Undergraduate Honors

Distinction in Mathematics Awards

The mathematics department awards three levels of of Distinction in Mathematics to majors who fulfill the requirements: Distinction, High Distinction, and Highest Distinction. All mathematics majors are eligible. Courses taken for the mathematics major also count toward requirements for distinction.

Coursework Core: Required for all levels of Distinction

Every level of Distinction Award requires at minimum the following: 

  1. At least 3.65 GPA over all upper level mathematics (L24) courses, and
  2. Completion with grades of B or better (not B-) of
    1. one of the course sequences  4111-4121, 429-430, 493-494, 449-450, and
    2. three additional 400-500 level mathematics department courses (not an independent study or cross-listed from other departments)

Note: courses transferred to WashU or courses taken abroad in a mathematics or statistics department as part of a WashU-approved overseas study program will count toward the mathematics courses required, provided they are transferred as 400-level mathematics courses and the transcript indicates a level of performance comparable to a "B" or better at Washington University. However, the grades for such courses will not be included in calculations for the GPA requirements.

Distinction: Additional Requirements

Awarded for Coursework Core, plus:

  1. Completion of one additional regularly scheduled mathematics course at the 400-500 level with grade at least B (not B-), or
  2. Passing the first actuarial exam (P) from Society of Actuaries. The exam must be taken early enough so that we can get official notification of a passing score in time to certify award recipients. For May graduates, the certification happens at the end of March.

High Distinction: Additional Requirements

Awarded for Coursework Core plus satisfactory completion of an honors thesis. 

Highest Distinction: Additional Requirements

Awarded to students who earn High Distinction and whose

  1. Coursework includes completion of at least one of the graduate level sequences 5021-5022, 5031-5032, 5041-5042 (or 5043), 5051-5052, 5061-5062 and passing the graduate qualifying exam for that course sequence, or
  2. Coursework includes all the requirements for the Honors Program in Statistics with grades of B or better (not B-) in all required 400-level courses

Latin Honors

At the time of graduation, the mathematics department will recommend that a candidate receive Latin Honors (cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude) if she or he has completed the department's requirements for High Distinction or Highest Distinction in Mathematics, each of which requires an Honors Thesis. The College will then approve the recommendation if the student's final cumulative overall GPA is at least 3.65. 

The Honors Thesis

Arts & Sciences mathematics majors who want to be candidates for Latin Honors, High Distinction, or Highest Distinction must complete an honors thesis. Writing an honors thesis involves a considerable amount of independent work, reading, creating mathematics, writing a paper that meets acceptable professional standards, and making an oral presentation of results.

Types of Projects

An honors thesis can take three forms: 

  1. A thesis that presents significant work by the student on one or more nontrivial mathematics problems.
  2. A project in mathematical or applied statistics that involves an in-depth analysis of a large data set. To do an honors thesis involving data analysis, it is usually necessary to have completed 3200-493-494 by the end of the junior year, and to have an ability to work with statistical software such as SAS (as taught in Math 475) or R.
  3. A substantial expository paper that follows independent study on an advanced topic under the guidance of a department faculty member. Such a report would involve careful presentation of ideas and synthesis of materials from several sources.

Process and Suggested Timeline

Junior Year, Spring Semester:

  1. Talk with a faculty advisor about possible projects.
  2. Complete the Proposal for Admission to Candidacy for Honors and submit it to Blake Thornton.

Senior Year: 

  1. By the end of January, give your advisor a draft abstract and outline of the paper.
  2. A rough draft, including an abstract, should be given to the advisor by the end of February.
  3. You and your advisor should agree on when you will complete your writing, and on a date/time for the oral presentation in mid-March. 

Departmental Prizes

Each year the department considers graduating majors for three departmental prizes. Recipients are recognized at an annual awards ceremony in April, where they each receive a certificate and a set of honors cords to be worn as part of the academic dress at Commencement. Awards are noted on the student's permanent university record. 

