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University of Colorado Denver College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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Taking your first math course at UCD

Mathematical & Statistical Sciences


This page provides information for undergraduate students taking their first math course at UC Denver. It gives information about which math class to take, how to determine which math course you are mathematically prepared to take, and how to improve your chances for successfully completing your math course. If you have already taken MATH 1401, Calculus I, or an equivalent, please see your college and/or departmental advisor to determine which math class would be most appropriate for you.

Recommendations to Reduce the Length of Study at UC Denver

Take your first math class early. To get a degree in a reasonable amount of time (4-5 years), the appropriate level math class should be taken your first semester, and a math course should be taken each subsequent semester until all math courses required for your particular degree have been taken. For example, a student who wants to major in engineering is typically expected to take and pass MATH 1401, Calculus I, during their first year. After passing Calculus I, the minimum length of time that is needed to get a BS in engineering is three years. Similarly, a student who wants to get a BS in business is expected to take and pass MATH 1080, Polynomial Calculus, their first year, and after passing Polynomial Calculus, the minimum length of time that a student needs to get a BS in business is three years. This is a minimum length of time and it may take longer depending upon the number of classes a student passes each semester and whether the student takes classes during the summer. 

Be mathematically prepared for your first math class. To be successful in a particular math class, you must understand thoroughly the prerequisite material and be accurate with calculations. Many students believe they are prepared and later learn they are not, usually about half way through the semester, and this results in a non-passing grade or withdrawal, causing the student to have to take the appropriate math course the following semester. The math class a student takes their first semester directly affects the length of time it takes a student to get a degree. It is crucial that you take the appropriate math class the first semester, preferably the highest level math class you are prepared for and comfortable taking.

Take a math course every semester at UC Denver until you have completed your mathematics requirement. Some students put off their math course as long as possible. This puts them in a very stressful situation because then if they do not pass the course, their planned graduation date has to be postponed. To make steady progress toward your degree, you should try to take one math course per semester, beginning with a math course at the appropriate level, so that the chance of successfully completing the course is highest. Taking a semester "break" from mathematics causes significant amount of loss in mathematical skills and then requires significant review to regain the lost skills. We also highly recommend students take all their college-level math courses at UC Denver. Students who take their math courses at UC Denver perform significantly better in successive math, science and engineering courses. The average grade in follow-up courses for students who took the prerequisite course at UC Denver is between a tenth and a quarter grade higher than for other students.

Hopefully you have some idea of what you would like to get a degree in. Take a look at what math courses are required for the degree, and then look at the prerequisites required to take the math course. That should give you some idea. A list of math courses, their course descriptions and prerequisites can be found in the Course Catalog.

  • I just need a course to satisfy the math core requirement. Many students (but not all) take MATH 1010, Mathematics for the Liberal Arts, or MATH 2830, Introductory Statistics. Both of these courses require two years of high school algebra as a prerequisite. Please note that MATH 1010 will not prepare you for other math courses; it is a terminal course, i.e., it does not satisfy the prerequisite for any other math course. Similarly, MATH 2830 does not help prepare you for any other math course except for MATH 4830, Applied Statistics. Many biology majors and/or pre-med students take MATH 2830 and MATH 4830.

  • I would like to major in engineering, math, chemistry or physics. It is especially important that you take the appropriate level math course as early as possible. You need to be prepared to really learn all the math in your courses as it will be expected that you will know this material in your subsequent math and engineering courses. See information below about which math class you should take first.

  • I would like a business degree. It is especially important that you take the appropriate level math course as early as possible. See information below about which math class you should take first.

Can I Take My Math Class Online?

Online math classes are classes taken completely online. Students are expected to read material, watch videos, interact with other students online, and do their homework independently. Some instructors require that you take your exams where you can be proctored (for example, on the Auraria Campus in the Math Education Resource Center, or at a library). Comments students make after completing an online course indicate that they were not expecting the amount of time required to be successful. Most students say they spend more time for an online course than if they had attended class on campus. The number of students who drop online math courses is significantly higher than for the equivalent on-campus course, probably because students are not prepared for the workload and discipline required to be successful online. If you need help staying motivated, like talking to an instructor and other students in person to help figure things out, and prefer to have material explained to you in person rather than reading or watching a video, then it is strongly recommended you take a course on campus. However, if you are self-motivated, perhaps have seen the material before (perhaps long before), and just need to review, then an online course may work for you.