What is Math?
Mathematics is the study of abstract patterns and structures. The subject's abstractness is part of its fascination, but mathematical tools and constructions also pervade modern science and technology, often in startling ways. Here are some examples. A common algorithm to make internet communication secure hinges on properties of prime numbers. The Google search engine runs on an algorithm (page rank) that is based on the mathematics of linear algebra and eigenvalues of matrices. Scientists who generate huge data sets are turning to topologists and geometers (in addition to statisticians) to understand the shape and symmetries of their data sets and to discover what this might mean for the underlying science.
So, what's my degree?
A mathematics student graduates with a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science degree. Because the Bachelor of Arts program is more general, it might appeal to you if you are interested in a second degree or a double major. Bachelor of Science students will be prepared to continue to graduate school in mathematics or other fields and possibly to academic careers. Another option is a dual degree through the Mathematics Department and the OU Health Sciences Center. At the end of this five-year program, the student receives both a B.S. in mathematics and a M.S. in biostatistics. This degree would be a competitive entry into an exciting and rapidly growing field.
Do my interests fit?
Mathematics students typically have interests in:
- Recognizing and working with patterns. These can be geometric patterns, algebraic/combinatorial patterns, or patterns in data or other structures.
- Problem solving, individually or in teams.
- Number games and word games.
- Working in research teams, typically with other undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty mentors.
- Thinking critically about problems; formulating conjectures from the available evidence, looking for counterexamples, or strategizing ways to prove conjectures.
How can OU Math help me?
There are many ways in which the OU Math program can benefit you. The mathematics curriculum trains students in critical reasoning skills and in the ability to not only solve problems but more importantly in the ability to pose important questions.
Math majors receive fundamental training which helps them succeed in an increasingly data intensive world. If you develop a strong foundation in calculus, linear algebra, and statistics, you will be very attractive to the data analytics graduate programs.
The department offers a 6-1 student-to-faculty ratio, allowing faculty to serve as mentors and help students further their education in and out of the classroom. You can attend the OU Math Club events to hear career talks by representatives from industry and government. Conversations following these presentations are excellent opportunities to forge connections and express interest in potential internships.
Finally, there are opportunities to participate in research projects with faculty, graduate students, and postdoctoral associates. These research experiences will help prepare you for a wide range of career opportunities. Mathematics graduate students are happy to mentor undergraduate students in small groups in the Directed Reading Program.
How can I get involved?
We have many opportunities for students to engage with the mathematic community here at OU.
- Our students find that they benefit greatly from participating in the Undergraduate Math Club and attending Math Club seminar talks. The conversations that occur after Math Club presentations may provide you with opportunities to get involved in research projects and possible internships.
- You can reach out to a mathematics faculty member to get involved in an undergraduate research project.
- You can elect to participate in the graduate student-run Directed Reading Program. This is an excellent way to learn about exciting new mathematics in an intimate small group setting.
- Look out for the many summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) opportunities that exist nationwide. OU Math faculty have great success at referring students to REU programs, particularly if they have worked with the students on prior research projects.
- You can consider a study abroad opportunity such as the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics program.
- If you are interested in problem solving (both as an individual and team effort) you can join the Mathematics Department’s OU Putnam Seminar. This meets every fall to train students to participate in the annual William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition.
- If you are interested in applications of mathematics to modeling real-world problems, you can work with a faculty member to take part in the annual COMAP Mathematical Contest in Modeling.
- You can work as a tutor in the Math Center or as a learning assistant in one of the active learning classes. These competitively paid jobs immerse you deeper into the OU community and provide you with professional development training and valuable work experience to add to your CV.
What courses will I take?
Mathematics courses can include:
- Calculus & Analytic Geometry
- Differential & Integral Calculus
- Discrete Mathematical Structures
- Linear Algebra
- Intro to Ord. Diff. Equations
- Physical Mathematics
- Intro to Abstract Algebra
Wait, I can have a minor?
Yes! The minor requires that a student complete the 12-hour calculus sequence, along with nine hours of upper division mathematics, six of which must be at the 4000 level. Many STEM majors already require the 12-hour calculus sequence and at least one 3000-level math course so that students only have to take an additional six hours of mathematics at the 4000 level to qualify for a minor in mathematics.
How can I study abroad?
Our undergraduates have participated in study abroad programs in the U.K. and Hungary. Ask the math advisor or math faculty members about these opportunities.
In addition, OU has numerous study abroad opportunities for students of all majors. Whether you want to take electives, lower-division courses, or major requirements, be sure to check out what education abroad opportunities are available to you through the College of International Studies.
What kind of career could I pursue?
The reasoning skills and quantitative abilities that students obtain in our undergraduate programs mean they are well-prepared for a variety of career fields, including architecture, economics, computer programming, computer animation, education, meteorology, actuarial science, data science, risk assessment, quantitative analysis, and financial planning. The variety of coursework in a mathematics program prepares students to work for companies such as Microsoft, IBM Global, Pixar, and Proctor and Gamble as well as for U.S. government agencies and laboratories.
The researchers at CareerCast.com note that careers in mathematics “aren’t just about numbers in the current landscape. A career in one of these mathematical fields can translate into work in healthcare, business, marketing, even entertainment.”
How much will I make?
Visit the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ website to explore the median pay for jobs you can pursue with this degree.