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Good College for Math Major?

tokenadulttokenadult Registered User Posts: 17,471 Senior Member
edited February 2005 in College Search & Selection
Hi, everyone,

What would you recommend as a good college for majoring in mathematics as an undergrad? What makes a strong math program for someone interested in pure mathematics? Is there any undergrad math program that is especially good for getting into a top graduate school in math?

Thanks for any information or opinions you have.
Post edited by tokenadult on
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Replies to: Good College for Math Major?

  • neobezneobez Registered User Posts: 801 Member
    I have been told Chicago and Princeton are tops (apparently there are only like 20 math majors at princeton from what I have heard), but I am not an expert by any means.
  • warblersrulewarblersrule Super Moderator Posts: 9,999 Super Moderator
    Columbia has a good math program as well, and it has a good record of placing students into top graduate programs. Here's a good resource:

    http://e-math.ams.org/employment/undergrad.html#gradschool
  • tokenadulttokenadult Registered User Posts: 17,471 Senior Member
    neobez wrote, "I have been told Chicago and Princeton are tops (apparently there are only like 20 math majors at princeton from what I have heard)."

    That's an interesting idea. I have no clue what a typical number of math majors is at a university. Chicago and Princeton both have smaller entering classes than the huge state university I attended (at which I took no math courses at all), but I don't have any idea how many math majors graduate from any particular college.
  • tokenadulttokenadult Registered User Posts: 17,471 Senior Member
    warblersrule86 wrote, "Columbia has a good math program as well."

    Speaking just of schools in New York City, how do you think majoring in math at Columbia would compare to majoring in math at NYU?
  • warblersrulewarblersrule Super Moderator Posts: 9,999 Super Moderator
    NYU has a slightly better program, but both programs are excellent. Both programs offer good pure and applied math programs, although Columbia is a little more focused on applied math.
  • carolyncarolyn Registered User Posts: 7,435 Senior Member
    St. Olaf in Minnesota has an excellent math program. Actually one of the top producers of math PHd's if I recall correctly.
  • mackinawmackinaw Registered User Posts: 2,950 Senior Member
    Reed has long had an excellent math department, with extremely high PhD productivity in that field (even higher than Chicago and Princeton). Also, Williams is a good place for math.
  • tokenadulttokenadult Registered User Posts: 17,471 Senior Member
    Carolyn wrote, "St. Olaf in Minnesota has an excellent math program. Actually one of the top producers of math PHd's if I recall correctly."

    You do do a lot of looking up about colleges around the country. Thanks for mentioning my dad's (and his mom's) alma mater. Interestingly, I never think of any of my children going to St. Olaf, maybe because I figure two generations of our family going there is enough. (I didn't go there because it didn't offer the major I desired to pursue.) But St. Olaf appears to be the real deal in math. I have two undergraduate textbooks in math at home, published by major publishers, each of which is written by a St. Olaf professor. I think it is correct that St. Olaf is one of the top LACs for producing math majors who go on to strong graduate programs and gain Ph.D.s in math. According to all that I know, St. Olaf has a very credible undergraduate math program.

    As a parent, what do you think of the general issue of the nearby, good LAC versus the far-away, good LAC? I guess, many other things being equal, if I thought one of my kids had a passion for a subject best studied at an LAC, I'd probably encourage the kid to go to a far-away LAC, inasmuch as any LAC tends to be more expensive than, say, good-old State U. (Maybe I wouldn't feel that way, really, as my kids are still too young to pose the issue.) I recall you have researched colleges near and far for your kids--does distance at such seem like a selection factor to you or to your child?
  • tokenadulttokenadult Registered User Posts: 17,471 Senior Member
    mackinaw wrote, "Reed has long had an excellent math department, with extremely high PhD productivity in that field (even higher than Chicago and Princeton)."

    Thanks for the suggestion. I love the region of the country that Reed is in, but haven't heard much about the school.

    Here is a summary of suggestions so far. I'm not implying any rank-ordering, but just listing names in the order they were posted to this thread.

    Universities

    Chicago
    Princeton
    Columbia
    NYU

    Liberal Arts Colleges

    St. Olaf (MN)
    Reed (OR)
    Williams (MA)

    Now, referring to "fit," and NOT to "ranking," are there other schools in either of those categories that would appeal to the prospective math major? Among the schools named in the thread, what cultural differences are there among the math departments?
  • carolyncarolyn Registered User Posts: 7,435 Senior Member
    does distance at such seem like a selection factor to you or to your child?>>

    Tolken - Interesting question - and timely as my daughter and I were just discussing this last night.

