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 consistently ranks as a top producer of students who go on to complete Ph.D.'s in the mathematical sciences.
Areas of emphasis
The mathematics major does not have different tracks, but by designing an Individualized Mathematics Program (IMaP) with the help of a mathematics faculty member, students can complete their majors in a variety of ways. Here are some popular area of emphasis:
- Pure Mathematics Students intending to earn higher degrees in theoretical mathematics should take a broad range of 200-level courses and as many 300-level courses as possible. At the 200-level, the "transition" courses Real Analysis I (Math 244) and Abstract Algebra I (Math 252) are a must. A variety of courses with different perspectives will provide excellent breadth of knowledge. Advanced courses in Real Analysis II (Math 344) and Abstract Algebra II (Math 352) are also a must. Courses in Topology (Math 348), Combinatorics (Math 364), and Complex Analysis (Math 340) are highly recommended. Students should be alert to special topics courses and independent study & research opportunities. More and more graduate programs expect their successful applicants to have had an undergraduate research experience. Students should strive to achieve good scores on the general and mathematics GRE exams.
- Applied Mathematics Students intending to earn higher degrees in applied mathematics should take a broad range of 100- and 200-level courses in mathematics, statistics, computer science and other fields, and as many 300-level courses as possible. At the 200-level, mathematics courses such as Multivariable Calculus (Math 226), Differential Equations (Math 230), Real Analysis I (Math 244), Modern Computational Mathematics (Math 242), Probability (Math 262), and Operations Research (Math 266) teach material that is used in a wide variety of applications to the biological, physical, and social sciences. Advanced mathematics courses in Differential Equations II (Math 330), Complex Analysis (Math 340), Real Analysis II (Math 344), and Mathematics Practicum (Math 390) are highly recommended. Students should be alert to special topics courses and independent study & research opportunities. More and more graduate programs expect their successful applicants to have had an undergraduate research experience. Students should strive to achieve good scores on the general and mathematics GRE exams.
- 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.
- General Mathematics Major Many mathematics majors do not enter graduate school, law school, business school, or medical school right away or even at all. For those students a broad and deep mathematics major can serve them well in a variety of settings: business, technology, the non-profit sector, consulting, actuarial work, etc. Search the alumni directory for mathematics majors and see the kind of professions Oles have entered.
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