Courses & Requirements

IMPORTANT NOTE

The requirements below apply to those students with a 2022-2023 catalog year. Students are required by college policy to follow the major (and minor) requirements found in the catalog in effect at the time they declared their first major. To find your catalog year, please visit your Grades and Academic Records found in myOxy and access the catalog that matches your catalog year.

Mathematics

Overview

Mathematics, encompassing several of the original liberal arts, is valued for its exquisite intellectual beauty and its timeless exploration of all things spatial, quantitative and patterned through the lens of rigorous abstraction. As a vibrant modern science, it possesses an unparalleled analytical power for describing, detailing and deriving insight into numerous physical, biological, technological, economic and societal aspects of the world we all live in. The Mathematics department is committed to engaging a diverse range of students in the active study and creative application of the principles, ideas, and methods that characterize mathematics and the mathematical sciences, and offering preparation toward a wide variety of careers and educational pursuits.

Upon graduation, some mathematics majors go on to graduate or professional school while others begin careers in teaching, business, industry, or government. The major can be structured to provide a solid foundation in the mathematical sciences-pure and applied mathematics, statistics, and operations research-and fields close to mathematics like computer science, actuarial science, and engineering. A major or minor in mathematics can also provide an excellent technical and theoretical complement to a major or minor in other fields.

Requirements

Major

The minimum requirements for the major outlined below allow a student great flexibility in designing a course of study to meet their own intellectual and career goals.

Fundamental courses

Calculus 1

4 units

Calculus 2

4 units

 

MATH 210Discrete Mathematics

4 units

Or

MATH 211Discrete Mathematics Through Cryptography

4 units

 

MATH 212Multivariable Calculus

4 units

MATH 214Linear Algebra

4 units

Any student who places out of a Calculus 1 or Calculus 2 class satisfies the corresponding requirement for the Math Major.

Students must receive a grade of C or above in each of MATH 210 or MATH 211, MATH 212, and MATH 214 in order to graduate with a Mathematics major. If a student does not receive a grade of C or higher, the department chair will support a Petition for Special Consideration requesting to repeat the course. Only the most recent grade will count towards satisfying the 200-level requirement.

At least two of the required 200-level Mathematics courses (MATH 210 or MATH 211, MATH 212 and MATH 214) must be taken at Occidental College except by approval of the chair. Exceptions must be filed by submitting a Petition for Special Consideration.

Advanced Courses

All students must complete either MATH 310 or MATH 320, and twenty additional units of Mathematics courses numbered 310 or above (excluding courses being used to satisfy the Comprehensive Requirement).  MATH 397 may be used to meet this requirement.

Colloquium Requirement

MATH 300Junior Colloquium

2 units

Breadth requirement

Students must take one course from the following approved list of courses (students can petition the department to have a course not on the list count for the breadth requirement): 

CHEM 355Bioinformatics

2 units

COMP 131Fundamentals of Computer Science

4 units

COMP 229Data Structures

4 units

COMP 347Machine Learning

4 units

ECON 272Applied Econometrics

4 units

ECON 305Game Theory

4 units

ECON 306Advanced Econometrics

4 units

PHIL 350/MATH 350Metalogic

4 units

PHYS 110Introductory Mechanics

4 units

PHYS 115General Physics I

4 units

PHYS 117Waves and Thermal Physics

4 units

PHYS 230Introductory Electricity and Magnetism

4 units

PHYS 240Foundations of Modern Physics

4 units

PHYS 261Simulations in Physics

4 units

PHYS 310Mathematical Methods in Physics

4 units

PHYS 320Analytical Dynamics

4 units

PHYS 350Statistical Physics

4 units

The Mathematics department has prepared guidelines for majors considering future study or careers in pure and applied mathematics, education, actuarial science, and computer science. These guidelines are available in the Students section on our website.

Honors in the Major

Students who wish to be considered for honors in Mathematics should have a grade point average of at least at a 3.5 in the fundamental courses. Honors students must also complete three approved upper-division courses beyond those required for the major by the end of their senior year (for a total of 36 units). Honors students must obtain signed approval from a mentor by the end of the junior year, and must enroll in MATH 499 for the fall semester of senior year. For  Honors students, MATH 499 is substituted for MATH 400 in satisfying the major requirements. To receive honors, a student must write a paper as well as give a talk to the department on the topic of the paper.  The paper, which typically will be 20 pages long, is graded by the mentor along with a second reader; the entire department evaluates the talk, which is typically at least 30 minutes long.  The paper and talk must both be completed no later than April 1 of the Honors candidate's senior year.  Consult the Mathematics Department for additional details.

Minor

The minor in Mathematics requires at least 20 units of Mathematics courses numbered 150 or above, taken at Occidental or through college transfer credit.  Students must take at least one 4-unit course at the 300 level. Students are required to take at least 8 of the 20 units at Occidental College. 

Students must select at least three courses from the list below:

MATH 150Statistical Data Analysis

4 units

MATH 210Discrete Mathematics

4 units

MATH 212Multivariable Calculus

4 units

MATH 214Linear Algebra

4 units

Second-Stage Writing Proficiency

Students majoring in Mathematics should familiarize themselves with this requirement at the time of declaring the major. The Second-Stage Writing Requirement is addressed in MATH 300. Students not taking MATH 300(e.g., study abroad students) may petition to satisfy the writing requirement at a different time. 

Students satisfy the Second-Stage Writing Requirement in Mathematics by creating and submitting a portfolio of papers on mathematical topics in MATH 300 that is evaluated by the Instructor as earning a letter grade of C or higher.

