Undergraduate advising

Office hours: Tuesday 10–11 am & Thursday 10–11:30 am when school is in session.

Include “[Advising]” (with the square brackets) in the subject line of the email (Otherwise, your email may not be read.) Include your B-number and identify your major (BA or BS, mathematics or actuarial science) for me to best help you.

Carefully read the major requirements in the University Bulletin. The requirements change over time and you should only consult the Bulletin corresponding to the year in which you first matriculated at Binghamton University. You can go to DegreeWorks and find out your year next to “Acedemic Year” (at the top right corner.) To read the bulletin for a different year, go to the bottom of the University Bulletin page and choose the year under “Bulletin Archive”.

Common questions

  • What is the difference between a BA and a BS in math?
    Short answer: BS is a more demanding degree (with more math courses and some very challenging proof-oriented courses required), while a BA allows more flexibility.

    Long answer: Mathematics is both an art and a science. In mathematics there is no intended difference in the brand of BA or BS. Both degrees require the same number of total credits, although the BS degree does require more math courses. Some students seem to think that the BA in Mathematics is an inferior degree. However, that is not true. The BS degree includes a selection of courses which will best prepare you for graduate school in Mathematics, Statistics, or other related fields. The BS curriculum narrows the selection of courses to focus on that target. That said, in addition to those who want to go to graduate school, the actuarial track in our BS degree also serves students who would like to take more classes which could potentially help them pass more actuarial exams. The BA degree requires fewer math courses and hence offers the more flexibility. Because fewer math courses are required, students have the flexibility to take courses from other fields, including, for example, arts, languages, linguistics, natural science, philosophy, and social sciences. The BA is the most efficient way (though it is not the only way) for a student to get a dual degree or a double major in mathematics and another discipline.
    See the University Bulletin for more information.

  • Why liberal arts education?
    Libera is Latin for free.

    Socrates claimed that education would liberate while instilling both intellectual rigor and moral structure. As defined by the Greeks, the arts aimed to cultivate a broad perspective of knowledge.

    Thus, a liberal arts education is designed to strengthen intellectual skills and general knowledge, thereby freeing individuals from ignorance and prejudice, making them more effective problem-solvers and better citizens, and helping them realize their potential. Unlike a professional curriculum that is designed to provide specific skills tailored to a particular vocation, a liberal arts education provides a broad base of knowledge while developing skills of writing, speaking and analysis in a learning environment that emphasizes student-teacher interaction and personal growth. It is wonderful preparation for a wide variety of careers and for life itself.

    With its broad intellectual training, a liberal arts education is valued in professional contexts of all sorts. In a world where what one needs to know is constantly changing and the problems we face are complex, a liberal arts education teaches a student how to ask the right questions and then find the best answers. As a result, it prepares them for success in the professions as well as careers in business, finance, government, education and social services.

  • I am interested in an actuarial program. Where can I find more information?
    Here.

  • Why the actuarial program in Binghamton is in the math department, instead of in the school of management or in the department of economics?

    • See “Why liberal arts education?” above.

    • The actuarial curriculum is built upon mathematics, statistics, economics and finance courses. The majority of them are, however, mathematics and statistics courses. They are taught by the department of mathematical sciences.

  • How can I declare, change or drop a major in mathematics or actuarial science?
    You can do it online at this page. You need to sign in using your BMail username and password to see the form. To change a major within the department, you need to drop the old major first and then declare a new major. Do not drop and declare the major for multiple times in a short time period. It may cause confusion and human errors.

  • Can I declare two majors in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, such as one in mathematics and the other in actuarial science?
    No, you can only declare one major within the same discipline.

  • I am a math major. What advices do you have for me as a freshman?

    • Carefully read the section about mathematical sciences in the University Bulletin. Know what you need to accomplish to obtain the degree.

    • Finish the Calculus series (MATH 224–227 and 323), Linear Algebra (MATH 304) and Number Systems (MATH 330) as early as possible. They are prerequisites for most upper level math courses. In particular, you should take MATH 330 immediately after you have finished Calculus 2 (MATH 226+227).

    • Normally, you should take 2 full math courses (8 credits in total) each semester.

    • Plan ahead the courses that you will take. Discuss with the faculty advisor about your plan.

    • Join the Math Club and/or the Actuarial Association.

    • Make adjustments to your master plan when necessary. A grade of C- or D in a course is not the end of the world. But it is a warning sign that you should work harder, give math courses more attentions, and better manage your time in the future. Sometimes, it indicates that a math major may not be the right choice for you. This is more true if you did not do well in the basic courses (i.e., the Calculus series, Linear Algebra and Number Systems.)

  • Is there any grade or GPA requirement for graduation.
    For those entered the university in Fall 2014 or after, a grade of C or better is needed for the course to be counted toward the math major or minor, and be acceptable as a prerequisite. For those entered before Fall 2014, a grade of C- is sufficient though.
    A grade-point average (GPA) of 2.0 or higher in major courses is required for satisfactory completion of the major.

  • What courses are counted in major GPA calculation?

