Frequently Asked Questions for Math Majors

Frequently Asked Questions for Math Majors


Below please find a number of questions that are frequently asked in the Undergraduate Office of the Mathematics Department.  If you have additional questions, please contact your advisor or the Coordinator of Undergraduate Advising in Mathematics


 Note that some of this information can also be found in the Undergraduate Mathematics Handbook.


Questions About Major Requirements


At times, students choose to change majors from, say, computer science, to mathematics. In such cases, some students have already completed CMPSC 360 with a C or better. Because of the similarities between CMPSC 360 and MATH 311W, the Mathematics department does allow students to use CMPSC 360 in place of the MATH 311W requirement. However, note that CMPSC 360 does not satisfy the Writing Across the Curriculum requirement. Therefore, such students would still need to take a 'W' course in order to satisfy this requirement. For a complete listing of 'W' courses, see the following link


Schedule MATH 232 (2 credits) because together MATH 231 (2 credits) and MATH 232 (2 credits) cover the material in MATH 230 (4 credits).


Such a plan is highly unadvisable, as the material in MATH 232 depends on the material in MATH 231.


Students are allowed to take MATH 230 and MATH 250 in either order, or concurrently for that matter, as both carry a prerequisite of MATH 141. However, if the student plans to take the two courses sequentially (in two different semesters), then it is recommended that MATH 230 be taken before MATH 250.



Questions About Option Requirements


  • If I take Level 002 of a foreign language, will I receive credit for Level 001?

The requirement to take a Level 001 will be waived. However, you will not receive course credit. This means that you may need to take another "supporting course" in order to reach 120 credits required for graduation. Comments on supporting courses appear in another question in this list.


  • I completed (at least) four years of the same foreign language in high school. Have I met the foreign language requirement for a mathematics major?

A student who has studied four or more years of the same foreign language would register for Level 003 of that foreign language. If the option the student has chosen requires him/her to complete only through Level 002, then the foreign language requirement is waived. That does not mean that such a student will receive course credit . Rather, it means that the student may choose to take 8 credits of supporting courses in place of foreign language courses. The student should bring a copy of their high school transcript to the Undergraduate Mathematics Office, 104 McAllister, and a staff assistant will update the student's degree audit information.
For more information on the placement policy for Foreign language, please refer to Appendix A in the Undergraduate Mathematics Handbook.


  • What is a supporting course?

Simply put, supporting course are courses that a student may take to enhance or 'support' work completed in other courses. From a practical perspective, they are additional courses needed for student to earn at least 120 credits towards graduation.


  • Is there any course that a mathematics major cannot use as a supporting course?

Yes.  Refer to the Supporting Course Page to see which courses cannot be used.


  • To satisfy the Bachelor of Arts Degree requirement, can I take any arts, humanities, social and behavioral sciences and other cultures courses?

For a complete listing of all approved courses in the Bachelor of Arts basic requirements, please click here.


  • As a mathematics major with actuarial option, STAT 462 does not appear on my degree audit as satisfying a requirement. Why not?

The computer program does not always recognize that STAT 462 satisfies the requirement. Please contact the Coordinator of Undergraduate Advising in Mathematics and she will have STAT 462 placed in the option requirement on your degree audit.


  • Numerous MATH courses appear to be cross-listed with other departments (such as MATH 414 and STAT 414). Are there any difference between the courses?

None whatsoever.


  • May I sign up for STAT 414 even if I need MATH 414 as one of my mathematics major requirements?

Yes, the degree audit will handle this situation with no problems.


The courses chosen for the area of application should form a coherent pattern and include one or two 400-level courses. Examples of various areas of application and some courses associated with them are listed in Appendix F of the Undergraduate Handbook. When the sequence of courses is approved by the advisor, a copy should be placed in the student's file in 104 McAllister Building. A form is available in 104 McAllister Building. This form should be submitted by the beginning of the sixth semester.


 Questions About General Education Requirements


  • The Undergraduate Mathematics Handbook states that I need to take ENGL 202, but the schedule of courses includes ENGL 202A, 202B, 202C, 202D, etc.. Which one should I take?

We recommend that you take ENGL 202C as it is a TECHNICAL WRITING course. However, if ENGL 202C is not available, then you are allowed to take any ENGL 202 to satisfy this requirement.


  • What courses satisfy the Writing Across the Curriculum requirement?

For mathematics majors, MATH 311W is the primary course used to satisfy this requirement. However, any 'W' course on campus may be used to satisfy the Writing Across the Curriculum requirement. For a complete listing of 'W' courses, see the following link.


  • What do GWS, GQ, GN, GA, GH, GS, and GHW stand for?

