Stanford University

Prospective Math Majors

“The book of nature is written in the language of Mathematics” -Galileo

Why Major in Math?

  • Mathematics is fun, challenging, and rewarding.
  • This subject is logical, creative, important for applications and enjoyable in its own right.
  • As you learn more about mathematics, you will see that the logical structure of theorems, proofs, and classifications has a certain aesthetic appeal.

Educational Value

  • The adventure of mathematics is thrilling, yet it can be difficult to find the starting place on your own.
  • Please see the Math Placement page and Introductory Math Courses page for more information and resources.
  • Our Sample Course Plans will show you a variety of courses you can take depending on your interests.

As a mathematics major, you will develop skills in:

  • Conceptual thinking and problem solving.
  • Oral and written communication.
  • Analyzing and interpreting data.
  • Working in groups

All of these skills are highly desirable for a wide range of careers, including, but not limited to the tech industry, finance, business and law.

Meet some of our Math majors!

I came to Stanford thinking that I wanted to be a pure math major and go to math graduate school. However, as I took more classes in other departments, I decided to focus on more CS (both AI and theory). Now I am a math major, film minor, and hopefully a CS coterm.

What I liked about my math course schedule to date is that I’ve taken a broad range of math classes, which have given me a strong foundation for classes in other departments (specifically for AI or CS theory classes) even though I haven’t gone through a “traditional” CS course schedule. I’ve also had enough time to take classes in completely different fields, such as in the film department! One of my professors once said that familiarity is not the same as understanding and that has really helped me shape my course schedule ever since.

What I wish I had known when starting out with the math major at Stanford is that going to office hours can completely change your understanding of the material. Not only do you understand the course material better, but professors also provide valuable insight into what other classes you can take afterwards depending on your interests. What I would definitely recommend to you if you share my interests is to explore different areas of math early on. These have been helpful not only for my other math classes but also for my CS theory and AI classes!

I am most interested in analysis and probability theory. Aside from math, I like to analyze films and fence!

I came into Stanford intending to do a math and music double major, and then attend math graduate school. Now I am a senior math major and music minor, hoping to do a CS coterm, and go into industry (CS or quantitative finance). 

My favorite part about my math course schedule so far: freshman year, I took the 60DM series, which I loved! The material and the professors (Professors Fox, Sound, and Tokieda) and the friends I made were awesome. 

Advice I want to tell all new math majors: study groups and office hours make a world of difference. It is never a weakness to ask questions about material or homework.

My interests in math: I like discrete math (algebra, number theory, graph theory, etc.), but since I have started considering finance as a career, I am looking into taking more analysis classes.

Hi! I am a senior majoring in math and minoring in physics and TAPS, and I hope to attend graduate school in math. The areas of math I most enjoy include algebra and number theory.

I took the Math 60CM series during my freshman year. In contrast to many of my classmates, I came into Stanford without any multivariable calculus and linear algebra background, and Math 61CM was very challenging for me. However, I am glad I completed the 60CM series because it taught me some important ways of thinking early on. If you are considering Math 61CM but feel lost and out of place in the class, just know that there are other people like you out there, and this class is for you if you want it to be (and it’s totally okay and normal not to understand all of the material the first time around!). On the flipside, taking Math 51 is an equally valid option, and there are plenty of other ways to familiarize with proof-based math at Stanford (e.g. by taking Math 56, 113, 115). 

One thing I would definitely recommend is to take an 100+ class early on, in order to get a sense of what a typical math class may look like. I took Math 152 and 171 alongside 62CM and 63CM during winter and spring of my freshman year, respectively, and greatly benefited from this experience. Not only did taking 171 early on open the door to higher-level analysis courses (such as 172, 173, and 116), but I met a more diverse group of people than I encountered in the 60 series, many of whom I still work with in my math classes.

If you want to know more specifically which courses I have taken during my time at Stanford, you have any questions, or you want to chat about anything at all math related, please feel free to reach out to me at epi2@stanford.edu or visit me during my peer advising office hours!

I came into Stanford wanting to study physics, and now I’m a physics and math major. Because I didn’t come into Stanford planning to do math, I chose to start the 50 series freshman fall. I liked the content presented in Math 51 but I also realized that I would have preferred a more theoretical, proof-based approach. Unfortunately, the ship had already sailed on the 60 series. Instead I started taking proof-based courses that didn’t require that background like Math 113 and 115. Luckily I had outside credits that could cover the remainder of the 50 series (but it also wouldn’t have been too much of a conflict to take those courses concurrently with 52 and 53). By the end of freshman year I found that I’d fallen in love with the particular ways of thinking these classes helped me cultivate and I’ve been committed to the math major ever since! 

Sophomore year was spent taking classes that lent themselves well to my budding interests in physics. Classes like math 116, 120 and 171 increased my mathematical maturity while introducing me to branches of math I’d never touched before. I would strongly recommend taking the time to ask friends who have taken courses that interest you about their experience and how they think one should prepare for any particular class.

The last couple quarters have been my favorite with respect to coursework. Although I took things a bit out of order, eventually I got to a place where I could take most math 100 classes without too much fuss.

Having the freedom to explore whatever branch of the department interests you most is very exciting, but it takes some time. Carefully plan what courses you plan to take during your first few quarters to maximize that amount of time you can spend exploring and cultivating your interests!

Many majors follow career paths which do not fall under the title of "mathematician" or "math teacher." Careers include:

  • Data scientist
  • Quantitative finance
  • Actuary
  • Engineer
  • Physicist
  • Consultant

Keep in mind that mathematics is a way of thinking, not a single career.

With a judicious choice of electives, the mathematics curriculum at Stanford University can prepare you for many careers.

The department is committed to providing its majors with a solid and broad-based education in mathematics. We value our interactions with students and appreciate their questions, so please feel free to stop by our Student Services Office in Building 380, Room 381S.

Various Organizations

Stanford students may participate in the Putnam Competition, an annual math contest for college students, each December. Students can choose to receive credit for participating by enrolling in the 1-unit course Math 193, Polya Problem Solving Seminar, in Autumn quarter; however, enrollment is not required to participate. If you are interested in participating or want to learn more, be sure to attend the first class. See ExploreCourses for course schedule information.

The Stanford University Mathematical Organization (SUMO) is the by-students-for-students math club on campus. They host various events that are open to everyone: math majors and non-math majors, graduate and undergraduate.

Students interested in independent reading with a graduate student mentor may wish to participate in the Directed Reading Program.

The Directed Reading Program is a program of Stanford's Graduate Mathematics Outreach Organization in which undergraduate students (of any major) interested in independently reading some mathematics outside of their official coursework are paired for a quarter with math graduate students for weekly guidance and discussions. At the end of the quarter, participants gather for a colloquium in which each participant gives a short talk about their reading. The program began in winter quarter 2017.

During the summer, the department offers the Stanford Undergraduate Research Institute in Mathematics (SURIM) where students can work on a research project either one-on-one with a faculty member or in a group mentored by a graduate student.

 

Please visit the SURIM site for information on the application, program dates, eligibility, and funding information.