Ross Middlemiss Prize

The Ross Middlemiss Prize is awarded to a graduating math major with an outstanding record. The award was established by former Professor Ross Middlemiss, who taught at Washington University for forty years. From 1936 through the 1960s, Middlemiss authored several books, including a widely popular calculus text that was used in University College courses until the late 1970s.

Putnam Exam Prize

The Putnam Exam Prize is awarded to a graduating senior who has participated regularly in the Putnam Exam Competitionand done exceptionally well throughout his/her time at Washington University.

Martin Silverstein Award

The Martin Silverstein Award was established in memory of Professor Martin Silverstein who, until his death in 2004, was a pioneer in work at the interface of probability theory and harmonic analysis. Each year the department considers for this award students in any major track, but especially those with strengths in probability or statistics.

First-Year Honors Mathematical Sequence

This one-year sequence Honors Mathematics I-II (Math 203-204) is designed for first year students with a strong background in calculus technique. It aims to give students a rigorous understanding of single and multivariable calculus and basic linear algebra, together with their theoretical underpinnings. Along the way, students will be introduced to the language and methods of modern mathematics, with a strong emphasis on proofs.

Prerequisites

The prerequisite for enrollment is a score of  "5" on the AP Calculus Exam (BC version). 

Please note: Many students who have been very successful in high school calculus (including many who earned a "5" on the BC exam) will still find the regular Calculus III course (Math 233) a better fit for them. Math 203-204 is a more theoretical treatment and of more interest to students who enjoy mathematics and logical reasoning for their own sake. A student who begins with the standard Calculus III course will still be able to complete a strong major in mathematics if desired.

Sequence Details

In the first semeser, the course will use a classic and challenging textbook (Apostol, Calculus, vol 1); it will start at the beginning of calculus and do a careful treatment of topics, taking advantage of the fact that students already know how to do the standard Calculus I & II  calculations. Although students go "back to the beginning," those who complete both Math 203-204 will have covered the material through Calculus III in a rigorous way. They will also have covered a significant part of introductory linear algebra and have developed some ability in reading and writing proofs.  On the recommendation of the instructor, students who do well should be able to replace one or two intermediate courses usually taken by math majors with more advanced courses.  They will be in a position for a stronger math major and will not have fallen behind: in fact, they may be a course or two more advanced than others by the end of the freshman year.  You can see a list of the topics Math 203 will cover in the WUSTL Course Listings online.

Honors Program in Statistics

The Honors Program in Statistics consists of a challenging four-year curriculum and an honors thesis. It is designed to give individual highly motivated students an especially strong foundation in modern statistical reasoning. The sooner one embarks on the program, the better; otherwise it will be difficult or impossible to complete all the required coursework. Students who successfully complete the program should be in a strong position to continue into graduate work in the field or to find jobs.

Practicum

The department can assist students in the program with finding an opportunity for a practicum, which consists of hands-on field work under the supervision of a professional mentor - either a faculty mentor or a mathematical scientist in industry or at a government research facility. For example, students can undertake a practicum with Washington University faculty in the mathematics department, at the medical school, or in other Arts & Sciences departments such as biology, economics or psychology. The practicum can be a major asset in job hunting or graduate school applications.

Typical Program

  Fall Semester Spring Semester
First Year

Math 233:  Calculus III
or the Freshman Seminar, Math 201, or both of Math 203-204 (Honors Mathematics I-II)

Math 3200:  Elementary to Intermediate Statistics with Data Analysis
(Students in the Honors Statistics Program have permission to take Math  3200 concurrently with Math 233.)

Math 309:  Matrix Algebra
 

Math 322:  Biostatistics

Second Year

Math 318:  Calculus of Several Variables

Math 493:  Probability

Math 310:  Foundations for Higher Mathematics

Math 494:  Mathematical Statistics

Third & Fourth Years

(courses spread over fall and spring semesters)

Math 4111  Introduction to Analysis

Math 429   Linear Algebra

Math 475   Statistical Computation

Math 4121  Introduction to Lebesgue Integration

     plus

Three additional upper level electives (two of these in probability/statistics) selected in consultation with the program advisor

    plus

Honors Thesis 

Small modifications in the program may be approved in consultation with the program advisor.