    For my daughter, it is not so much about specific programs - she is interested in history as a possible major and there are many, many schools with strong history programs. She does, however, have very specific ideas about other aspects she is looking for in a college - no bigger than 3,000 students, ideally about 1500-1800, laid back and quirky student body, school sponsored study abroad programs, ability for non-majors to take art classes, and a few other things that are exclusive to her.

    Unfortunately, we have not been able to find a college here in Calif. that (1) fits her stated desires and (2) fits her probable stats. So, yes we are looking at schools across the country. She has a list of about 10 schools that intrigue her and I expect that any of the schools on that list would fit what she is looking for AND provide an excellent education (even if she ends up majoring in something else) --- but last night she did admit to me that, all things being equal, she'd probably choose a college closer to home. Of the ones on her current list, that would still mean a two to three hour plane flight.

    I've thought about this alot and have decided that going out of state would be a very good experience for her. She's always been a bit of a homebody and needs to be pushed to be independent. If she is not able to come home every weekend or even very often, I think she will grow in many ways. But, if she came to me and said she wanted to go to school an hour a way, I would support that as well as long as I felt she was choosing the school because it was the right one for her, not just because it is close to home.
  • carolyncarolyn Registered User Posts: 7,435 Senior Member
    Tokenadult - Here are some schools that Rugg's Recommendations of Colleges also has in its lists of schools with strong math programs.

    Most selective:
    Bates
    Boston U
    Bowdoin
    Brandeis
    Bucknell
    UCBerkeley
    UCLA
    UC San Diego
    Cal Tech
    Carleton
    Case Western Reserve
    U of Chicago
    Colgate
    Columbia
    Dartmouth
    Davidson
    Dicinson
    Duke
    GA Tech
    Harvey Mudd
    Harvard
    Kenyon
    U Mich
    MIT
    NYU
    Northwestern
    Oberlin
    OIccidental
    U of Pennsylvania
    Pomona
    Princeton
    Reed
    RPI
    Rice
    Rose-Hulman
    Stanford
    St. Mary's College of Maryland
    St. Olaf
    Trinity (CT)
    Tulane
    Union
    Villanova
    Wake Forest
    Washington & Lee
    WUSTL
    Whitman
    Wesleayn
    Willamette
    U of Wisconsin
    Vassar
    Yale

    Very selective
    Arizona State
    Birmingham Southern
    UC Irvine
    College of Chaleston
    U of Colorado
    DeOal
    Earlham
    Fairfield
    Hendrix
    U of Illinois
    Knox
    Michigan State
    Muhlenberg
    U of Oregon
    SUNY Pottsdam
    SUNY Binghamton
    USC
    Stetson
    Valparaiso
    College of Wooster

    And, as for your questions about what makes a good math program, you may want to ask Marite on the parents board this question - she seems to have a good handle on this because of her son.
  • tokenadulttokenadult Registered User Posts: 17,471 Senior Member
    Carolyn, thank you for your replies. Good luck to your daughter in her college search. I have no idea what my son, and then his brothers and sister, will develop as criteria for choosing a college. A man who teaches him math by distance-learning says that his mother told him he had to go at least 500 miles from home for college, which is something my wife would never say to our son. We live about an hour drive away from St. Olaf.

    Thanks for the reminder that the Ruggs Recommendations book has lists by major. I have used earlier editions of its "darn good schools" list as one basis for a Web page I keep on college ratings. I'm not at all up to date about what is a good math college, which is why I asked and appreciate your replies.

    Marite and I "met" on an email list about math education reform. She noticed our previous acquaintance here sooner than I did--she and I both used different screen names over on Brand X.

    Have a happy New Year.
  • needhelp06needhelp06 Registered User Posts: 337 Member
    i think caltech is number one for math IMO.
  • flopsyflopsy Registered User Posts: 8,368 Senior Member
    1. MIT
    2. Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Berkeley
    6. Chicago
    7. Yale
    8. Caltech, Michigan
    10. Cornell, NYU, UCLA
    13. Columbia, UW-Madison
    15. UT-Austin
    16. Rutgers, UIUC, Maryland, Minnesota, UPenn
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