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Mathematics Major Guide for 2016-2017

What is Mathematics?

Contrary to popular belief, mathematics is about ideas and problem solving, not simply calculating! A person who majors in mathematics is trained to solve hard problems in a disciplined way. This means looking for structure and identifying important (as opposed to superfluous) details, then designing a logical method of approach. In our modern, quantitative world, there is high demand (and high pay) for college graduates with these skills.

Career Opportunities in Mathematics

Because math majors are trained to think clearly and logically about quantitative problems and have strong problem-solving skills, they are highly sought by business, government and academics. In particular, mathematics majors do many things besides teaching, although teaching at the high school or college level is still a great career for many students.

Among the careers pursued by UT math graduates are: physician, actuarial scientist (analyzing insurance risk), investment and securities analyst, lawyer, big data analyst (including analysis of social media data), operations research specialist (finding the optimal way to organize industrial operation), statistician, software designer/coder, cryptologist (creating and breaking codes), systems analyst (working with teams of engineers solve real world problems).

Salary Trends in Mathematics

Mathematics majors typically receive some of the highest salaries among all college graduates. For example, students who major in applied mathematics have approximately the same salaries as engineering majors. Even better, the kinds of jobs math majors typically fill rank near the top on job-satisfaction surveys because mathematicians usually have considerable autonomy in structuring their jobs.

High School Preparation

Potential math majors should have had four years of high school mathematics: two courses in algebra, one in geometry, and one on functions (sometimes called precalculus). It is NOT necessary to have taken AP calculus, or even any calculus, in high school to successfully major in mathematics at the University of Tennessee. If you enjoyed the problem-solving aspects of your high school math classes, even if much of what you learned seemed routine and perhaps a little boring at times, you should seriously consider majoring in math. College-level math, especially in upper division courses, is a whole different world from high school math.

Highlights of Mathematics

The mathematics program at UT is designed to serve students with a broad range of interests. New for Fall 2016, the math department is planning to offer two new concentrations that incoming students will be able to select: mathematical biology and applied mathematics.  In addition, exceptionally talented and highly motivated students may choose the Math Honors concentration and participate in the UT Math Honors Program, which features an accelerated curriculum leading to graduate courses as early as the junior year.

The department has a Math Club that sponsors social events, and a Putnam Team that receives training by Math Department faculty for the Putnam Exam, the most prestigious mathematics contest in North America. The departmental Junior Colloquium offers biweekly talks designed for undergraduates, given by mathematicians from UT and other universities.

The faculty of the Mathematics Department at the University of Tennessee is widely recognized for their internationally respected research programs and scholarly output, and have won numerous awards for teaching excellence in recent years. Therefore, math majors benefit from high-quality teaching by a well-informed, up-to-date faculty with multiple contacts throughout the national and international mathematical community.


How to Major in Mathematics

New for Fall 2016—the math department has added new concentrations: Applied Mathematics, Theoretical Mathematics, Mathematical Biology, and Mathematics Education. During the first two years as a math major you will complete the calculus sequence and other basic courses that are prerequisites to higher level courses that are required for any of the concentrations. One of the most important courses that you will take is Math 300 (or honors 307), “Introduction to Abstract Mathematics.” This course is the primary transition to the more abstract reasoning and problem solving that take place in upper division mathematics courses. This course may be taken as early as the freshman year and generally should be taken no later than the second semester of the sophomore year. After finishing the prerequisite courses and Math 300, a whole variety of interesting courses is open to you, and you will choose courses in consultation with your math department advisor to complete your degree.


Warning: many upper division math courses required for the major have Math 300 or 307 as a prerequisite. Students who delay taking Math 300/307 until the junior year may need to take a large number of challenging upper-division courses in their senior year, and/or delay graduation. Students transferring after two years of college who haven’t had an equivalent course are strongly encouraged to take Math 300/307 during the summer prior to enrolling at UT, and no later than their first semester at UT. 


Ready for the World logoReady for the World

“Ready for the World” is part of a long-range plan to transform the UTK campus into a culture of diversity that best prepares students for working and competing in the 21st century.  Thus students are encouraged to actively participate in the diverse cultural programs offered on campus.  Some of these events include the guest lecture series, cultural nights at the International House, and international film screenings.  Visit the Center for International Education web site ( or the Ready for the World web site ( for more information on upcoming cultural programs and activities. Learn more about UT’s Ready for the World initiative to help students gain the international and intercultural knowledge they need to succeed in today’s world.

Students are also encouraged to develop a global perspective within their academic program through study abroad. Studying abroad options do exist for mathematics and statistics majors! Possibilities include (but are not limited to) studying abstract algebra in Fiji, Galois theory in Hungary, linear programming in Malaysia, advanced stochastic processes in South Africa, or Bayesian inference in London. In addition to taking major-related courses abroad, many math or statistics majors have elected to fulfill their language requirement and/or general education courses overseas.

Consult an academic advisor early in your academic career about the best time for you to study abroad as well as what courses you may need to take. For more information about program options, the application process, and how to finance study abroad, please visit the Programs Abroad Office website.

Experience Learning

Experience Learning LogoExperience Learning is a bold new initiative with the goal of transforming the educational student experience at the University of Tennessee. Over a five-year period, UT will transform our culture to give students more opportunities to be involved in civic engagement, solve complex real-world problems, and contribute to the welfare of their communities as part of their regular course work.

The purpose of Experience Learning is to help students apply the knowledge, skills, and values learned in the classroom to real-world challenges. Experience Learning also seeks to engage student learning through direct experience and intense reflection to increase knowledge, acquire lifelong learning and problem-solving skills, and elucidate values.

Learn more about Experience Learning.

Academic Plan and Milestones

Following an academic plan will help students stay on track to graduate in four years. For first-time, first-year, full-time, degree-seeking students, UT has implemented Universal Tracking (uTrack), an academic monitoring system designed to help students stay on track for timely graduation. In order to remain on track, students must complete the minimum requirements for each tracking semester, known as milestones. Milestones may include successful completion of specified courses and/or attainment of a minimum GPA.

To see a sample academic plan and milestones for this major, please visit the undergraduate catalog.

For More Information

Director of Undergraduate Studies:
Dr. Nikolay Brodskiy
Honors Director:
Dr. Remus Nicoara
rnicoara@utk.eduMathematics Department
University of Tennessee
(865) 974-2461


The information on this page should be considered general information only. For more specific information on this and other programs refer to the UT catalog or contact the department and/or college directly.

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