Choosing Your First Year, First Semester Mathematics Course

  • Most of this advice page concerns the choice many students need to make between the courses MATH1003, MATH1013 and MATH1115, which are first semester, first year courses in three different streams of mathematics offered at ANU. If you are choosing between these courses then please read this page carefully and pay attention to the information about the diagnostic exams provided below. The choice you make can have significant and lasting consequences.
  • If you are taking an Advanced Computing, Information Technology or Software Engineering degree, note that you may be required to take MATH1005 as part of your degree, and so may need to choose that course during first semester instead of, or in addition to, one of MATH1003, MATH1013 or MATH1115. (Should you wish to do an elective major in mathematics you may wish to take MATH1013 or MATH1115 as well as MATH1005).
  • Other students may also wish to take MATH1005 as a stand-alone elective. Another first semester course that is offered as an elective is MATH1042.
  • MATH1003, MATH1013 and MATH1115 are all courses that are intended for first year, first semester students (note that MATH1013 is also offered in second semester). They are at different levels but cover similar material, and are not to be taken concurrently. It is permitted to take MATH1003 earlier in a degree, in preparation for later taking MATH1013. However, because of an overlap in content, you would require special permission to take both MATH1013 and MATH1115 as part of a degree program. Taking one of MATH1013 or MATH1115 is a requirement of several degrees, and is a co-requisite for several other courses.
  • If you are a Bachelor of Actuarial Studies student, you have the option of either taking only MATH1113 in second semester, or you can choose to take two semesters of first year mathematics courses (which would allow later-year MATH courses to be taken) via MATH1013+MATH1014 or MATH1115+MATH1116. Further information concerning this choice is at the bottom of the BACTS Program Requirements section on Programs and Courses (after clicking the link, scroll down a little to a paragraph just below the course lists).

MATH1003, MATH1013 or MATH1115?

Which course you should enrol in depends on which course you took in school and what your plans are for your degree and future career. It is important to choose the appropriate course as it may have long term consequences. There is a high failure rate amongst those who do not have sufficient background knowledge for the course they are taking. On the other hand, taking a course that requires less background knowledge than you have may limit your options in later years, even if you do well in the course. We give a bit more detail about each course below, but the first step is to mention the diagnostic tests.

Diagnostic Tests

To help you decide on an appropriate course (out of MATH1003/1013/1115), the department has set up two diagnostic tests (accessible via this link). It is recommended that you take the relevant test(s) as soon as possible. In order that the information is useful for you, you should complete the diagnostic tests by the end of the first week of semester (Friday night of Week 1), so that you still have a chance to swap courses if needed. How you perform in the diagnostic tests will give you a rough indication of which course you should take. Note that you can readily change from one mathematics course to another until the Monday of Week 2, and after that some swaps may be permitted (e.g., from MATH1115 to MATH1013, but not the other way around) for a few more weeks, however it is best to change as early as possible so that you do not miss out on any of the assessment.

Once again, taking the diagnostic tests and balancing them against other factors, in particular your background mathematics education, is very important. The department has set up the diagnostic tests because we have seen the unfortunate consequences of students enrolling in the incorrect course.

Bridging Course For Students Who Want To Take MATH1013

If you are reading this information prior to 10th February 2020, are worried that you do not have the required background knowledge for MATH1013 and may want to take MATH1013 in Semester 1, then it is highly recommended that you consider taking the Maths Bridging Course that is being offered from 10th February to 19th February, just prior to the start of semester.

Course Information

MATH1115 - Advanced Mathematics and Applications 1

MATH1115 is part of our honours level stream. Students who think they might do Honours in Mathematics at the end of their degree should enrol in this course. However, taking MATH1115 does not mean that you have to do an honours year in Mathematics. The honours level courses are intended for those who want an in-depth understanding of mathematics. They are not just meant for mathematics students; many physics, engineering and actuarial students also take the honours courses. Also, a number of students who complete Honours in Mathematics go on to study in a variety of other areas: for example some students go on to complete a PhD in Biology.

One of the advantages of taking MATH1115 is that it leaves your options open for later year courses. For example, if you take MATH1115, and then MATH1116, it is possible to take the analysis course in second year. Analysis is a requirement for many of the masters degrees in America. The disadvantage of taking MATH1115 is that it is, deliberately, a hard course. If you do not have the correct background knowledge, interest, and motivation, do not believe that you can simply make up for it. MATH1115 is an accelerated course and the content is challenging.

If you complete MATH1115 in first semester, you can enrol in either MATH1116 (if your MATH1115 grade was 60 or above) or MATH1014, in second semester.

MATH1115 students who are planning to complete a Specialisation in Advanced Mathematics, or who are in a Bachelor of Mathematical Sciences, or who already suspect they will do Honours in Mathematics, may want to look at enrolling in MATH2222 concurrently with MATH1115. Depending on your program you might require permission from the MATH2222 course convener to enrol and we encourage you to also talk to the MATH1115 lecturers.

