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Advice for Students

Introduction

You might be surprised to find that there are 250 students majoring in mathematics at CSUS, 45% of whom are women. Many of the mathematics majors are members of the Mathematical Society, the University’s mathematics club. The Math Society (Math Club) meets weekly during each semester—every other week there is a guest speaker on a topic of mathematical interest, and in the alternating weeks the meetings are held to plan events, work recreational mathematics problems, and discuss business. Club events range from fundraisers, such as book sales, to social events, such as pizza parties, to service functions, such as a workshop for prospective secondary mathematics teachers in the credential program. The club is also used by the department as a way of getting information to students about job opportunities or departmental events. Finally, the club is a support group for students in a difficult major. It is a good place to find commiseration, and advice about courses and instructors.

Math Careers

Although you may not have decided about your choice of career yet, it is a good idea to think about it. Math majors generally go on to one of five areas after graduation. Some go into teaching in the junior high schools or high schools. There is a well-publicized need for more qualified teachers of mathematics around the country. In the Sacramento Valley there is no real shortage yet, but there are jobs and there will be more jobs. Some math majors go on to graduate school, either in masters degree or Ph.D. programs. There is a serious shortage of Ph.D. mathematicians in this country. It is our duty to encourage any strong students with an interest in graduate study to pursue it--there is usually support available for good students in graduate schools. Some students go on to work in public or private sector jobs after graduation. These seem to fall into three categories: engineering applications, computer science, and statistics. These jobs are more plentiful in large metropolitan areas, such as San Francisco or Los Angeles, but our students have gotten jobs in the Sacramento area. Students interested in engineering applications should probably choose elective courses such as Math 1O5AB (Math for Science and Engineering), Math 104 (Vector Analysis), Math 134 (Complex Variables), or Stat 155 (Operations Research). Students interested in computer science jobs should probably choose elective courses such as Math 150 (Numerical Analysis), Math 170 (Linear Programming), or Stat 155 (Operations Research). Students interested in statistics should take Stat 115AB (Probability and Statistics), Stat 155 (Operations Research), or any of the soon-to-be-introduced courses in applied statistics. Students interested in statistics should consider pursuing actuarial careers.

Which Option in the Major?

Which of the five areas (teaching, grad school, engineering, computer science, and statistics) you choose might help determine the option in the mathematics major that suits you best. Secondary teachers would probably want the single subject waiver program; those interested in grad school would probably choose the pure major (maybe not if they already know the area of mathematics they want to emphasize in grad school); those interested in engineering would probably want the emphasis in applied mathematics and statistics; those interested in statistics would probably want the emphasis in applied math and statistics.

Advising

Advisors are faculty members who are knowledgeable about the program you have chosen in mathematics. It is important that you pay your advisor a visit during your first semester at CSUS, if only to make contact. It is a good idea to see your advisor frequently, for help in planning your schedule, career planning, or for other advice. It is very important that you see your advisor when you plan your upper division coursework, as there are many decisions that your advisor can help you with that are not obvious from reading the catalog (e.g., which courses take a great time commitment, which courses are better in your senior year, etc.). If you decide to change major advisors, simply get the OK from your new advisor and tell the department office about your desire to change.

Schedule Planning

Although the mathematics major requires relatively few upper division units, they are quite challenging. Try to avoid taking too many classes in a semester, as this will more likely result in extra semesters in the university because of grades that are not in line with your potential.

The most difficult courses are probably the upper division core courses: Math 108 (Intro to Formal Math), Math 110AB (Modern Algebra), and Math 13OAB (Advanced Calculus). It is important that you plan to put in a great deal of effort on these courses, because they are demanding, and because if you can do well in these courses, then you have achieved the mathematical sophistication to do well in other courses with comparatively little effort. Do not take Math 110A and Math 130A in the same semester. Students who attempt this are rarely successful.

Notice that the prerequisites for courses lead to a sequence in which some courses must be taken. For example, Math 130B requires Math 130A, which requires Math 108, which requires Math 35, which requires Math 30. Also notice that some courses are not offered every semester.

Campus Employment

There are numerous opportunities for employment on campus for budding mathematicians. The math department hires students as graders, grading the homework assignments from lower division mathematics courses. The mathematics department hires students to work as tutors for the Intermediate Algebra class (Math 9), which is taught in multimedia format (Up to 40 students per class). The Learning Skills Center teaches the remedial mathematics classes on campus, and hires undergraduates to tutor in structured and supervised classes. All of these tutorial jobs are excellent ways to learn to teach for students who plan to enter the high school or junior high school teaching credential program. The department also maintains a Math Lab in BRH 118, which is a drop-in help center for mathematics. Students with math questions come here to find tutors who can help them (which doesn’t mean just giving them the answer). The Math Lab is mostly staffed by graduate students, but some of the Math Lab tutors are undergraduate mathematics majors. We also strongly recommend the Math Lab as a place to study your math. If you have questions about how to apply for any of these job opportunities, inquire in the mathematics department office (BRH 141).

There are other jobs on campus for math tutors, in programs such as AMP, CAMP, EOP, or MEP. These are programs aimed at supporting minority students in various majors. There are also opportunities for private tutoring. Oftentimes high school students will call the department seeking tutors, or students in lower division math classes need a tutor on a regular basis. We give all of these requests to the Math Society, which maintains a database of tutors. So if you are interested in tutoring privately, contact the Math Society.

In Summary

We suggest that you become aggressive consumers of education. Find out about courses and instructors. Ask what courses are going to be offered next year. Ask for a specific course to be offered at a specific time, if you need it. Tell the department how it can better serve your needs. Join the Math Society. Help this to be a better department for future students.


 

California State University, Sacramento • updated: August 3, 2007