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Information On the Math Department
And the Math Placement Test

The Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at Hobart and William Smith Colleges offers both a major and a minor in mathematics. It also offers courses that are required by several other academic departments, including most departments in the Natural Sciences Division.

Almost every student who would like to enroll in a mathematics course is required to take the department's placement test. An exception is made for Math 110 and for Math 114, which are liberal-arts courses in mathematics for non-majors. Exceptions can also be made in certain circumstances for transfer students and others who already have college-level credit for several mathematics courses. In general, students cannot be placed into Math 100, Math 130, Math 131, Math 135, or Math 204 unless they have taken the placement test.

The placement test is mainly a test of algebra and pre-calculus skills. It consists of 30 multiple-choice questions. Students who achieve a grade of 20 or higher can be placed into calculus. Students who score lower than 20 are recommended to take pre-calculus. For more detailed information, see the description of each individual course, given below.

Please keep in mind, however, that a score of 20 or better on the test is not a guarantee that a student will succeed in calculus. The test is not perfect, and success in mathematics depends on many factors in addition to basic skills.

Questions about the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science can be directed to the Chair of the Department, Professor Jon Forde ( Questions about the mechanics of the placement test can go to Professor David Eck (, who is responsible for the test software. Also, you can check out the Math Department Web Page for more information about the Department.

Math Courses

Several mathematics courses are available to students taking their first math course at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Students have a variety of backgrounds and goals, and these determine which courses are suitable for particular students.

Math 100: Elementary Functions. This is a pre-calculus course that is designed to help students prepare to take calculus. It is recommended only for students who are planning to take Math 130 (Calculus I) and who need to improve their skills before doing so. Students who score below 20 on the Math Placement Test are advised to take Math 100 before taking Math 130. Students who score 20 or just a little higher might also consider taking Math 100, if they are not confident in their math skills. Math 100 involves the study of basic functions: polynomial, rational, exponential, logarithmic, and trigonometric. Topics covered include: a review of the real number system, equations and inequalities, graphing techniques, and applications of functions. If a student needs to take this course, it is advisable to take it in the semester just before taking Calculus I.

Math 110: Discovering in Mathematics. This course is designed to bring some of the experience of doing math to students who are not planning to major or minor in mathematics. It is a study of selected topics dealing with the nature of mathematics, with an emphasis on its origins and a focus on mathematics as a creative endeavor. Math 110 is often taken by students in the education program to fulfill their mathematics requirement. (Note that this is a high-demand course and entering first-year students are generally discouraged from trying to enroll in it.)

Math 130: Calculus I. This is the first of two courses in the basic calculus sequence. It covers the differential calculus, that is, the derivative and its applications. This course is required for the majors in Biology, Chemistry, Geoscience, Physics, and Architectural Studies. A student with a score of 4 or 5 on the Calculus AB Advanced Placement Test is given credit for this course.

Math 131: Calculus II. This is the second course in the basic calculus sequence. It has a prerequisite of Math 130 or the equivalent. It covers the integral calculus, including the antiderivative, applications of integration, and techniques of integration. It also includes an introduction to infinite sequences and series. It is required for the majors in Chemistry and Physics and for a Bachelor of Science degree in Geoscience. A student with a score of 4 or 5 on the Calculus BC Advanced Placement Test is given credit for this course as well as for Math 130.

Math 135: First Steps into Advanced Mathematics. This course is designed to be the first course in the mathematics major. It is also required for a minor in mathematics. Although Calculus is not a formal prerequisite for this course, it will ordinarily be taken only by students who have already taken calculus. This includes many entering first-year students who are interested in majoring or minoring in mathematics. Students who have an interest in mathematics, who have already taken calculus, and who achieve a strong score on the placement test (25 or above) are encouraged to consider Math 135. This course emphasizes the process of mathematical reasoning, discovery, and argument. It aims to acquaint students with the nature of mathematics as a creative endeavor, as well as with the nature of mathematical methods and the phenomenon of mathematical proof.

Math 204: Linear Algebra. This course in linear algebra has a prerequisite of Math 131 or the equivalent. It might be appropriate for students who have a strong background in calculus and who want to continue their study of mathematics, but who do not want to take Math 135.

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