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Department of Mathematics & Statistics

Undergraduate studies

There are excellent reasons for studying Mathematics at Otago. We discuss some here, and outline the requirements for completing an ordinary or Honours degree in Mathematics. If you have any questions about mathematics papers or course structure, please contact the relevant Director of Studies.

  • Why study Mathematics?
  • Why study at Otago?
  • A major in Mathematics
  • A minor in Mathematics
  • A double major in Maths and Stats
  • Honours in Mathematics

Why study Mathematics?

Studying mathematics is training in general problem solving. Many employers recognise this fact and highly value the transferable skills gained by studying mathematics:

  • critical and analytical thinking,
  • quantitative reasoning,
  • problem solving,
  • constructing logical arguments,
  • communication and teamwork,
  • independence.

Otago’s Mathematics graduates regularly obtain good positions in education, finance, banking, insurance, government administration, ITS, research and many other fields.

Why study at Otago?

While many universities in New Zealand offer degrees in Mathematics, the Department of Mathematics & Statistics at the University of Otago is attractive for many reasons.

  • Otago has the oldest tradition in teaching Mathematics in New Zealand. When founded in 1869 as New Zealand’s first university, one of the three initial professors was teaching Mathematics and Natural Philosophy.
  • Otago is in the top one per cent of universities internationally according to the latest QS World University rankings.
  • The lecturers at the Department are world-class researchers, with two staff being fellows of the Royal Society. In particular, the Department has a strong reputation in ecology and evolutionary genetics, mathematical and numerical relativity, and computational statistics. This guarantees research-informed teaching and is an entry point for student research at Honours, Masters and PhD level.
  • The integration between Mathematics and Statistics guarantees excellent and coordinated combined programmes.
  • The Department’s unique mathematical and data modelling programme (COMO) trains science students for the data revolution.
  • Unlike many ageing Departments, Otago’s Department of Mathematics & Statistics has one of the largest groups of enthusiastic and motivated young researchers and lecturers.

A Major in Mathematics

The Bachelor of Science (BSc) and Bachelor of Arts (BA) degrees in Mathematics are made up of 360 points and normally can be completed in three years. The 360 points must include 180 above 100-level, of which at least 72 will be in papers above 200-level. Each 3-year degree must also satisfy what is called a Major Subject Requirement. You can fulfil such a requirement in Mathematics for a BSc or BA as follows:

BSc or BA in Mathematics

  • 100-level: MATH 160, MATH 1701, and STAT 110 or 1152
  • 200-level: MATH 201, MATH 202, MATH 203
  • 300-level: Four 300-level MATH or COMO papers

1 Advanced placement into MATH 170 will be allowed for suitably qualified students

2 Qualified students may substitute STAT270 for the 100-level STAT paper

A Minor in Mathematics

Minor in Mathematics

  • 100-level: MATH 160 and MATH 1701
  • 200-level: MATH 202 and MATH 203
  • 300-level: One 300-level MATH or COMO paper

1Students with advanced placement into MATH 170 can substitute 18 COMO or MATH points (excluding MATH 151) for MATH 160

A Double Major in Mathematics and Statistics

To get a double major in a BSc or a BA, one must fulfil the requirements of each major. Some students can accomplish this in 3 years, but it generally takes longer.

Double Major in Mathematics and Statistics

  • 100-level: MATH 160 and MATH 170; STAT 110 or 115
  • 200-level: MATH 201, MATH202 and MATH 203; STAT210, STAT 260 and STAT 270
  • 300-level: Four 300-level MATH/COMO papers; Four 300-level STAT papers including STAT 370

Honours in Mathematics

There are two other degrees you can obtain: a Bachelor of Science with Honours, BSc(Hons), and a Bachelor of Arts with Honours, BA(Hons). Each of these is a one-year add-on to the ordinary three-year BA or BSc, and will be awarded as a separate degree. Requirements for these are as follows:

BSc(Hons) or BA(Hons) in Mathematics

Prerequisites: A BSc or BA with a major in mathematics including at least five 300-level MATH/COMO papers with an average grade of B+.

Honours year: Students take four 20-point 400-level papers, and the 40-point full-year project paper MATH490. Students may be permitted to take one of these papers in another discipline. In Mathematics, each 20-point paper consists of two modules.

Assessment of papers and calculation of final grade

Each module will give a mark out of 100. These will be combined in pairs by the examination committee, to give a mark out of 100 for each paper.

The final honours mark is the average of the marks for the various papers, with the best 3 having a weighting of 1, the 4th a weighting of 0.5, and the project a weighting of 2.

The class of honours is determined by your final grade as follows:

First class80% – 100%
Second class (Division I)70% – 79%
Second class (Division II)60% – 69%
Third class50% – 59%

The Project — MATH 490

You should discuss possible topics with lecturers and with the honours director of studies, well before the start of Semester 1. Ideally you should know your supervisor(s) and your topic by the start of Semester. The written report should be submitted by the end of the lecturing period in Semester 2.

The length and nature of the written report vary widely, depending on the area of study, the nature of the project, and on the subject matter. (All of this is taken into consideration by the examiners.) You should plan your report carefully in consultation with your supervisor: it can take longer than you might think to do the actual writing. You are also welcome to talk to the honours coordinator at any stage.

Combined Honours

Students who wish to take Combined Honours should consult advisers in the relevant subjects at an early stage, so that an appropriate three-year degree can be planned. (This will probably require more than the standard twenty 18-point papers.) Double Honours is no longer available, though students who are qualified for admission in two subjects will be able to gain separate Honours degrees in those subjects.

See the Honours page


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