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Mathematics at St. Olaf

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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.


[edit] 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.
  • Double Majoring Many students combine mathematics with another major or concentration. Doubling with majors in the sciences and economics is especially common, as is combining mathematics with a statistics concentration. We also graduate a fair number of students who major in religion, philosophy, art, English, theatre, etc. as well as mathematics.



[edit] Students and Graduates

  • About 60 mathematics majors graduate each year (79 in 2010!)
  • 8-10% of St. Olaf graduates are mathematics majors
  • One third of St. Olaf Mathematics majors are women
  • 50+ students employed as tutors, clinic workers, or paper graders
  • Daily "Mathematics Clinic" for homework help.
  • 75% of St. Olaf students take a course in MSCS
  • 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



[edit] Employment

  • Cray Research
  • IBM
  • Peace Corps
  • Unisys
  • Travelers
  • CSC Consulting
  • Accenture
  • Thrivent Financial for Lutherans
  • Target Corporation
  • Northwest Airlines
  • Best Buy Corporation
  • Mayo Clinic
  • US Bank
  • General Mills



[edit] Graduate schools in the mathematical sciences attended by alumni (a sample)

  • University of Minnesota
  • University of Wisconsin
  • University of Illinois
  • Clemson University
  • Iowa State University
  • University of Iowa
  • University of Nebraska
  • Northwestern University
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Colorado
  • University of North Carolina
  • Rice University
  • Brandeis University



[edit] Doctorates received by alumni in various areas:

  • Mathematics
  • Statistics
  • Physics
  • Theology
  • Economics
  • Law
  • Medicine
  • Computer Science



[edit] Resources


[edit] Faculty

The Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science has more than 20 faculty members, most of whom teach full or part-time in mathematics. All hold doctorates in the mathematical sciences, and have expertise in areas including the following:

  • Algebra
  • Graph Theory
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Logic
  • Combinatorics
  • Mathematical Physics
  • Real Analysis
  • Complex Analysis
  • Mathematics Education
  • Computer Science
  • Number Theory
  • Mathematical Biology
  • Operations Research
  • Differential Equations
  • Probability
  • Dynamical Systems
  • Statistics
  • Mathematical exposition
  • Symbolic Computation
  • Functional Analysis
  • Topology
  • Geometry


[edit] Computer Facilities

  • The Advanced Mathematics Computing Lab is equipped with modern mathematics and statistics software.
  • All classrooms are equipped with computing resources for the professor, and several are fully equipped for students too.
  • The Computer Science program has separate facilities with extraordinary computing power, including a Beowulf cluster.


[edit] Library Resources

  • One of the nation's largest undergraduate mathematics libraries, with more than 10,000 mathematics books and 80 journals, each with extensive back issues.
  • Access to several online services, including JSTOR
  • Easy access to the Carleton College libraries and others via Interlibrary Loan.

[edit] Grant Support

  • Over the years St. Olaf has attracted considerable support for its leadership in mathematical sciences education. Recent grant activity includes:
    • NSF S-STEM (Richey)
    • NSF funded International Research Scholars (Humke and Hanson)


[edit] Special Opportunities


[edit] Colloquium Series

Weekly presentations by mathematicians, statisticians, computer scientists, employers, alumni, and graduate school faculty on MSCS topics beyond the classroom.


[edit] Mathematics Practicum

During January, 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.

[edit] 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

[edit] 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.

[edit] Mathematical Contests

Students compete in annual contests on calculus and other undergraduate mathematics. Prizes, fanfare, and a bronze plaque serve to recognize the winners.

[edit] Budapest Semester

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.


[edit] Math Mess

This lively weekly publication of fact, opinion, news, jokes, and misinformation keeps students and faculty informed of happenings in the Mathematics Department.

[edit] National Leadership


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, Calculus from Graphical, Numerical, and Symbolic Points of View, and "Understanding Real Analysis"
  • Dozens of research papers in mathematics journals
  • Four national awards for expository writing
  • 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, New Zealand, Russia, Poland, Austria, and Czechoslovakia