Degree Programs

Kristopher Lee
Director of Undergraduate Studies

In the 21st century economy, students in mathematics may be studying cryptography and coding theory, cellular automata for modeling in the life sciences, graphs and networks with applications to computing, or the mathematics of finance, to name only a few of the possible applications. In traditional areas such as teaching, there is projected to be a great demand for secondary teachers of Mathematics in the United States over the next decade.

Iowa State University offers a variety of undergraduate degrees related to mathematics. Consider the options, and discuss them with your advisor, to find the program of study that is right for you. A summary is offered at the bottom.


This is the traditional degree program which offers training suitable for students planning to work in mathematics and computation for industry or government, or to continue their studies in graduate school.

Majors normally spend the first two years obtaining a grounding in calculus and differential equations. At the junior and senior levels the department offers more than 25 undergraduate courses, including an introduction to combinatorics, abstract algebra, partial differential equations, complex variables, and mathematics of fractals. In addition, there are other courses at the graduate level which are open to qualified undergraduates.

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Mathematics plus Application Area

This degree option is designed for students who want to major in mathematics with a clear specialization in some area of application. Certain courses in the area of application are counted towards the mathematics major. This also facilitates double majors or major/minor combinations.

The major in mathematics + application area is not recommended for students who plan to continue with graduate school in mathematics. It can be very appropriate for students who plan to pursue a graduate degree in the application area.

In consultation with a mathematics faculty advisor, the student prepares a program of studies tailor-made to his/her future plans or career needs. A number of programs have already been designed and pre-approved. Deviations from the programs may be proposed, and must be approved by the Mathematics Department Undergraduate Committee.

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Mathematics with Secondary Teaching Certification

This degree will prepare you for teaching mathematics at the middle and high school level. The Mathematics Department and the Curriculum & Instruction Department share responsibility for this program.

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Actuarial Science

The path to becoming an actuary begins with a college degree, often in mathematics or business, followed by the first actuary exam. The employer will typically pay for on-the-job training and further exams. For more details, see

Math + Actuarial Science is one of the options in the Mathematics + Application Area program of study, where the application electives and further recommended courses have been selected to help you prepare for the actuarial exams. [→ Learn more](

Bioinformatics and Computational Biology

Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (BCBio) is an interdisciplinary science at the interface of the biological, informational and computational sciences. The program includes required courses from many different disciplines. Undergraduate study in the BCBio major is jointly administered by the Department of Computer Science, the Department of Genetics, Development, and Cell Biology, and the Department of Mathematics.

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Minor in Mathematics

A minor in Mathematics requires the following seven mathematics courses. The six credits of 300 level math classes must be taken at Iowa State University.

  • Math 165, 166, 265 – Calculus I, II, III
  • Math 201 – Introduction to Proofs
  • One of the following:
    • Math 317 – Theory of Linear Algebra
    • Math 407 – Applied Linear Algebra
  • One of the following:
    • Math 301 – Abstract Algebra I
    • Math 304 – Combinatorics
    • Math 314 – Graph Theory
    • Math 350 – Number Theory
    • Math 421 – Logic for Mathematics and Computer Science
    • Math 435 – Geometry I
    • Math 436 – Geometry II
  • One of the following:
    • Math 266 – Elementary Differential Equations
    • Math 267 – Elementary Differential Equations and Laplace Transforms
    • Math 331 – Topology
    • Math 341 – Introduction to the Theory of Probability and Statistics I
    • Math 365 – Complex Variables with Applications
    • Math 373 – Introduction to Scientific Computing
    • Math 414 – Analysis I


The programs of study listed above can be grouped into three categories:

Light Mathematics Course Load

A minor in mathematics requires 7 math courses.

Standard Course Load

A major in mathematics requires 14 math courses, plus general requirements. A **major in mathematics + application area** requires between 9 and 11 math courses, plus 3 to 5 courses in the application area, for a total of 14 courses (plus general requirements).

Higher Course Load

The major in math with secondary teaching certification is essentially a double major. It requires a full math major (with minor variations), plus additional courses in curriculum and instruction.

The degree in bioinformatics and computational biology requires more courses than most other majors (26 courses, in several departments, plus general requirements).