All of these designations refer to General Education areas. GWS stands for Writing and Speaking; GQ stands for General Quantitative;  GN stands for General Natural Sciences, GA stands for General Arts; GH stands for General Humanities; GS stands for General Social and Behavioral Sciences; GHW stands for General Health and Wellness. More information about courses that meet the General Education requirements available at Penn State can be found on in the University Bulletin.


  • What is the 3-6-9 option?

The university requires that a student complete 6 credits in each of the GA (Arts), GH (Humanities), and GS (Social Sciences) areas as part of the general education requirements. Majors in the Eberly College of Science are allowed to alter this slightly by taking 3 credits in one of these groups, 6 credits in one of the groups, and 9 credits in the third group. So, for example, a student would be allowed to complete 9 credits in the GH category, 6 credits in the GS category, and 3 credits in the GA category if desired. Students who are interested in developing 3-6-9 option should consult with a math advisor.  Contact the Undergraduate Math Department to set up an appointment.


  • May I use the same course to satisfy more than one general education requirement?

In general, no. However, you may use a course to satisfy both the GI and another general education requirement. Also, MATH 311W satisfies both a mathematics major requirement and the Writing Across the Curriculum requirement.


  • I successfully completed CHEM 110, but it is not being placed under the GN section of my degree audit. Why not?

As noted by the Chemistry Department, credits for CHEM 110 cannot be used to satisfy GN requirements unless the corresponding laboratory, CHEM 111 is also completed by the student. See the note in the CHEM 110 course description in the University Bulletin. Note that this is also true of the CHEM 112 and CHEM 113 combination of courses. It should be noted that the laboratory class and lecture class do NOT have to be taken in the same semester in order to satisfy the above requirement


  • The Undergraduate Mathematics Handbook states that I need to take CAS 100, but the schedule of courses includes CAS 100A, 100B, 100C, and 100S. Which one should I take?

If you plan on choosing the Teacher Certification Option, then choose CAS 100A. For all other options, you may choose any of the CAS 100 courses. All of the CAS 100 courses present the principles of communication, the difference between the courses occurs in the implementation of those principles. CAS 100A and CAS 100S use presentation of speeches, CAS 100B uses group problem solving, and CAS 100C uses analysis and evaluation of messages.


 General Questions


  • In the Undergraduate Mathematics Handbook, what does an asterisk next to some courses mean?

Any course with such an asterisk designation must be completed with a grade of C or better.


  • What can I do if I earn a D in a course in which I need to have a C?

The Mathematics Department will allow such a student to retake the course a second time in order to earn a better grade. Note that both grades count in the student's GPA, and that both courses do appear on the students transcript.


  • How do I change my major to mathematics?

Before officially changing majors, students should make an appointment to meet with a math advisor.  The Undergraduate Math Department staff will be happy to set up such an appointment. Once the decision has been made, students are able to change their major on their own on LionPATH.  See this tutorial for more information. 


  • How do I change my option in mathematics?

Before officially changing options, students should make an appointment to meet with a math advisor.  The Undergraduate Math Department staff will be happy to set up such an appointment. Once the decision has been made, students are able to change their major on their own on LionPATH.  See this tutorial for more information. 


  • I need to take a certain MATH course, but all the sections are full. What can I do?

It may be possible to sign you into a section that has reached its full enrollment. However, there are two conditions: [1] There are available seats in the classroom and [2] The instructor agrees to accept students beyond the course enrollment limit. 
In such a case, the student needs to take a Drop/Add form (available in 104 McAllister and the registrar's web page) to the instructor of the course. If the instructor is willing to add the student into the class, the student will obtain the instructor's signature.  Completed Drop/Add forms (signed by both the instructor and the student) should be taken to 104 McAllister before the drop/add deadlines or to the Registrar's Office in the Shields building if it is after the drop/add deadlines. If there are still seats physically available in the room (as deemed by the University, not the Mathematics Department), then the Undergraduate Office staff will sign the student into the course.


  • I am planning to complete a mathematics course this summer at a school near my home. Will Penn State count the course? How should I go about finding out if the course will transfer back to Penn State? What should I do before I take the course?

The best recommendation for this is a two step process:

a) Go to the Admissions Office Transfer Credit page. After walking through this process, if your course already appears in the Penn State system, then the course will transfer (assuming you complete the course successfully).
b) If your course does not appear in the system described in part a), then you will need to complete a Course Review Form and bring it to 104 McAllister. You will also need to supply the staff with a copy of the syllabus or course outline, so that enough information is available to evaluate whether the other course is equivalent to the desired Penn State course.

Course work completed at an accredited college or university may be evaluated for transfer credit if passed with a grade equivalent to A, B, or C. Course work completed on a pass-fail or satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis normally cannot be evaluated for transfer credit.