Choosing a Mathematics Program

The question "What should I study at University?" is a difficult one for most students. You may be fortunate enough to have developed a passion and ability for mathematics, and are sure this is what you want to study. On the other hand you may enjoy math and have a knack for it, but not be convinced that pursuing an education in mathematics or statistics is for you.

Most prospective students don't realize that there are a wide range of options available when considering mathematics. There are degrees offered through the faculties of Arts and Management, as well as Science. There are a number of different programs offered in the three faculties to suit almost any level of interest in mathematics or statistics including minor programs, faculty programs, majors programs, and honours programs. There are also joint majors and honours programs available through the faculties of Arts and Science allowing you to combine a degree in mathematics with a degree in computer science, physics, or even philosophy to name a few.

If you are not sure which type of degree or program would best match your interests you should look over the following general descriptions and then look in more detail at which programs and options are available through the different faculties.
 

Choosing a Degree:

Honours: The ideal background for graduate study in a mathematical discipline is provided by one of the honours programs. These programs provide the rigorous training and the theoretical foundations on which serious research can be based. The honours courses are taught at a level appropriate to the most mathematically talented and dedicated of our undergraduate students. Honours programs demand that the student maintain a GPA above 3.0.

Majors: The majors programs provide a very solid foundation in Mathematics. The major program does not cut you off from the possibility of graduate study but does not provide the same ``fast track'' that the honours program does. On the other hand, the majors program lends itself to more flexibility in course selection allowing the student to sample a wider variety of disciplines. The decision on whether to go into a majors or honours program can be made after the first semester at McGill, since honours and major students start off in the same introductory courses.

Liberal Science Programs: The main function of the Liberal Science programs is to provide opportunities for interdisciplinary study within relatively light programs, which allow for many outside electives. In these programs you take a Science Core Concentration and the additional credits make up a breadth component.

Minor Programs: If you see mathematics more as a secondary area in which you are interested, a minor program may be a good choice. Minor programs allow you to develop a certain expertise in mathematics without committing yourself too deeply. On successful completion of the program, the minor program designation appears on your degree and employers will recognize it is as an additional qualification.
 

Choosing a Faculty and Program:

The following faculties offer programs in Mathematics and the programs they offer are quite different. Students are accepted at McGill into a certain faculty, but it is sometimes possible to switch to a different faculty. Take stock of the different entrance requirements that each faculty imposes.

Programs in the Faculty of Science:

The Department of Mathematics and Statistics offers a full range of courses through the Faculty of Science.

Honours in Mathematics (60 credits). Typically this program provides the necessary grounding for graduate studies in Pure Mathematics.

Honours in Applied Mathematics (68 credits). Typically this program provides the necessary grounding for graduate studies in Applied Mathematics or related fields. The program includes 12 credits of extra-mural courses in a field related to Applied Mathematics.

Honours in Probability and Statistics (64 credits). This program provides the most rigorous training for those wishing to go on to do graduate studies in Statistics. It is feasible to do graduate work in Statistics from a Majors in Mathematics.

Joint Honours in Mathematics and Computer Science (72 to 75 credits). This is a joint program with the department of Computer Science. Graduating students may go on to do graduate work or use their high level of qualifications to find excellent jobs. This is a very demanding program.

Joint Honours in Statistics and Computer Science (76 to 79 credits). This is a joint program with the department of Computer Science. Graduating students may go on to do graduate work or use their high level of qualifications to find excellent jobs in either discipline.

Joint Honours in Mathematics and Physics (81 credits). A specialized and demanding program providing a strong basis in both Mathematics and Physics and intended for those seeking to do graduate studies or enter a professional or academic career.

Major in Mathematics (54 credits). A general program in Mathematics with a solid basis. By careful selection of the complementary courses the program can give excellent training in specific areas of Mathematics, such as Probability and Statistics, Applied Mathematics etc. Students in this program take the same theoretical courses Basic Algebra (189-235) and Real Analysis I (189-242) as do the Honours students. This allows the student to get a feel for his/her mathematical ability and helps in the final selection of a program. The low credit requirement leaves a lot of room for electives or alternatively a minor program. With a 24 credit minor program you can still have 12 credits of electives.

Joint Major in Mathematics and Computer Science (72 credits) A program providing a solid training in both Mathematics and Computer Science. Graduates will generally enter a professional career in a computer related field.

