Starting Math in the College

Math is not a requirement for all plans of study in the College.  Every student does need to fulfill the Formal Reasoning requirement in the General Education requirements, and there are many courses available in addition to math courses that you may take for this requirement including linguistics, philosophy and music theory among others. 

But if you are planning on...

  • Majoring in a STEM field including Economics
  • Pursuing a pre-health path
  • Or you like math and want to take more of it 

you will need some math and should carefully consider which first course is right for you. The Math Diagnostic is an important tool along with your high school math background in determining the best first math course at Penn. 

The Two Calculus Sequences

There are two primary calculus sequences:

  • Math 1300 -> Math 1400 -> Math 1410: Most students taking calculus at Penn (including students interested in the mathematical and physical sciences) will take one or more of these courses
  • Math 1070 -> Math 1080: If you are interested in a major in Economics, you have the option to satisfy your calculus requirements using these courses

For more information and guidance on choosing the right Math course and other STEM courses based on placement, high school background and current interests, see our Entering the STEM Fields at Penn interactive tool or PDF infographic (accessible).

The Math Diagnostic is available through the Canvas system.  If you are a First-year incoming student you will automatically be enrolled in the Math Diagnostic. The Math Diagnostic will help you determine the best math course to start with at Penn and how to prepare for that course.  If you are a transfer student please speak to your advisor about being added to the Math Diagnostic. 

All students are eligible to take the Mathematics Department's internal exams for credit, which are offered at the beginning of the fall semester. More information is available on the Mathematics Department website.

See the placement page for information about AP and IB scores for Mathematics.

The Mathematics Department does not give credit for foreign examinations, such as the German Abitur, the French Baccalaureat and the English A-Levels.