Mathematics bridges the humanities and the sciences. Its position among the humanities is based on the study of mathematics as one of the liberal arts for more than two thousand years. Of course, the natural sciences have invariably turned to mathematics for techniques needed to explore the consequences of scientific theories. Moreover, in the last few decades social scientists have increasingly found higher mathematics of value in their training and research. Still an expanding subject, mathematics offers more new and challenging frontiers than at any time in its long history—with many new fields requiring new techniques and ideas for exploration.
There are many reasons why students will take math classes, and the Department of Mathematics aims to meet all these reasons by offering a wide variety of courses at many different levels.
Precalculus & Calculus
The most commonly taken Math courses are precalculus (algebra and/or trigonometry) and some form of calculus. For information about these courses, the order in which they should be taken, and placement, see the placement pages.
If you find yourself in need of help in your math courses, please see our list of tutoring and learning support resources.
If you are looking for an extra challenge in calculus you should consider either the WES-Calculus sections for MATH 221/222/234, or the Honors courses MATH 275/276 and 375/376.
Majoring in Math & the Math Certificate
How do I become a math major?
Students may declare the math major while within any school or college, and are able to pick from our “standard” math major or from a number of “named options”, which allow a major to focus on those topics in mathematics which have a strong relationship to another area of study. Information on math major program options, declaration, and advising can be found here. Students with an interest in the math major are encouraged to review the information and connect with an advisor to determine appropriate coursework moving forward.
The math major also hosts an “Honors in the Major” program. See the math Honors page for more information.
What’s the alternative to a full math major?
Students who are looking for a flexible program to establish a set of mathematical tools without wanting to take on a full major should consider our certificate program.
What can I do with a math major?
A major in mathematics prepares students for a number of careers in a wide variety of fields. We Use Math and the American Mathematical Society (AMS) both provide some examples of careers that students can pursue with a math major.
For students that are interested in seeing how their undergraduate experience can shape their career, there are a number of career services offered at UW-Madison tailored specifically to provide career advising and support to undergraduate students. Some career centers are specific to a particular school, college, or department, while others are for broader populations or specified to particular fields. For example, a math major in the College of Letters & Science may consider connecting with SuccessWorks for some career advising and resources, while a math major in the College of Engineering may instead consider Engineering Career Services.
Students interested in career opportunities are also encouraged to use Handshake.
Applied Mathematics, Engineering, and Physics (AMEP)
Students that have an interest in engineering and/or physics should consider the Applied Math, Engineering, and Physics (AMEP) program, which is an alternative to the regular math major.