Department of Mathematics

Van Vleck Hall, 480 Lincoln Drive, Madison, WI

Undergraduate Math Advisor's Page

There are several different kinds of math majors:

  • regular-option 1,
  • regular-option 2,
  • honors ("regular singular"),
  • AMEP ("irregular singular").

This document only discusses the advising of regular math majors. Students interested in AMEP (Applied Math, Engineering and Physics) should consult an AMEP advisor (see ). Students interested in majoring with honors should consult an honors advisor (see

In addition to the math major the UW also offers a math certificate (math "minor"). See Note that the requirements of the math certificate has changed starting with the Fall 2016 semester. 

Who are our Students?

Students graduate from UW Madison with a Bachelor's degree (either a BA or a BS). One of the requirements for the BA/BS is that the student have a major. Our students will graduate with a BA or BS, majoring in Mathematics. The requirements are listed at the following web pages:

The information on those pages is authoritative.

The minimum requirements for a regular math major may seem very minimal to a professional research mathematician. Because of this it is good to keep in mind that most of our students will not go on to become professional mathematicians, in fact, most will not go on to graduate school. Those that go on to grad school do not necessarily go to a Math grad school. The requirements for the Option I major on the L&S Majors page are followed by recommendations for those students who do plan to go on to graduate school.

Admission to the Math Major

Students can become a math major if a faculty advisor in the Math department gives them permission to do so, i.e. your signature on the declaration form makes a student a math major. All admission requirements are only recommendations: the advisor can overrule them.

For admission to the math major we require a 2.5GPA (or higher) in the first three semesters of calculus. Many students come from other universities with transfer credit for some or even all of the calculus courses. Since credits transfer but grades do not, it is difficult or even impossible to compute the calculus GPA of such students. Admission to the major now depends on the advisor's judgment. It is usually recommended to postpone the major declaration until after the student has taken a linear algebra (or other intermediate level math) course, and use the grade in that course as a proxy for a calculus grade.

When students declare for the math major, they need to decide whether to do an option 1 or an option 2 major.  Currently we are using an online form yo collect these major declarations and keep track of any changes or alterations a student and advisor agree on.  A new form is created each semester.

In the case of an option 2 major, the declaration MUST include the list of courses that a student intends to use to complete the major requirements.  In the case that a student is not sure then they can be delcared as an option 1 major.  Note also that it is possible to change to the option 2 course plan after a declaration.  

Option 1/Option 2

We usually describe option 1 as a `traditional' math major emphasizing depth and bredth in classical areas of the field. The option 2 is a concentrated math major focusing on a single area (e.g., probabiltity) or application (e.g., biomathematics).  The option 2 program is often times the choice for students who want to complete multiple majors. 

For the option 1 major the student needs

  • one linear algebra course (from Math 320, 340, 341, or 375),
  • two courses out of the group  {Math 521, Math 541, Math 551},
  • an additional course above 500, 
  • three additional courses above 306.

(That's a minimum seven courses.) You should remind the student about the various course restrictions (see the `Course restrictions' section on this page ). 

Option 2 allows the student to concentrate in a particular area of mathematics or its application to a particular field.  In the option 2 math major the student needs 6 math courses and 4 application courses:

  • a linear algebra course from {Math 320, Math 340, Math 341, Math 375},
  • two courses above 500,
  • three additional courses above 306,
  • four courses from any other department with sufficient math content.  note that any math course numbered above 306 automaticaly satisfies this condition.

It is important that the 6 chosen math courses and 4 additional courses should form a (somewhat) coherent unit connected to the chosen focus. (E.g. Math 461-College Geometry or Math 473-History of Math would not be appropriate for an Option 2 math major focusing on economics.) These courses should be chosen under the guidence of the advisor. The page Option 2 Packages contains a wide collection of possible packages. One could deviate from the suggested packages, but the chosen courses should have connections to the chosen area. (I.e. it is not appropriate to pick and choose math courses from various packages...)

The six math courses and four additional courses must be recorded at the time of the majro declaration.  Students can alter these choices after that with the consent of a math advisor.  Unfortunately, we currently have no way of checking that the students actually take the courses that were agreed upon. (DARS only checks for the minimum requirements: one linear algebra, 2 above 500, 3 above 306.) We shouldn't publicize this though, currently most students are pretty good about following the plan set up at the time of the declaration. 

What exactly do I need to do? 

Most students who will come to your advising office hour will either want to declare for the math major/certificate or they might have questions about which classes to take. The second group is usually easy to handle. For the first group it might help some of the following questions:

  • What year are you in?
  • Which math classes have you taken?
  • Why are you interested in math?
  • Do you aready have another major?
  • What are your plans after graduation?
  • Are you interested in grad school?

 Based on the answers you can discuss with the student whether option 1 or option 2 would be appropriate (if the student is interested in the math major), and then you can go from there. 


What if I have questions? 

 If you have any questions related to advising then feel free to contact Benedek ( or Alex ( 

UW-Madison Department of Mathematics
Van Vleck Hall
480 Lincoln Drive
Madison, WI  53706

(608) 263-3054

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