Joint Major in Statistics and Computer Science (72 credits) A program providing a solid training in Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science. Graduates will generally enter a professional career in a statistics or computer related field.

The above programs are available in an internship version.

Joint Major in Physiology and Mathematics (71 credits). This program exposes the student to mathematical modeling of physiological phenomena. This rapidly developing area has been the subject of interest to a strong group of the Faculty in the Department of Physiology.

Joint Major in Biology and Mathematics (76 credits). This program is built on a selection of mathematics and biology courses that recognizes mathematical biology as a field of research, with 3 streams within biology: Ecology and Evolutionary Ecology, Molecular Evolution, and Neurosciences.

Liberal Science Degree combining the Core Science Component in mathematics with a breadth component. (45 credits of MATH plus breadth component)

Liberal Science Degree combining the Core Science Component in statistics with a breadth component. (45 credits of MATH plus breadth component)

Minor in Mathematics (24 credits).

Minor in Statistics (24 credits).

IYES is the acronym describing the internship programs. In these programs the student participates in an internship of 8 to 16 months duration, giving benefits to both student and employer. The employers that offer internships are serious concerns. The Internships Office goes to great lengths to vet the companies involved and make sure that the internships they offer provide a genuine and useful training. The internship must be taken when the student has at least 15 but no more than 45 credits to complete towards his/her degree. The internship carries no academic credit and there is no evaluation of the internship affecting the degree obtained. IYES is not available in the Faculty of Arts. See the Faculty of Engineering section of the calendar for further details.

The internships are set up within a very short time frame. Some of the internships will require the student to relocate during the period of the internship and it is a good idea to think through the implications of committing to an internship well in advance.
 

Programs in the Faculty of Arts:

The Department of Mathematics and Statistics offers a wide range of programs in the Faculty of Arts. For the most part, students do not have to decide at the outset which program they intend to follow, although it is certainly helpful to decide on some kind of plan. Programs are designed to satisfy a wide variety of different needs.

The ideal background for graduate study in a mathematical discipline is provided by one of the honours programs. These programs provide the rigorous training and the theoretical foundations on which serious research can be based. The honours courses are taught at a level appropriate to the most mathematically talented and dedicated of our undergraduate students. Honours programs demand that the student maintain a GPA above a certain level.

Many honours programs in the Faculty of Arts leave enough elective credits for the student to consider combining them into a minor. Minor concentrations in the Faculty of Arts encompass 18 credits.

If you are in a "straight" honours program in the Faculty of Arts, and are not taking a minor, then you have no safety net. If you fail to make it in your program then there is most likely no Arts program you can easily switch into. With honours plus a minor or joint honours, you would normally bail out into option A or option B of the multi-track system respectively if you found that you were unable to continue.

The Multitrack System is the system that allows students to obtain a broadly based education in a variety of fields. The 90 credits in this system can be obtained in one of the following three options.

    Option A: One major concentration (36 credits) plus one minor concentration (18 credits) plus 36 credits of elective courses.

    Option B: One major concentration (36 credits) plus one major concentration (36 credits) plus 18 credits of elective courses.

    Option C: One major concentration (36 credits) plus two minor concentrations (18 credits each) plus 18 credits of elective courses.

See the Arts section of the calendar for details. There are restrictions on taking more than one concentration from the same department.

Honours in Mathematics (60 credits). Typically this program provides the necessary grounding for graduate studies in Pure Mathematics. Students in this program take the same theoretical courses Basic Algebra (189-235) and Real Analysis I (189-242) as do the Majors students. This allows the student to get a feel for his/her mathematical ability and helps in the final selection of a program.

Honours in Applied Mathematics (68 credits). Typically this program provides the necessary grounding for graduate studies in Applied Mathematics or related fields. The program includes 12 credits of extra-mural courses in a field related to Applied Mathematics.

Honours in Probability and Statistics (64 credits). This program provides the most rigorous training for those wishing to go on to do graduate studies in Statistics. It is feasible to do graduate work in Statistics from a Major Concentration in Mathematics plus a Minor Concentration in Statistics.

Joint Honours in Mathematics and Computer Science (72 to 75 credits). This is a joint program with the department of Computer Science. Graduating students may go on to do graduate work or use their high level of qualifications to find excellent jobs. This is a very demanding program.

Joint Honours in Statistics and Computer Science (76 to 79 credits). This is a joint program with the department of Computer Science. Graduating students may go on to do graduate work or use their high level of qualifications to find excellent jobs. This is a very demanding program.

