Course Advising for New Students

The purpose of this page is to help direct first-year students toward mathematics courses that best suit their needs, and which are the most fun for them!  What math course should you take? To answer that question, some information about your interests and record would be helpful. 

  • Do you have any pre-matriculation credits? How might those credits apply toward your major and toward graduation?
  • Do you need to take math courses to fulfill the Distribution Requirement?
  • Do you need to take calculus?
  • What are your interests?

Ultimately, students are encouraged to enroll in any course for which they feel ready.  Placement exams are not required and like the information on this page are intended to aid students in assessing their own level of preparedness to be successful in their chosen courses.

If you have questions, please feel free to contact individual faculty instructors, your pre-major advisor or your Advising Deans.

What Math Course should I Take First?

Please visit the Mathematics Courses page for all course offerings and descriptions by semester.

Below are Courses Recommended for First-Year Students

  • MATH 16 Symmetry
  • MATH 19 Mathematics of Social Choice
  • MATH 21 Introductory Statistics
  • MATH 32 Calculus I
  • MATH 34 Calculus II
  • MATH 42 Calculus III
  • MATH 63 Number Theory
  • MATH 65 Bridge to Higher Mathematics
  • MATH 70 Linear Algebra
  • MATH 87 Mathematical Modeling and Computation

How to Determine Which Courses to Take Depending on Your Goals

If your goal is to satisfy Distribution Requirement, you might consider: MATH 16, Symmetry; MATH 19, Mathematics of Social Choice; MATH 21, Probability/Statistic.

If you are considering a Science or Engineering Major you might consider: some course in the calculus sequence, or differential equations.

  • Check the requirements for the courses or program of study you may want to take (look in SIS, each course has pre-requisites and recommendations listed).
  • If you have previously taken Multidimensional Calculus and/or Linear Algebra, you may consider taking MATH 63 or MATH 65.

If you are considering a Major or Minor in mathematics (or Data Science and Computer Science), you might consider one of these as your first Mathematics course: Some course in the calculus sequence, MATH 65, or MATH 70.

For those who are interested in seeing something other than calculus, here are some great classes that can be taken during your first year.

  • MATH 65 Bridge to Higher Math. This is a class for anyone who wants to see how mathematics is developed. The course will introduce you to mathematical reasoning, problem solving, and proof. This course is for anyone to take. Math majors, Computer Science majors and Data Science majors take this course as a foundation for the 100 level courses in both Math and CS. It is required or recommended for most upper-level math classes.
  • MATH 70 Linear Algebra. This class is useful in pure and applied mathematics and all sciences. Recommended after Calculus II but can be taken after Calculus I.
  • MATH 87 Mathematical Modeling. For those who want to see how real-world problems can be translated into applied, computational problems. Recommended after Calculus II and Linear Algebra.

Advanced Placement, Pre-matriculation Credit

If you have AP credit: a score of 4-5 in Calculus AB or a score of 4 in Calculus BC grants credit for Calculus I; a score of 5 in Calculus BC grants credit for Calculus II. Credit also from other sources: International Baccalaureate or taking a class at a college or university before matriculating. Contact Students Services to verify that your pre-matriculation credits will apply.

Exam Score Courses Equivalent*  Placement
Mathematics AB 4, 5 1 Place out of "Calculus I"
Mathematics BC 4 1 Place out of "Calculus I"
Mathematics BC 5 2 Place out of "Calculus II"

*Course Equivalent: credits received for academic work completed before enrolling at Tufts are considered "credit-bearing pre-matriculation course equivalents," and each is equal to 3 Tufts or more credits (Semester-Hour Units, SHU).

Please visit for more information on pre-matriculation credits.

Mathematics Distribution Requirement

Arts & Sciences Mathematics Distribution Requirement – all A&S Students must take minimum of two courses, worth at least 6 credits

AP credit, may be used as equivalent for one of the courses.

You may take Calculus if you want, but you do not have to! We offer courses in.

  • MATH 16, Symmetry (math and art!) –  offered in the Spring only.
  • MATH 19, The Math of Social Choice (The math of voting!) – offered Fall & Spring.
  • MATH 21, Probability/Statistics – offered Fall & Spring.

You can take courses in other departments that count for the requirement.

  • Almost every course in Computer Science counts.
  • Statistics courses from departments such as Economics, Biology, and Psychology also count.

Look for “LA-Distribution-Mathematics” in Class Attributes when selecting classes in SIS.

Visit for more information on Tufts Liberal Arts (A&S) Distribution requirements.

School of Engineering (SOE) – if you are a student in SOE or are planning to transfer from A&S to SOE, please consult the SOE requirements, and contact your Advising Dean.

All About Calculus

Diagnostic Test for Calculus I - The goal of the diagnostic is help Calculus instructors understand the preparedness of all students entering Calculus I

  • All students registered for Calculus I will take the Diagnostic Test.
  • Registered students will receive an email about the Diagnostic Test after they are officially enrolled in Calculus I.
  • The Diagnostic will be administered on Gradescope in a single go; plan for 2 hours of uninterrupted time.
  • The Diagnostic is not graded. You will be given feedback rather than a grade.
  • The Diagnostic does not exempt you or prevent you from taking Calculus I, nor does it give you credit for Calculus I.

Calculus Skills Workshop (for Calculus I)

  • If the department feels you could benefit from some extra time dedicated to focusing on the way pre-Calculus is used in your Calculus I class, you will have the opportunity to enroll in a 1 SHU Calculus Skills Workshop to help you succeed in the course.
  • The course is pass/fail, only attendance. Commitment is one hour per week.
  • Is required, and there will be no graded homework or exams.
  • If you are asked to sign up for the workshop, you will have the opportunity to take another diagnostic a few weeks into the term. If we feel you have improved your skills enough to succeed in the rest of the term, you will be done with the workshop and will receive 1 SHU for your time.

Calculus II & III

If you have already taken Calculus III and/or Linear Algebra at a college or university and it did not count towards your high school credits, you may be able to transfer the credit into Tufts. Check with the transfer of credit advisor in the Mathematics Department, Associate Professor David Smyth.

If you cannot transfer the credit, you may want to take a test to place out of the requirement.

We will give the Calculus 3 (MATH 42) and Linear Algebra (MATH 70) online (through Gradescope). They will be able to take the exam any time between August 1 and the 15th. Please contact Zachary Faubion if you plan on taking the placement exam.

The placement exam does not grant any credit. Excelling on the placement exam will allow for you to take a more advanced Math class in place of MATH 42. Please seek out your major advisor for recommendation of an appropriate course for your interests.

Check the Tufts syllabus for Calculus 3 (MATH 42) and Linear Algebra (MATH 70). If you did not cover all the topics, it is better to take the class. Here are some example Calculus and Linear Algebra syllabi and final exams for review.

If you have more questions or need additional help deciding what Mathematics courses to take, please contact our Undergraduate Director, Professor Genevieve Walsh.