    • Transfer courses are not counted.

    • All math courses taken in Binghamton University are counted in the major GPA, except math courses that are not counted toward the major (such as 1XX, 220, 223, 314, 324, 327).

    • If a student received F in a course and retake it, both the first grade and the retake grade will be counted. NOTE: retake a course may improve the GPA, but it does not override the previous lower grade.

    • If a student earns the minimum grade in the class and retakes it (example: earns a B- in MATH 330 but decides to retake it and earns an A), only the first grade counts because the student met the minimum grade requirement. NOTE: if a student earns C- or D in a course and retakes it, then only the first grade is counted (this is because C- or D is technically an acceptable grade; however, it is not acceptable for most math majors.) If you have a concern, talk to the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

    • For actuarial science majors, the required economics courses such as 160, 162, 360, 362 are counted (when applicable.)

    • If the student goes above and beyond the minimum major requirements and takes additional upper-level MATH electives (including graduate level courses), the extra course(s) can count towards the student's major GPA (example: the BA math track requires 10 courses but the student takes 12 courses in which the additional two courses would qualify for the major, i.e., they are not courses like 1XX, 220, 223, 314, 324, 327). If the system doesn't automatically recognize the extra courses, talk to the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

  • I want to pursue a graduate degree (master's or doctoral) in the future. What should I do now to prepare?

    • Math majors have a variety of choices for graduate education. These include but are not limited to, master's and PhD in Mathematics, Statistics, Actuarial Science, Computer Science, Data Science, Operations Research, Operations Management, Industrial Engineering, Economics, Finance, and Management Science. By reading articles from the library and the Internet, talking with your peers and alumni, and discussing with your professors and advisors, you can get a sense about which discipline and degree suit you better.

      • If you are interested in a graduate degree in (pure) Mathematics, you need to obtain a BS in Mathematical Sciences here in Binghamton. Courses in this program prepare you well for a graduate program in Mathematics.

      • If you are interested in a graduate degree in Statistics or Actuarial Science, a BA degree may be sufficient, but a BS degree or significantly more courses than what a BA requires, is definitely preferred. Applicants to graduate program in Statistics or Actuarial Science should do well in Probability Theory (MATH 447) and Mathematical Statistics (448).

      • If you are interested in a graduate degree in Data Science, then in addition to courses in probability and statistics, you may consider taking more courses in computer science and the computational sciences.

    • If you have eyes on graduate programs in prestigeous universities or any financial support, you need to do very well in Real Analysis I and II (MATH 478 and 479.) Admission officers almost always use performance in these courses to gauge student's potential in mathematics and problem-solving ability in general. This is true even if you apply to Statistics or other programs. That being said, other upper level courses are also important (depending on the disciplines of the graduate programs.)

    • Recommendation letters: you need recommendation letters for graduate applications. So you should think ahead about who can write these letters for you. This may affect what courses you will take. Moreover, a professor who taught a course in which you got a B or worse can easily decline to write a letter for you, or write a letter that does not help your chance. So you should think ahead what you should do in those courses taught by those who you want to write letters for you.

  • How can I get into closed courses?
    First, check whether the course has a waiting list. If a waiting list is available, the only way to enter the course is to add your name to the waiting list. The chance that you can register the course may be bigger if you put your name onto all waiting lists for sections whose schedules work for you.
    If the course is closed and does not have a waiting list, you should monitor BU-Brain closely during open registration periods and self-register if a spot becomes available.
    If you want to seek additional help, the best persons to talk to are secretaries in the math department office. Neither your instructor nor your faculty advisor can place you in a class that is already full.

  • How can I transfer credits for a math course into Binghamton University?

    • If you are a new transfer student and the course was taken before you first matriculated at Binghamton University, then go to this course transfer equivalency page first. If the course is in the transfer equivalency table, then usually it can be automatically transferred. If the course is not the table, then read on.

    • If you are an exisiting Binghamton University student and you want to take a math course elsewhere with the intention to transfer it back to Binghamton, then a pre-approval from the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Mathematical Sciences (i.e., me) is needed. This is true whether you are a math major or not. Send me an e-mail with your B-number, the syllabus, and the URL of the class schedule website. Note that not every outside course is allowed to be transferred.

    • We normally do not approve online courses for transfer. In certain cases we may approve a transfer credit only after you pass our final exam in the course with a grade of C or better.

    • We normally do not approve transfer for MATH 330 or higher, unless there is a really good reason.

    • For a non-math course, talk with the Director of Undergraduate Director for the corresponding discipline. It is out of the jurisdiction of the math department.

  • Can I take a mathematics or statistics course in another college and transfer it back to Binghamton to fulfil major requirements?
    It is advised that you receive pre-approvals from the Director of Undergraduate Studies (see the reason in the answer to the last question above.) Send me an e-mail with your B-number, and all the related course information, such as course syllabus and course schedule. We normally do not approve online courses for transfer. In certain cases we may approve a transfer credit only after you pass our final exam in the course with a grade of C or better.

