Mathematics

  • Degree Type Bachelor of ArtsBachelor of Science
  • Department Mathematics
  • Academic Division The College
  • Offerings Major Minor

A student works at a laptop in front of a chalkboard displaying mathematical equations A student works at a laptop in front of a chalkboard displaying mathematical equations

Mathematics welcomes students with a wide range of interests. Mathematics pairs well with many other fields, and students experience the subject as a creative endeavor as well as a useful tool in modeling and exploring physical and social processes.

Mathematics

In the Mathematics Department at W&L, dedicated professors help all math students develop the perseverance they need to move beyond numbers and formulas to the underlying ideas they express. Students are taught to identify, describe and understand patterns, and to recognize, admit and correct their mistakes. 

During their four years at W&L, mathematics majors and minors gain a mastery of fundamental areas of mathematics including single and multi-variable calculus, linear algebra, abstract algebra and real analysis. In addition, students complete a number of electives.

The Math Center

Math Department faculty want all students to succeed in their mathematics classes. You can always see your professor during office hours. In addition, the Math Center is open five evenings each week; this is a place where students can seek help on material in 100-level courses, with no appointment necessary.

“The Math Center is staffed by some of our best math majors who can really help these students,” said Professor Gregory Dresden. “But they won’t just present the student with the solution to a math problem. They’ll have students work out the problem on their own and guide them toward finding the right answer.”

Opportunities 

Collaborative research with faculty: Every year, we have a number of students conducting research with mathematics faculty at W&L during the academic year or during the summer. Students may earn one to three credits for this work, and the Summer Research Scholars program provides funding for summer research. Some research students give talks at regional mathematics conferences or publish articles in mathematics journals. Some mathematics majors extend their research project and write an honors thesis in mathematics.

Study abroad: Mathematics majors have completed some mathematics coursework while studying abroad at the London School of Economics, the University of St. Andrews and Oxford University. In addition, there are study abroad programs in mathematics in Budapest and Moscow.

Outcomes

Here are a few careers that use mathematics: actuarial mathematics, data science, applied mathematics, biomathematics, biostatistics, computer science, financial mathematics, economics law, medicine, music, technical writing, operations research, public heath and epidemiology, public policy research mathematics, statistics and education

In addition to mathematics and related fields, recent mathematics majors at W&L have pursued graduate studies in analytics, operations research, business, economics, computer science, engineering, law and medicine.

Alan McRae

Department Head

Wanda Childers

Administrative Assistant

News


Mathematics Professor Elizabeth Denne Featured in Quanta Magazine Article

The article focuses on the geology and topology behind optimal shapes.

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2024 Five-Star Distinguished Alumni Awards

Washington and Lee University is proud to announce this year's Five-Star Distinguished Alumni Award winners

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W&L to Host “Slices of Research” Program at Salerno Wood Fired Pizza & Taphouse

Newly promoted faculty members will present their research in a PechaKucha format on Jan. 30.

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W&L Visiting Math Professor Receives $10,000 Grant from Second Nature

Kumudu Gamage will use the funds for professional development and summer research.

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W&L’s Elizabeth Denne Featured in New Yorker Article

The mathematics professor discusses the differences between various necktie knots.

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2023 Distinguished Young Alumni Awards

Washington and Lee University is proud to announce this year's Distinguished Young Alumni Award winners

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Digging Deep

W&L’s Summer Research Scholars program gives students hands-on experience in collaborative research with faculty mentors.

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2023 Distinguished Alumni Awards

Washington and Lee University is proud to announce this year's Distinguished Alumni Award winners

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Alan McRae to Deliver Endowed Professorship Lecture

McRae’s presentation “Waiting for Gödel” will be held in Chavis Hall on March 22.

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2023 Five-Star Distinguished Alumni Awards

Washington and Lee University is proud to announce this year's Five-Star Distinguished Alumni Awards winners

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W&L’s Nevin Etter ’23 Receives American Mathematical Society Award

Etter plans to attend graduate school and pursue a career in mathematics.

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Colbert Presents Talk on Union’s Fields Medal Recipients

Cory Colbert, assistant professor of mathematics at W&L, will present on this year’s International Mathematical Union’s Fields Medal on Wednesday, Nov. 16.

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Sample Courses

At W&L, we believe education and experience go hand-in-hand. You’ll be encouraged to dive in, explore and discover connections that will broaden your perspective.

MATH 100

Mathematics of Politics

In this course, we focus on mathematical reasoning about politics. What makes this course mathematical is not numbers or formulas but rather reasoning. Students must think about what is possible and what is impossible. Is there a good way to determine winners of elections? Is there a good way to apportion congressional seats? Is there a good way to make decisions in situations of conflict and uncertainty? We begin by carefully and precisely formulating environments in which we can discuss approaches to elections, apportionment and rational decision-making. We contemplate criteria that capture the notions of goodness within these environments, and see importance of precise definitions and consistent rules of logic in mathematical reasoning. Throughout the course, we pay attention to the way that technical words are defined so that the precise technical meaning is not confused with the ordinary meaning that the word carries in natural language.

