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Liberal Arts Colleges with mathematics major


Replies to: Liberal Arts Colleges with mathematics major

  • carolyncarolyn Registered User Posts: 7,435 Senior Member
    One other thing the original poster may want to consider is whether his/her interests and career goals in math run towards more theoretical mathematics or applied mathematics. This may be a consideration particularly with liberal arts colleges where there is not as large a faculty as at a university. As a result, some liberal arts colleges (not all) tend to focus their math department more on one or the other. While you'll likely find course offerings in both areas at most schools, the depth (i.e., advanced course availability) in one area is sometimes deeper in one area over the other in a small department such as is typical with LACs. So, I'd encourage the poster to think about his/her interests and goals, and ask questions of the departments of any colleges being considered. For some background on the differences, and what it might mean to future study in mathematics, see: Mathematicians

    This is also another very helpful site in terms of developing a list of questions to ask as you compare departments: The Sloan Career Cornerstone Center
  • qwerty5qwerty5 User Awaiting Email Confirmation Posts: 8 New Member
    I am not sure what kind of mathematics I want to study. I am leaning towards theoretical as of now, but I think it is too early to tell. I like all math, but I have always enjoyed the more "visual" topics the most. For example, I enjoyed vector calculus more than differential equations and I liked geometry more than algebra. To me this sounds like I would be more interested in theoretical math, but I am not familiar with the differences. I enjoy proofs. When I took the courses, differential equations seemed more "applied" than vector calc (although I remember some electricity and magnetism applications).

    In short, I am not familiar with any mathematics beyond the lower-division courses (through linear algebra with an introduction to proofs) I have taken. I don't know what I will specialize in later, but my hunch is theoretical math. I want to go to a school that offers both, however.
  • interesteddadinteresteddad Registered User Posts: 24,177 Senior Member

    Running out of courses is a legitimate issue at small LACs. However, the flip side of the coin is that the top LACs are structured to encourage "directed study" (which is a private tutorial course with you and a professor) or seminar study (prof and a few students) that often pick an advanced topic of interest, such as a new research paper in the field. These can obviously be very advanced. For example, Swarthmore's entire Honors Program is designed around special double-credit seminars in these kinds of topics. Honors designations and grades are based on a week of oral and written exams given by a panel of outside visiting experts in your three areas of preparation. I have never heard of Swarthmore Honors Program students feeling insufficiently challenged. Here's a link to the Math Honors program along with some sample written Honors exams if you want to test your meddle:

    Honors Program
    Academic Program of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Swarthmore College

    Course Listing
    Academic Program of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Swarthmore College

    Your best bet, if you are a student with atypical preparation in a field, is to sit down with the chairman of the math dept at each school you are considering and hear how a program can be tailored to meet your needs.
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