facilitated by the corresponding concentrations described above. The Departments of Computer Science and Economics permit double majors to use courses in the corresponding concentrations to satisfy the requirements of both majors. The Physics Department also permits double counting, but only if the student completes the physics major with an inside concentration.

Students should consult the appropriate departments for any further conditions.

Senior Thesis:

A senior thesis can form a valuable part of a student’s experience in the mathematics major. It is intended to allow students to conduct an in-depth investigation not possible in regular course work. The work should be independent and creative. It can involve the solution of a serious mathematics problem, or it can be an expository work, or variants of these. Conducting independent research, paying careful attention to exposition in the finished written product, and the delivery of an optional oral presentation can have a lasting positive impact on a student’s educational and professional future.


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 graduate classes or an excellent senior thesis can contribute to high honors.