Students that fail to satisfy the Second-Stage Writing Requirement in Mathematics in MATH 300 have to submit a portfolio to the department chair before the start of the Senior year that is evaluated as earning a letter grade of C or higher.

Comprehensive Requirement

The comprehensive requirement in Mathematics has two parts. 

The first part is the successful completion of MATH 300: Junior Colloquium.  The second part requires successful completion for a letter grade for a total of four units in one or more of the following:

MATH 395 (Special Topics in Advanced Mathematics) 

MATH 400 (Senior Seminar) 

MATH 497 (Independent Study) 

MATH 499 (Honors Senior Seminar)

A student wishing to complete the senior comprehensive requirements through MATH 497 or MATH 499 must find a faculty member in the Mathematics Department willing to supervise the independent study/honors thesis. 

A student who successfully completes both parts of the Comprehensive requirement will receive a grade of P. 

Further information is available from the department.

Advising Information

The Mathematics major requires all students to complete Calculus I (MATH 110 or MATH 114) and Calculus II (MATH 120 or MATH 128). Students who have already completed Calculus 1 or Calculus 2 (see Placement Information below) should proceed to courses in the fundamental sequence: MATH 210: Discrete Mathematics, MATH 212: Multivariable Calculus, and MATH 214: Linear Algebra.

Placement Information

Most students who are interested in majoring in Mathematics should take the Calculus Placement Assessment (ALEKS) during the summer prior to their first year. You do not need to take the Calculus Placement Assessment if any of the following are true:

  • You received a score of 4 or 5 on either the AP Calculus AB or BC exam;
  • You received an IB Calculus HL score of 5 or above;

  • You have already taken a Calculus 1 course at another accredited college or university.  

An AP Calculus AB score of 4 or 5, or an IB Calculus HL score of 5 or above, fulfills the major’s Calculus 1 requirement. An AP Calculus BC score of 4 or 5 fulfills the Calculus 2 requirement. Students should make sure that their official score reports are sent to the Registrar’s Office for processing. 

Sample 4-Year Plan


Fall

Spring

Year 1

  • Fall FYS course

  • Calculus 1 (CPMS)

  • Foreign Language

  • General Elective (4 units)

  • Spring FYS course

  • Calculus 2 (CPMS)

  • Core Requirement (4 units)

  • Core Requirement (4 units)

Year 2

Year 3

Year 4

  • MATH 400

  • Advanced MATH Course

  • Advanced MATH Course

  • General Elective

  • MATH 400

  • Advanced MATH Course

  • General Elective

  • General Elective


Mathematics Placement

Calculus

Placement in calculus courses (MATH 108, MATH 110, MATH 114, or MATH 128) is determined based on previous mathematical experience, advising, and the results of the Calculus Placement Exam. The Calculus Placement Exam is administered online prior to the beginning of Fall Semester. 

Students with qualifying scores on the Advanced Placement or IB Examination in Calculus are most often placed in calculus courses as follows:

Calculus AP Exam Score Which Math course to take
BC 4 or 5 MATH 150, MATH 210, MATH 212, or MATH 214.
AB 4 or 5
MATH 120 or MATH 128 (after consultation with Math Dept)
AB or BC 3 or less
Take Calculus Placement Exam
IB Exam Score
Which Math course to take*
IB HL 6 or 7 MATH 150, MATH 210, MATH 212, or MATH 214
IB HL 5 MATH 114 or MATH 120 or MATH 128
IB HL 4 MATH 110 or MATH 114
IB HL 3 or less Take Calculus Placement Exam
IB SL (any score)
Take Calculus Placement Exam

In addition to the calculus courses, MATH 105, MATH 150, MATH 160, MATH 210, MATH 212, MATH 214, COMP 131, and COMP 146 may be taken by first-year students meeting the prerequisites.

Students with transfer credits should confer with the Department for advice on placement in an appropriate mathematics course.

*Students with IB Exam scores will be required to contact the instructor of the course for prerequisite override in order to register.

Mathematics Courses

Calculus is a prerequisite for all mathematics courses with the exceptions of MATH 105 and most Computer Science courses. All students planning to take Calculus must take the online Calculus Placement Exam prior to the beginning of the Fall Semester unless they are exempt due to having received an Advanced Placement exam score. (See Calculus Placement above or contact the Mathematics Department for further details.) Prerequisites for any course may be waived with permission of the instructor.

Transfer Credit Policies

The Mathematics Department may accept online courses in transfer, both as general elective credit and as credit toward the major or minor. 

Students who earned a score of 4 or 5 on the AP Calculus AB examination will earn four units of credit and will be considered to have completed the equivalent of MATH 110 (Calculus 1). Students who earned a score of 4 or 5 on the AP Calculus BC examination will earn four units of credit and will be considered to have completed the equivalent of MATH 120 (Calculus 2). Students who earned a score of 6 or 7 on the (higher level) IB examination or a grade of A or B on the A-level examination will earn four units of credit and will be considered to have completed the equivalent of both MATH 110 (Calculus 1) and MATH 120 (Calculus 2).

Students matriculating as frosh must take at least two of the required 200-level Mathematics courses (MATH 210, MATH 212 and MATH 214) at Occidental College except by approval of the chair.

Students transferring from another institution may transfer the 200-level Mathematics sequence (MATH 210, MATH 212, MATH 214) with approval from the department chair.

A student may apply no more than eight units of 300-level credit in transfer toward the major, except by permission of the chair.

Students should reference the Transfer Credit section for more details.

Courses

Mathematics Courses