Mathematics and Statistics Course Information for First Year Students

Welcome to Colby, and to the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. This page collects information on courses for first-year students, especially calculus.

General advice:

  • If you are planning to take a Calculus course at any point during your time at Colby, we recommend that you take it during your first semester here. Mathematics is cumulative and calculus relies on what you learned in high school, so it’s best to start before you forget anything.
  • When choosing between a harder course and an easier course, we suggest you try the harder course. It is much easier to move from a harder course to an easier course than from an easier course to a harder course.
  • For additional reasons to take a math course, check out our webpage!
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Below you will find information on:

  • Calculus courses at Colby
  • Statistics and other non-calculus courses
  • The Quantitative Reasoning (Q) requirement
  • Mathematics and Statistics course requirements by major

Calculus courses at Colby

  • MA121: Single-Variable Calculus. This is the beginning of the mainstream calculus sequence. It covers the same material as the AP Calculus “AB” course and as most high school calculus courses. The focus, however, is much less computational and more conceptual than in many high school courses. The natural next course is MA122, which continues the study of calculus.
  • MA122: Series and Multivariable Calculus. This course is the choice of students who have had a year of calculus (either in high school or in MA121) and who are mainly interested in the applications, rather than the intellectual foundations, of calculus. This course presumes that students know the basics of integration and differentiation and the fundamental transcendental functions (sine, cosine, exponential, and logarithm). Students continuing their study of mathematics normally choose 253, 274, or 262 after this course.
  • MA161: Honors Calculus. This is the first course of the honors calculus sequence at Colby. It is an alternative to the MA121-122 sequence, not a continuation. Here calculus is presented as a deductive mathematical theory, with emphasis on concepts, theorems, and their proofs. This is an ambitious choice and almost all students who enter this course have taken and done well in a full year of calculus in high school. Students continuing their study of mathematics normally choose Math 162 after this course. Many continuing students choose to take Math 253 in addition to Math 162 after this course.

Statistics and other non-calculus courses

  • SC212. An introductory statistics and data science course. First-year students will not be admitted in the fall and are instead encouraged to take Mathematics 121, 122 or 161 and sign up for SC212 at a later time (usually as a sophomore).
  • MA253 or MA274. These are both very ambitious choices for first-year students, but they do make sense for some incoming students. Almost always, however, MA 161 or MA 122 is the better choice. If you are considering either MA253 or MA274, please come see us during the orientation period to talk about it.

The Quantitative Reasoning (Q) requirement

All first-year mathematics courses satisfy the “Quantitative Reasoning” distribution requirement. However, so do some courses in Philosophy, Computer Science and elsewhere. These courses are indicated by a “Q” in the course catalogue and can be searched for specifically using Curriculum Search on the Registrar’s webpage. Chose “Quantitative Reasoning” under “Area”.


Mathematics and Statistics course requirements by major

Mathematics courses are required for many majors at Colby. If you are interested in a particular subject you should thoroughly read the section in the Colby Course Catalogue that details the requirements for a major or a minor in that subject. Below we reproduce some of the mathematics requirements for majors in various subjects. Read the information below in tandem with the course catalog, not as a substitute! Clicking on the name of the department opens that department’s catalogue entry in a new window.

Any major requirement of Mathematics 121 is also satisfied by taking Math 122 or Math 161.

  • Biology.
    Basic Major requires Mathematics 121 or 161 or equivalent; one additional course chosen from 122, 162, 253, SC 212, or Computer Science 151 or 152 is also required. Certain specialized majors have different requirements; see Biology in the course catalogue.
  • Chemistry.
    Major requires calculus through 122 or 162. Any of the following combinations will satisfy the mathematics requirements for a Chemistry major: 121 and 122; 161 and 122; 161 and 162.
  • Computer Science.
    Major requires 200-level mathematics or statistics course (but some CS courses have other Math prerequisites).
  • Economics.
    Basic major requires Mathematics 121 or 161 or equivalent. In addition, MA 381/SC 382 will fulfill the requirement for EC 293. See Economics in the course catalogue for details about options for upper-level courses, as well as additional mathematics and statistics course requirements and recommendations, including those toward graduate school in Economics.
  • Geology.
    Major requires MA 122 or SC 212
  • Physics.
    Major requires four of the following courses: Mathematics 121 or 161; 122 or 162; 253; 262; 311; Computer Science 151 or 152. See Physics in the course catalogue about additional electives, as well as further mathematics course recommendations toward graduate school in physics and astronomy.
  • Environmental Studies
    The majors in this department require a combination of SC 212, MA 121 and MA 122, depending on the major. See Environmental Studies in the course catalogue
  • Mathematics and Statistics.
    Calculus thru 122 or 162 is required to begin. Mathematics 253 and 274 generally follow calculus, with more advanced courses coming later. Read more about the Mathematics and Statistics majors and minors. Read more about the Mathematics and Statistics majors and minors.
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