Both mathematics and statistics embody the spirit of the liberal arts. Mathematics is an art, a pure science, a language and an analytical tool for the natural and social sciences, a means of exploring philosophical questions, and a beautiful edifice that is a tribute to human creativity. Statistics is the science of giving meaning to data in the context of uncertainty. Statisticians are involved in data collection and study design, data analysis, and the communication of information to a broad audience.
The Department of Mathematics and Statistics offers its programs in modern classrooms and computer laboratories in the Center for Mathematics and Computing, a 42,500 square-foot building the department shares with the college’s Information Technology Services.
The Mathematics or Statistics Major
Students can choose between a mathematics or a statistics major. The mathematics major requires a core of Calculus, Linear Algebra, and Mathematical Structures. Students complete the major by taking six or more advanced courses beyond the core to insure both depth and breadth of mathematical knowledge. These courses include Abstract Algebra, Real Analysis, Complex Analysis, Combinatorics or Topology, as well as many other courses offered on a regular basis.
The statistics major requires a core of Probability, Statistical Inference, and Applied Regression Analysis. Students also take courses in Calculus, Linear Algebra and Computer Science. Students complete the statistics major by taking at least one term of Statistical Consulting and three electives from courses that include Data Science, Intro to Sampling Techniques, Advanced Statistical Modeling, Time Series and Bayesian Statistics.
During the senior year, both majors conclude with a capstone experience, known as “comps.” Students often work in small groups, typically of size 2-4, on a research problem, an applied project, or directed reading.
The mathematics or statistics majors prepare students for employment in a wide variety of fields or graduate school. In addition to traditional fields such as pure or applied mathematics, statistics, operations research and actuarial science, there are a growing number of opportunities in interdisciplinary fields, such as mathematical economics, biostatistics, biomathematics, bioinformatics, environmental engineering, data science and data visualization. Our graduates have gone on to work in education, software or consulting firms, insurance companies and even the New York Yankees!
Outside the classroom
In addition to regular coursework, students can enhance their mathematical or statistical experience in many other ways. The department features a colloquium series at which faculty, visitors and students present topics of current or historical interest. Past speakers have included distinguished visitors such as Fred Brooks, Steven Krantz, Doris Schattschneider, Paul Erdös, Ron Graham, Carolyn Gordon, Richard Guy, Stephen Stigler, Roger Penrose, James Propp, and Eugenia Cheng.
Students may also participate in seminars, independent study, or problem-solving groups. For decades Carleton has entered a team in the Putnam Mathematical Competition, a contest for undergraduates all across the United States and Canada. Often, our students have done quite well in this contest. Locally, Carleton teams compete with nearby colleges in the Konhauser problem-solving contest and in data analytics competitions. Carleton students also have the opportunity to do research in both mathematics and statistics.
The department also employs students as tutors, lab assistants, graders, teaching assistants, and research assistants.
Finally, majors in the department develop close relationships with departmental faculty not only through their academic work, but also at picnics and other special events.
Off-campus opportunities for majors
Many Carleton mathematics and statistics students participate in summer research programs (REU’s) and internships (for instance, at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota). In addition, many students spend a term in Hungary on the Budapest Semester in Mathematics program.
Mathematics and Statistics for non-majors
Since mathematics and statistics plays such a key role in the physical, biological, and social sciences, calculus courses and intro stats are useful to students who plan careers in these areas. Diagnostic examinations are available during New Student Week to assist students in deciding at which level they should enter the calculus sequence. The department offers a course, Calculus with Problem Solving, for those students who require extra preparation.
Introduction to Statistics is useful (or required) for many majors, including the political science, biology, environmental studies or economics. Applied Regression Analysis is a data intensive course covering statistical modeling and is open to students who have either taken Introduction to Statistics or who have an AP Statistics score of 4 or 5.
The department also offers First-Year (Argument and Inquiry) Seminars on an occasional basis. Topics have included Explorations in Geometry, Cryptography, and Mathematics and Art. These seminars do not have any prerequisites.