Joint Honours in Mathematics and another Arts Discipline (72 credits). The Faculty of Arts supports a "mix and match" system for Joint Honours. The student combines two 36 credit components from different departments. Not all Arts departments participate in this scheme. The program allows students to engage in unusual and interesting programs at a high level. The most popular such programs involving Math are Joint Honours in Economics and Mathematics and Joint Honours in English and Mathematics.

Major Concentration in Mathematics (36 credits). A general program in Mathematics with a solid basis. By careful selection of the complementary courses the program can give excellent training in specific areas of Mathematics, such as Probability and Statistics, Applied Mathematics etc. Students in this program usually take the same theoretical courses Basic Algebra (189-235) and Real Analysis I (189-242), as do the Honours students in their first semester. This allows the student to get a feel for his/her mathematical ability and possibly switch to an Honours level math program at the end of the first semester. In case the student wishes to maintain their second discipline (under option B), both disciplines will have to be taken at the honours level and the student should consider the switch to a joint honours program. You cannot combine the multi-track system with the joint honours system; you are either in one or the other.

Minor Concentration in Mathematics (18 credits). This program comes in two versions, one that can be expanded into a Major Concentration in Mathematics and one, which cannot be so expanded. It is however possible to take this minor in conjunction with the major Concentration in Mathematics under option C. This will give a training very comparable to the Faculty of Science major program.

Minor Concentration in Statistics (18 credits). This is a non-expandable minor in the sense that it does not offer the possibility of changing one's mind and doing a Major Concentration in Mathematics. On the other hand, it can be taken in conjunction with the major Concentration in Mathematics under option C, for students who wish a very solid training in Mathematics with additional emphasis in the area of Statistics. This combination would probably allow the student some opportunity to do graduate work in Statistics.

The Minor Concentration in Mathematics and the Minor Concentration in Statistics should not be combined under option C. Students contemplating this should instead take the Major Concentration in Mathematics under option A.

In the Faculty of Arts, Faculty Programs serve a different mission from those in the Faculty of Science. The various Faculty Programs listed in the Faculty of Science section are not available in the Faculty of Arts.
 

The B. A. & Sc. Degree

This relatively new degree is structured along the lines of the multitrack program in the Faculty of Arts. The program was brought into being to satisfy the needs of students who want to combine an arts discipline and a science discipline more or less equally in the same degree. You should not undertake this degree unless you definitely fit this mould. It is for students who are committed and understand what they want from their university degree.

As far as mathematics is concerned, there is a rule that in this degree, Mathematics must count as a science discipline. You cannot use the degree as a backdoor way of obtaining a degree involving mathematics and another science discipline without satisfying the basic science requirements. Under the rules of the degree, you have two options involving mathematics (stated on the assumption of a 90 credit program):

The major concentration in Mathematics(36 credits) plus one major concentration in Arts(36 credits) plus 18 credits of integrative and elective courses.

A minor concentration in Mathematics or Statistics(18 credits) plus a minor concentration in another science discipline plus a major concentration in Arts(36 credits) plus integrative and elective courses to bring the total number of credits to 90.

The first of these options is not realistic. You could obtain the same degree in the Faculty of Arts (BA degree) under the multitrack system with greater flexibility and obtain a degree whose nomenclature is better understood in the world at large. The second option does allow some possibilities that are not available with other degrees.

There is also provision for honours and joint honours programs within the B. A. & Sc. degree. However, at the present time such programs that have a mathematics component are better undertaken under the B. A. degree.

Programs in the Faculty of Management:

The Department of Mathematics and Statistics offers a limited range of programs to students in the Faculty of Management. The majors program provides a very solid foundation in Mathematics. The version of this program offered by the Faculty of Management places strong emphasis on such areas as Statistics, Numerical Analysis, Discrete Mathematics and Optimization. Minor Programs are not intended as the student's primary focus. Students wishing to obtain a broader education within a structured framework can achieve their goals by declaring these programs.

Important Note: The Faculty of Management calculus courses Mathematics for Management I (189-130) and Mathematics for Management II (189-131) are not suitable for the Math Major in Management. Freshman students envisioning a program in Math should take Calculus I (189-140) and Calculus II (189-141) in place of these courses.

Major in Mathematics for Management Students (39 credits).

Minor in Mathematics (18 credits).

Minor in Statistics (18 credits).

Last edited by on Mon, 05/16/2011 - 09:06