MATH 201

Bridges to Advanced Math

The course explores various important mathematical constructions and ideas, with a particular emphasis on mathematical inquiry and reasoning. Topics include: sets, functions, equivalence relations, modular arithmetic, and basic properties of the integers, real numbers and complex numbers.

MATH 270

Financial & Actuarial Mathematics

An introduction to some of the fundamental topics in financial and actuarial mathematics. Possible topics include calculating present and accumulated values for various streams of cash and the theoretical basis of corporate finance and financial models and the application of those models to insurance and other financial risks.

MATH 369

Mathematics of Puzzles & Games

The application of mathematics to puzzles and games. A brief survey on the designs of tournaments. The puzzles and games include but are not limited to the Rubik's Cube, poker, blackjack and peg solitaire.

MATH 309

Probability

Probability, probability density and distribution functions, mathematical expectation, discrete and continuous random variables, and moment generating functions.

MATH 342-343

Topics in Geometry & Topology

Topics vary but can include knot theory, topology and geometry of surfaces, differential geometry, Riemann surfaces, 3-manifolds, tilings, geometric probability, geometry of spacetime, finite geometry, computational geometry, differential topology and projective geometry.

Meet the Faculty

At W&L, students enjoy small classes and close relationships with professors who educate and nurture.

Alan McRae
Alan

Alan McRae

Department Head, Mathematics; Professor of Mathematics

McRae teaches mathematics courses on calculus, derivatives and number theory. He also helped found the Math Center, which helps any student in entry-level calculus.

Aaron Abrams
Aaron

Aaron Abrams

Professor of Mathematics

Abrams teaches courses on the dimensions of art and math. His research combines geometry, topology, group theory, combinatorics and probability. His current research pertains to tilting of a square by triangles and rectangles.

Website

Sima Ahsani
Sima

Sima Ahsani

Visiting Assistant Professor of Mathematics

Kevin Beanland
Kevin

Kevin Beanland

Associate Dean of the College for Administration and Professor of Mathematics

Beanland teaches a variety of mathematics courses but specializes in mathematical analysis. His primary research area is Banach space theory, on which he has published several scholarly papers.

Website

James Broda
James

James Broda

Assistant Professor of Mathematics

Broda’s research interests include modelling of carbon content of ecosystems, population dynamics, catastrophes, stochastic processes and dynamical systems. His most recent scholarship has focused on employing statistical methods to study semi-stochastic processes.

Michael Bush
Michael

Michael Bush

Associate Professor of Mathematics

Professor Bush teaches a wide range of mathematics courses. He particularly enjoys teaching courses and mentoring undergraduate research projects in algebra, number theory and discrete mathematics. He also has an interest in recreational and contest mathematics and often helps students prepare for the annual William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition.

Website

Cory Colbert
Cory

Cory Colbert

Assistant Professor of Mathematics

Colbert teaches courses on calculus, proof-writing, abstract algebra and commutative ring theory. His research focuses on understanding which geometric shapes correspond to certain algebraic structures.

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Elizabeth Denne
Elizabeth

Elizabeth Denne

Associate Professor of Mathematics

Denne teaches courses on geometry, topology, real analysis, linear algebra and calculus. Her research uses topological knot invariants to answer questions about the geometry of knots.

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Gregory Dresden
Gregory

Gregory Dresden

Professor of Mathematics

Dresden teaches courses in calculus, abstract algebra, number theory, actuarial science and statistics. His research covers number theory and algebra, and he often writes papers with students.

Website

Nathan Feldman
Nathan

Nathan Feldman

Radford Professor of Mathematics

Feldman teaches calculus, linear algebra, statistics, and analysis courses. For research, he uses real analysis and complex analysis techniques to study infinite matrices.

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Carrie Finch-Smith
Carrie

Carrie Finch-Smith

Professor of Mathematics

Finch-Smith teaches many courses including calculus, the art of mathematics, and algebra. Her research is in number theory, and she often works with students on research projects in a variety of topics.

Website

Kumudu Gamage
Kumudu

Kumudu Gamage

Visiting Assistant Professor of Mathematics

Chawne Kimber
Chawne

Chawne Kimber

Dean of the College and Professor of Mathematics

In addition to her duties as Dean of the College at W&L, Kimber is a member of the Mathematics Department faculty. Her research interests include ordered rings and groups.

Sybil Prince Nelson
Sybil Prince

Sybil Prince Nelson

Assistant Professor of Mathematics

Prince Nelson ’01 teaches courses in calculus, probability and statistics. Her research is focused on creating tree-based models for classifying and predicting outcomes from complex data.

Chong Wang
Chong

Chong Wang

Assistant Professor of Mathematics

Wang’s research interests include calculus of variations, mathematical modeling, scientific computing, partial differential equations, numerical analysis and high-performance computing.

Aaron Abrams
Sima Ahsani
Kevin Beanland
James Broda
Michael Bush
Cory Colbert
Elizabeth Denne
Gregory Dresden
Nathan Feldman
Carrie Finch-Smith
Kumudu Gamage
Chawne Kimber
Sybil Prince Nelson
Chong Wang
Alan McRae