Answers to Common Questions
1. Is mathematics required at Franklin and Marshall?

The short answer is "no"--there is no requirement to take mathematics. However, certain majors do require math. Biology and BOS require Calculus I. Chemistry requires Calculus I and II. Physics requires Calculus I, II and III, and Linear Algebra/Differential Equations. Other departments, such as Economics and Geoscience, recommend at least one math course, especially for those students planning on graduate study. Of course, you may take mathematics simply because you like it.

2. Why would I study Math?

Studying mathematics is an exceptional way to prepare for many types of careers. Math majors learn to start with a blank page, consider a few assumptions, and convincingly argue a solution for a focused question. It builds personal confidence and develops problem solving skills. This intellectual discipline, coupled with good writing skills, allows one to be successful at almost any pursuit. But most of all, it is fun!

3. How do I decide which mathematics course is the right one for me?

As part of registering for your first semester, you will fill out a math questionnaire, which will help us guide you to the right course.Those who have taken calculus in high school will also fill out a Calculus Placement Exam. As a general rule, students who have done well in precalculus but have not taken calculus start with Calculus I. Those who did well in high school calculus start with Calculus II (or, in some cases, Calculus III).

4. Can I get credit for AP Calculus?

Yes, if you take the AB test and get a score of 4 or 5, you will get credit for Calculus I and be placed in Calculus II. If you take the BC test and get a score of 4 or 5, you will get credit for Calculus I (only) and be placed in Calculus III.

5. What's the difference between credit and placement?

If you get a high score on the AP test, you can get credit for a math class, which means that instead of needing 32 more classes from Franklin & Marshall, you need 31 more classes. Credit, therefore, is handled through the registrar's office.

If your placement is in a higher level math class (say Calculus II or Calclulus III), and you successfully complete that course, then you are considered ready to take any course that has a prerequisite of the earlier courses. For example, Thermodynamics (Chemistry 321) has a prerequisite of Calculus II. If you complete Calculus III at F&M, you may take Thermodynamics even if you have not taken Calculus II here. Placement is handled through the Department of Mathematics.

If you get credit for a course (say Calculus I), and you decide to take more mathematics, you will automatically be placed into Calculus II. But if your placement is into Calculus II, and you have not taken the AP test or did not get a high score on it, you will not get credit for Calculus I.

6. What can I do with a math major?

The brief answer is, "Anything you want to do". Here are some details.

About two-thirds of our math majors enter the workforce immediately after graduation; the remainder go to graduate school. The types of jobs secured by recent math majors include the obvious such as teaching and actuarial work, but also include insurance agent, medical secretary, wrestling coach, laboratory technician, paralegal, trading assistant, engineer and computer consultant.

Of those going to graduate school, some study traditional areas of mathematics or statistics, but others pursue degrees in physics, engineering, neuroscience, environmental science, international affairs, and the history of religions. In addition, many of our math majors have gone to medical, dental or law schools.

7. Is there an opportunity for independent study?

Every year, a number of students choose to do an independent study to satisfy one or more of their math major requirements. In some cases, students have received Honors in mathematics for their work and have used the project as a basis for graduate work. Some recent Honors projects include:

  • Algebraic Coding Theory
  • An Introduction to Classical Modular Forms, with a New Proof of the Product Expansion of the Delta Function
  • An Adaptation of the Impossibility Theorem
  • The Characteristic Polynomial of Multi-Rooted Trees
  • Dynamics of Piecewise Continuous Functions
  • Analysis of Quasi-Continuous Functions
  • Closed Geodesics on the Punctured Torus

Other independent study projects include:

  • Connections Between the Complex Quadratic Map and Iterated Function Systems
  • Invariant Measures for Expanding Maps
  • Modern Cryptography and Convolutional Codes Using Group Rings
  • Zeros of the Derivatives of Real Polynomials
  • Financial Mathematics

8. Is there opportunity for student employment?

The Mathematics Departments hires several upper-class students (mostly, but not exclusively, math majors) to serve as teaching assistants. These students hold tutoring sessions--typically 3-hour sessions once or twice a week--for one or more math courses. Usually, the courses served are Preparation for College Math; Calculus I, II and III; Introduction to Higher Math; Linear Algebra/Differential Equations; and Probability and Statistics.

There are occasional opportunities for summer employment, most likely to work on research with one of the department members.