William and Mary

Majoring in Mathematics

The Mathematics Department offers three concentrations within the major:

Study options include applied and pure mathematics, operations research, and statistics. Students planning to major in Mathematics  should discuss these various options with their advisor and map out a course of studies that will meet their objectives.

Each of the concentrations has specific requirements. In addition, all Mathematics majors must complete the Major Writing and Major Computing requirements described below.

 Major Writing Requirement

A student in any Mathematics major concentration normally satisfies the upper-division mathematics writing requirement in one of the following ways:

  1. completion of Math 300 with a grade of C- or better;
  2. completion of Math 495-6 with a grade of C- or better;
  3. submission of a paper on a mathematical topic that is judged by the department chair to show appropriate study of some advanced mathematical topic. For example, students who participate in the summer REU programs in mathematical sciences here or elsewhere often complete the upper-division writing requirement in this way, and papers written for upper-division mathematics courses here may also be suitable.
Major Computing Requirement

All mathematics majors are expected to be proficient in computer programming at the level of CS 141, but that course is only an introduction to computing. Today, students who plan to apply mathematics after a bachelors or masters degree, or who plan to teach after completing doctoral study, need more. In addition to programming languages such as Java, C, C++, or Fortran, the ability to use major mathematical software packages such as Maple or Mathematica, familiarity with technical word processors such as Tex or Latex, and experience with different computer operating systems (e.g., Windows and Unix) are important for all mathematics students today. In addition, considerable programming experience developed in connection with formal computer science training is almost sure to be needed by mathematics students who pursue industry or government careers after their bachelor’s degrees.

Modern computing is much more than an employment credential for mathematicians. In recent years, significant intellectual interactions have developed between computing and mathematics at the research level. On the one hand, computers and software have now become powerful enough that they are used in almost all applications of mathematics and allow mathematicians to solve problems that were heretofore too complicated to attack. On the other hand, the special needs of computing are helping to shape research developments in mathematics. Examples include numerical linear algebra algorithms and methods for the numerical approximation of solutions of differential equations. Computational mathematics underlies a vast array of the tools used in modern engineering and science.