Mathematics at St. Olaf
Practical - Popular - Visible - Active - Useful - Fun
Mathematics is all of those things--and more--at St. Olaf, where the mathematics program is recognized nationally for innovative and effective teaching. Our program was cited as an example of a successful undergraduate mathematics program by the Mathematical Association of America (Models That Work, Case Studies in Effective undergraduate Mathematics Programs) and St. Olaf ranks sixth in the nation as a producer of students who went on to complete Ph.D.'s in the mathematical sciences (Report on Undergraduate Origins of Recent [1991-95] Science and Engineering Doctorate Recipients).
One department, three programs
The St. Olaf Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science houses three programs, described briefly below. Click the links for further information and details.
Students arrange majors in mathematics by individual contracts that include both course work and independent mathematical activity. Contracts normally include seven courses beyond linear algebra, balanced to represent analytic, axiomatic, and applied mathematics. Independent activities include tutoring, attending colloquia, grading papers, computer consulting, internships, and undergraduate research.
This concentration enables students to pursue statistics either as a primary interest or as a supplement to some other major. The statistics concentration - including course work in both theoretical and applied statistics - may be attached to any major. Typically, about 12-15 students complete a statistics concentration each year.
A computer science major was begun recently; the first graduates completed the program in 2005. (A computer science concentration was offered for many years previously.)
Areas of emphasis
Mathematics students choose various areas of emphasis:
- Preparation for Graduate School Advanced courses provide breadth and depth for students intending to pursue graduate degrees in the mathematical sciences. Seminars and independent study provide opportunities for research-like experiences.
- Applied Mathematics Courses offered in applied mathematics include statistics, computer science, differential equations, and optimization. The Mathematics Practicum has student teams working to solve real problems in industry and business.
- Secondary School Teaching Students planning to teach secondary school mathematics complete a standard mathematics major (with certain courses prescribed by state certification requirements). In addition, they take several courses in the Department of Education and devote part of one senior semester to student teaching. In recent years, St. Olaf has averaged 10-12 students each year who receive certification in teaching high school mathematics.
Students and Graduates
- More than 120 upper-class mathematics majors
- 75% of St. Olaf students take calculus
- 8-10% of St. Olaf graduates are mathematics majors
- 45% of St. Olaf Mathematics majors are women
- 50+ students employed as tutors or paper graders
- Daily "Mathematics Clinic" for homework help.
- Opportunities for work as computer assistants and system programmers.
- 30% graduate school: 20% in mathematical science; 10% in other sciences
- 15% professional programs (business, law, medicine, etc.)
- 10% secondary school teaching
- 35% business and industry
- 10% other
- Cray Research
- Peace Corps
- The St. Paul Companies
- CSC Consulting
- Anderson Consulting
- Lutheran Brotherhood
- Target Corporation
- Northwest Airlines
- Best Buy Corporation
- Mayo Clinic
Graduate schools attended by alumni (a sample)
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (mathematics)
- Stanford (statistics, operations research)
- Minnesota (mathematics, computer science)
- Wisconsin (algebra, computer science, topology)
- Illinois (number theory, computer science)
- Clemson (applied mathematics)
- Courant Institute of NYU (applied mathematics)
- Iowa State (applied statistics, computer science)</li>
Doctorates received by alumni in various areas:
- Computer Science
St Olaf has about 20 mathematics faculty; about half are women. Nearly all hold doctorates in the mathematical sciences, and have expertise in areas including the following:
- Advanced Mathematics Computing Lab equipped with computer algebra, statistics and computer graphics software, and dedicated to applications of advanced computing in all upper level mathematics courses
- Computer science lab
- Departmental lab
- One of the nation's largest undergraduate mathematics libraries, with more than 10,000 mathematics books and 80 journals, each with extensive back issues
- Card catalog available from any campus terminal
- Database support for inter-library loans
- St. Olaf has attracted considerable support for its leadership in mathematics education at both college and pre-college levels. Projects supported by the National Science Foundation, the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education and others include: Advanced Computation Laboratory, Computers in Geometry Classrooms, Post-Doctoral Teaching Fellow Program, Teaching with Symbolic Computer Systems, and the Minnesota Mathematics Mobilization.
Weekly presentations by mathematicians, statisticians, employers, alumni, and graduate school faculty on uses of mathematics beyond the classroom.
- Floods, Hot Potatoes, Counting to Infinity and Other Disasters of Network Routing
- Mathematics and the Buckyball
- MythMath: From Bumblebees and Snow to Chaos and Poincare
- Mathematics and Medical Tomographs
During January, two or three teams of five students work for a month on real industrial problems and present their results to scientists and executives of the company that posed the problem.
Recent Practicum topics include:
- Time-Efficient Suturing During Cardiac Surgery
- Estimation of Minimum Freight Car Needs
- Optimal Positioning of Manufacturing Equipment
- Load Factors for Airline Scheduling
- Federal Fairness Test for Benefit Plans
MAA Student Chapter
This organization for mathematics students arranges social and mathematical activities. Past events include a Halloween pumpkin-carving party, a pig roast and the Math-Bowl.
Students compete in annual contests on calculus and other undergraduate mathematics. Prizes, fanfare, and a bronze plaque serve to recognize the winners.
An Opportunity for study abroad in one of the world's leading mathematical centers. St. Olaf has supplied the largest number of students enrolled in this program, which is open to all North American students of mathematics or computer science.
St. Olaf is a test center for the Preliminary Actuarial Examinations. Regular review sessions are held during the spring term.
This lively weekly publication of fact, opinion, news, jokes, and misinformation keeps students and faculty informed of happenings in the Mathematics Department.
Members of the St. Olaf mathematics faculty not only keep up in their field, but also help lead collegiate mathematics through active research and writing. The professional record of St. Olaf mathematics faculty includes service in many capacities:
- More than ten books, including: Counterexamples in Topology, Problem Solving Through Problems, Mathematics Today, Calculus for a New Century, A Course in Modern Geometries, The Wohascum County Problems Book, and Calculus from Graphical, Numerical, and Symbolic Points of View
- Dozens of research papers in mathematics journals
- Four national awards for expository writing
- Over 10,000 Telegraphic Reviews for the American Mathematical Monthly
- Numerous articles on mathematics and mathematics education in such publications as Science, Scientific American, Education Week, Encyclopedia Britannica, and The Chronicle of Higher Education
- Co-Director, Minnesota Mathematics Mobilization
- President of the Mathematical Association of America
- Editors-in-chief, problems editors, notes editor, and book reviews editors of the American Mathematical Monthly, Mathematics Magazine, and the Real Analysis Exchange
- Associate Director of the William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition
- President of the Minnesota Council of Teachers of Mathematics (MCTM)
- Chair of the North Central Section of the Mathematical Association of America
- Chairs of the New Mathematical Library Editorial Committee and the MAA Committee on the Undergraduate Program in Mathematics (CUPM)
- North American Director of the Budapest Semester in Mathematics
- Members of numerous committees and councils of the Mathematical Association of America and the American Mathematical Society
- Chair of the Council of Scientific Society Presidents (CSSP) and the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences (CBMS) and the Mathematical Sciences Education Board (MSEB)
- Lectures, research, seminars, and teaching in many countries, including Thailand, France, Switzerland, China, Sweden, Hungary, Italy, Crete, Germany, Mexico, Japan, Australia, Russia, Poland, Austria, and Czechoslovakia