Advice on Choosing First Year Mathematics Courses

Each year the School of Mathematics and Statistics offers the following courses:

All the courses except MATH1041 and MATH1081 include some algebra, calculus and computing.

MATH1151 and MATH1251 Maths for Actuarial Studies and Finance is taken by and restricted to students in the Bachelor of Actuarial Studies or degrees combined with that, Commerce/Science students majoring in Finance/Mathematics and Advanced Mathematics students in the Quantitative Risk program.

Whilst students are initially enrolling only for Semester 1, over the whole year, students normally enrol in a pair of courses such as the one's outlined above

The Discrete Mathematics course covers other areas of mathematics that are particularly relevant for computer science but also help students to develop their ability to think mathematically and logically. MATH1081 is compulsory for students in Computer Science and Software Engineering, and is optional for all other Engineering students. In particular, it is recommended for students in Electrical, Telecom, Photovoltaic & Solar and Computer Engineering as it will help them with their Computing courses. It is also compulsory for students enrolled in a Mathematics for Education major in the BSc/BEd, any study plan (except Quantitative Risk) in Advanced Mathematics and is recommended for all other maths or stats majors. Where compulsory, MATH1081 should be included in the first year of study, but students in the basic Science program 3970 are advised to postpone MATH1081 until their second year, or to at least Semester 2 of their first year.

Choosing Your Courses

This information is intended to help you to make the right choice between Higher Mathematics 1, Mathematics 1, Fundamentals of Mathematics B and the Life Sciences mathematics courses.

In very broad terms, Higher Mathematics 1 is designed for students who have done well in HSC Mathematics Extension 2, while Mathematics 1 is for students who have done Mathematics Extension 1, and Fundamentals of Mathematics B and Mathematics for Life Sciences are for those who have just done HSC Mathematics. However, your background knowledge is only one of the factors which should influence your choice of courses.

The main factors influencing your choice of courses are:

1) Program and major or study plan requirements

Some programs (for example, programs in Engineering and Computer Science), some majors or study plans (for example, the Physics major in the Science and Mathematics program) require that you do Mathematics 1 or Higher Mathematics rather than the Fundamentals of Mathematics B or Mathematics for Life Sciences. You will need to read the Handbook carefully (or talk to one of your advisors to check the requirements for your program, major or study plan).

However, before you do this, you should complete and print results of the quiz that you can access through myUNSW under Course On-Line Advisor in the Enrolment Tools Section after you have accepted your offer.

2) Your intentions for further study

The Fundamentals of Mathematics and Mathematics for Life Sciences courses are intended for students who are not going to study much mathematics after their first year. Most mathematics courses in later years are only available to students who have done Mathematics 1 or Higher Mathematics 1.

If you are eligible to do Mathematics 1 or Higher Mathematics 1, think carefully before opting for Fundamentals of Mathematics B or Mathematics for Life Sciences, even if your program or major allows you to do them. Many students change their plans during their first year, and doing Mathematics 1 or Higher Mathematics 1 keeps open your options to change your major or to include some mathematics courses in later years.

3) Your mathematical background

The following advice is for students who did the HSC exam in NSW. If you did NOT do the HSC in NSW, you should discuss your qualifications with a Mathematics and Statistics enrolment advisor before you enrol.

Higher Mathematics 1 is intended for those who did well in Mathematics Extension 2 or exceptionally well in HSC Maths Extension 1. If your Extension 1 + 2 mark is over 175 we encourage you to do Higher Mathematics.

Mathematics 1 is mainly intended for students who did HSC Mathematics Extension 1. You can enrol in Mathematics 1 if your HSC Maths + Extension 1 mark is over 100 or your Extension 1 + 2 mark is over 100. However if these marks are lower than 115 or 150 respectively, we advise you to talk to a Mathematics and Statistics Advisor. If you achieved a mark over 85 in HSC Mathematics and want or need to take Mathematics 1, then discuss this with one of the Mathematics and Statistics Advisors. For marks lower than this, we strongly recommend that you do the Mathematics Bridging Course or do a semester of Fundamentals of Mathematics before starting Mathematics 1 (as explained next).

If you don't meet the "requirements" for Mathematics 1 but attained 60 or better in HSC Mathematics then the only courses we recommend to you in Semester 1 are MATH1011 Fundamentals of Mathematics B or MATH1031 Mathematics for Life Sciences.

If your program, major or study plan says that you must do Mathematics 1, then you should enrol in Fundamentals of Mathematics B for Semester 1. If you then do the Mathematics Bridging Course in February and peform well in the final exam, you will be allowed to change your enrolment to Mathematics 1A for Semester 1. If you do not do the Bridging Course but pass Fundamentals of Mathematics B in Semester 1 and Mathematics 1A in Semester 2, you will be able to enrol for Mathematics 1B which commences late November, and complete it during the Summer Semester.

You will need to check with your Program Authority to see if MATH1011 Fundamentals of Mathematics 1B can be counted towards a degree. MATH1011 is not counted as a requirement towards a Maths or Statistics major.

If you received a mark of less than 60 in HSC Mathematics, or did HSC General Mathematics (or no Maths at all), then you are not prepared to take any of these University Mathematics courses.

All students are advised that there is a test on which you can assess your background knowledge. See the Course On-Line Advisor section of myUNSW under Enrolment Tools.

A Quick Reference to Your High School Mathematics Background

This is a quick reference to choosing your 1st Year Mathematics courses according to your level undertaken in the HSC:

Completed General Maths and need to enrol in MATH1031 or MATH1041

Completed General Maths and need to enrol in MATH1131

Completed HSC Mathematics and you need to enrol in MATH1131

Completed HSC Mathematics Extension 1 and you need to enrol in MATH1131 or MATH1151

Completed HSC Mathematics Extension 2 and you need to enrol in MATH1131 or MATH1141 or MATH1151

If you have further have questions and are still unsure which 1st year Mathematics courses to enrol in, please contact the Student Services Office on the details below.

Your attitude towards mathematics

Do you get satisfaction from learning and understanding new things in mathematics? If you do, you will find it more satisfying to do the highest level of mathematics for which you are eligible rather than the lowest level that your program, major or study plan will allow. Higher Mathematics 1 requires a bit more work than the other courses but it appeals to people who like to solve interesting problems and to understand fully what they are doing. Marks for the Higher exams are scaled to compensate for the fact that some of the problems are harder than the problems in Mathematics 1.

If you did HSC Mathematics Extension 1 and Extension 2 or did well in Extension 1 alone, you are not likely to find MATH1011 Fundamentals of Mathematics or even MATH1031 Mathematics for Life Sciences very interesting.

What if I Make the Wrong Choice?

If, within a few weeks, you feel that you haven't chosen the right level of Mathematics then you should seek the advice of the Student Services Office or the Director of First Year Mathematics as it is possible to make a change. Changes are allowed from Higher Level Math1241 to MATH1231 but these changes need to be made before the census date (31 August, 2016) for semester 2, 2016.

Changes into or out of MATH1031 Mathematics for Life Sciences need to be made by the end of Week 1.

How to Contact Us or Get More Information

School of Mathematics and Statistics - Student Services Office
Room 3072 Red Centre Level 3
phone: (02) 9385 7011
email: fy.MathsStats@unsw.edu.au