  • I want to register for a course but the system tells me that I need to take a prerequisite course.
    In most cases, you need to get C or better in a prerequisite course to take a subsequent course. Otherwise, the chance you will be successful in the subsequent course is very small. If you took the required prerequisite course in another college, you need to wait for the transfer credits to arrive, or have the transfer approved by talking with the right person (see answer to the question “How can I transfer credits for a math course into Binghamton University” above.) If you cannot wait or have other concerns, you can talk with the Director of Undergraduate Studies. In rare cases, a grade of C- may be enough as the prerequisite. This may happen if the prerequisite course is a lower level course, or if you entered the University in or prior to the 2013–2014 academic year. Please check the corresponding University Bulletin.

  • Who can I talk with regarding major requirements?
    The first thing you should do is to read the University Bulletin carefully (see the instruction above; note the specification about the year.) If the University Bulletin is not helpful, then you should meet with your faculty advisor. Every undergraduate student in the math department was assigned a faculty advisor when the student declared the major. Note that Ms. Marge Pratt and Ms. Carol Nedlik are department secretaries. Meeting with your faculty advisor cannot be substituted by asking questions to the secretaries. Exceptions to the major requirements are made by the Director of Undergraduate Studies in consulation with your faculty advisor.

  • I want to register for a course but the system tells me that “Department Permission is Needed”.
    That means the department has temperorily closed the registration for various reasons. It is also a message that if you want to register for this course, you need to come to the math department main office and talk with one of the secratries. The math department is located in Whitney Hall and you can find directions here.

  • How can I take a graduate course?
    You need to meet with the instructor of that course first and receive his/her consent. You will then come to the math department main office and talk with one of the secretaries who can help with some paperwork. Furthermore, if you want to replace an undergraduate course by this graduate course in the major requirements, you need to send an email to the Director of Undergraduate Studies (i.e., me) with your B-number and a brief description of your request, only after you have already successfully registered for the graduate course. Not every substitution request is approved.

  • How can I take an independent study course?
    You need to find a faculty member who is willing to teach and mentor you. You will then come to the math department main office and talk with one of the secretaries who can help with some paperwork. Note that there is a limit on how many independent study credits can be used toward major requirements. Not every independent study course can be counted toward the major requirement. Such a decision is made by the Director of Undergraduate Studies in consulation with the faculty member who supervises the independent study.

  • How can I become a grader or teaching assistant?
    You can either let me know that you are willing to serve or wait for the department to contact you.

  • I recently received an email stating that I would be dropped from the course because I did not receive a high enough grade in a prerequisite course. Can I stay in the course? I promise I will work hard.
    Prerequisites exist for a reason and the chances of your succeeding in a subsequent course if your did not perform well enough in a prerequisite are very small. That said, you may talk with the instructor of the course. In most of the cases, he/she will say no, and you should not be surprised.

  • I am going to study abroad. Will courses I take abroad count towards my math major/minor?
    Obtain a course description of the course you would like to take while abroad and contact the Director of the Undergraduate Studies for approval.

  • I am interested in undergraduate math research. What can I do?
    Talk directly to a faculty member in whose research area you are interested in to see if they have any projects suitable for undergraduate students. Also, explore REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) programs.

  • What can I do with my mathematical sciences degree?
    Below are some job titles associated with math graduates. Note that these are just a few possibilities and you should not be limited to this subset.
    Actuary, Aeronautical & Aerospace Engineer, Atmospheric and Space Scientist, Bank and Branch Managers, Biopsychologist, Budget Analyst, Chief Financial Officer, Computer and Information Scientists, Computer Programmer, Computer Systems Engineer, Credit Analyst, Database Administrator, Data Scientist, Elementary School Teacher, Financial Analyst, Government Budget Analyst, High School Teacher, Logisticians, Math Professor, Mathematician, Middle School Teacher, Operations Research Analyst, Psychometrist, Securities and Commodities Sales Agent, Statistician, Video Game Designer.

Some general rules

It may spare you a trip to my office if you read the following general rules, as you will get the same answer.

  • You can go to DegreeWorks and find out your matriculation year next to “Acedemic Year” (at the top right corner.)

    • If you first matriculated in Fall 2014 and after: You need to get a C or better in a course for it to count toward major requirements. A grade of C- or less is simply not good enough.

    • If you first matriculated before Fall 2014: You need to get a C- or better in a course for it to count toward major requirements.

  • If you change the grade option of a course to S/U or P/F, then this course can not be used toward major requirements even if you passed the course.

  • Due to student visa issues, international students sometimes find it neccessary to register Math 497 (Independent Work) for 1 credit during summer or winter term in order to work as interns. Normally such “Independent Work” can not be used toward major requirements (unless a strong case can be made with prior approval.) Domestic students seldom find incentives to do this.

Resources

  • For more information about course registration, graduation/commencement, enrollment verification, and the final exam schedule, as well as access to any forms please see the Registrar's website.

  • See Harpur Advising for any Gen Ed or Harpur College requirement questions.

  • For general information about transferring to Binghamton click here.