MATH1013 - Mathematics and Applications 1

MATH1013 is part of the techniques stream of courses. It is designed for those who need to use mathematics as a tool. As the name suggests, the course focusses on techniques that can be used to solve mathematical problems without going into the theorems and proofs behind the techniques. Many of the science, engineering and economics courses at ANU have MATH1013, or MATH1115, as either an elective or compulsory requirement. See, for example, the Major in Water Science, the Bachelor of Software Engineering (Honours) (which have MATH1013 or MATH1115 as an elective requirement), or the Bachelor of Advanced Computing (Research and Development) (Honours) (MATH1013 or MATH1115 is compulsory).

One of the disadvantages of taking MATH1013, as opposed to MATH1115, is that there are a number of later year courses that will not be available to you. That said, there are enough options to allow you to complete a major in mathematics. And indeed there will be students who complete a major in mathematics as well as a major in some application area.

Some students who have the background for MATH1115 take MATH1013 in the belief that it looks better to have a higher grade on their transcript. It is not uncommon for these students to get caught later in their degree when they realise it is beneficial to take a course, such as Analysis 1, which is not part of the techniques stream.

Then again there are students who do have a suitable background for MATH1115, but find it heavy going. It is possible to change from MATH1115 to MATH1013 for several weeks into the semester, without penalty. However, it is much better to change earlier rather than later. If you change within the first week of the semester, you can easily change courses on ISIS. If you change after the first week, but before census, you will need to get permission from the Course Authority.

If you complete MATH1013 in the first semester, you can enrol in MATH1014 in the second semester, but not MATH1116. Permission to enrol in MATH1116 without MATH1115 will only be given in exceptional circumstances.

In 2016 a new second year course MATH2222 was introduced. Students who have completed MATH1014 with a high grade may enrol in this course, which in turn may allow them to enrol in some of the second year honours stream courses.

MATH1003 - Algebra and Calculus Methods

MATH1003 is a pathway into MATH1013. If a student has not completed enough mathematics courses at school they should enrol in MATH1003 in the first semester and MATH1013 in the second semester. MATH1003 is designed to give students the necessary skills to allow them to complete MATH1013. MATH1003 is not a prerequisite for any other mathematics course.

Even if you do not have the appropriate background, it may be tempting to skip MATH1003 and go straight into MATH1013. We advise against doing that. Look at the different school prerequisites and consider the large difference in the background material they provide.

Additional Information and Help

Additional information about the different courses and pathways can be found on the Mathematics Study web page.

General course advice will be available during Orientation week (the link is for the Colleges of Science; other colleges will have other advice sessions).

If you are not sure you are enrolled in the correct course for you, the easiest way to get help is to talk to your lecturer. Their contact details should be available on Wattle, and you can usually talk to them after the lectures. For questions about first year choices, you can also talk to our first year coordinator Griff Ware, and for advice about course choices for the whole of your degree you can also talk to Griff or Stephen Roberts, who is our undergraduate coordinator.

If you would like more information about how a particular mathematics course will fit into your overall degree program, make an appointment to speak to one of the sub-deans in your college.

Frequently asked questions

  • "I'm interested in studying the abstract mathematics content in MATH1115. What can I do to prepare for the course?"
    A recommended (but not required) book for MATH1115 students is How to Study for a Mathematics Degree, by Lara Alcock. You can find it easily from various sources via an internet search. This book is available both as a paperback and as an e-book (the e-book is cheaper and can be purchased instantly). Students will understand much more of what to expect from a proof-based mathematics course, and be more able to hit the ground running, if they read this book before semester starts. The second part of the book also covers some general tips about study skills, which every university student would benefit from reading.
  • "I don’t have the suggested background for MATH1115 (i.e., the highest level of school mathematics available in your state if you are Australian). Can I still take MATH1115?"
    The short answer is that yes you can, because we will not stop you from enrolling in MATH1115. However, if you do so, you do so against our advice. We will assume that you are familiar with the highest level of mathematics from school. Anything that you missed out on that ends up being required knowledge, you will have to catch up on your own; while also trying to learn all of the new material that we will be going through at a much faster pace than what you are used to from school. It is not a matter of your intention or ability, it is simply that there are a limited number of hours in a day. You would need to have a high degree of aptitude and want to deeply understand mathematics for MATH1115 to work out for you, and it is unusual for someone who did not do the highest level of mathematics available to them at school to fit this category. Abstract mathematics at university is very different to what you are used to at high school. If, against our advice, you are going to take MATH1115 without the suggested background, you should begin studying Chapters 1 through 6 of the Stewart, "Essential Calculus" textbook as soon as possible (a lot of this content is actually assumed knowledge for MATH1115).
  • "I don’t have the suggested background for MATH1013, but my degree program or another course I am taking requires me to take MATH1013. What should I do?"
    Consider whether taking MATH1003 first, then MATH1013 in second semester and MATH1014 in the Spring Session at the end of the year, or otherwise in first semester of second year, will fit in with your degree program. Discuss this option with the relevant authority (one of the sub-deans in your college, or the convener for the first year course that requires MATH1013 as a co-requisite). Alternatively, if you are reading this information prior to 10th February 2020, are worried that you do not have the required background knowledge for MATH1013 and need to take MATH1013 in Semester 1, then it is highly recommended that you consider taking the Maths Bridging Course that is being offered from 10th February to 19th February, prior to the start of semester.