Completing the requirements for a bachelor's degree in math can be a rewarding challenge that will prepare you for a career as a math teacher, as a researcher or mathematician or for further work in graduate school. Unlike some degrees, though, math is generally a major that you have to apply for, and you'll have to already have a strong math background to excel at this challenging degree.
High School Preparation
Ideally, you should begin preparing for your college math career in high school. Start by mastering basic algebra and geometry, and be sure to get help if there's anything you don't understand. These courses provide the fundamental framework for more challenging classes. After you've completed these courses, continue your math education with courses such as physics, calculus and statistics. Taking Advanced Placement classes can help you get experience with the rigors of college math and may also make you a more attractive math program candidate.
Many college majors don't require any specialized skills for incoming students -- instead, students learn disciplinary-specific skills as part of their major classes. But because math builds upon itself, there's not enough time to teach students who don't understand basic mathematical principles. Consequently, many schools require that students apply to the math major after enrolling. For example, at Cornell University, students contemplating a math major must take multivariable calculus and linear algebra at the university. Upon successful completion of these courses, they can apply for admission to the math program.
A math major is designed to provide you with a broad overview of basic mathematical principles while giving you the framework you'll need if you choose to pursue graduate school. You'll take courses such as Calculus I and II, Real Analysis, Linear Algebra, Foundations of Mathematics, Differential Equations, Applied Statistics and Numerical Analysis. Depending on your school, you might also have the option to do an independent study or senior seminar.
Balancing Your Schedule
"The New York Times" reported in 2011 that grades can be a major deterrent to pursuing a degree in mathematics. For example, Professor Kevin Rask of Wake Forest University found that math and science classes yielded the lowest grades on campus, with math classes averaging grades of 2.9 out of four. You may want to structure your schedule such that you're taking only one or two challenging math classes per semester. Taking an additional year to graduate or taking summer classes can also help you maintain your grades.
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