Taking Mathematics While Studying Abroad
Duke students make arrangements for studying abroad through the
Global Education Office.
To make the most out of a semester abroad the particular attributes
of foreign programs must be understood and weighed in light of
each individual's intellectual and career goals.
Study abroad requires especially careful planning for students who need to take
mathematics courses. Generally the focus of course work abroad is
particular courses for which the foreign environment is much more
conducive to learning than the Duke environment. Course work of
this type may involve immersion in the local language, culture,
literature, history, ecology, etc., but in most cases it will not involve
basic undergraduate math courses. This means that
most students who study abroad should plan early how to fit in
math courses before and after the semster abroad, so that it is
possible to concentrate on what is special about the foreign
environment during the visit.
The naive thought of casually picking up a math course or two on the
side during a semester abroad is fraught with problems.
Learning in mathematics is cumulative and the study of mathematics is frequently
organized quite differently in other countries. One consequence of this
is that many courses offered at foreign universities do not correspond
well to any course at Duke. For example a course in country X might
cover half of the material in one Duke course and half of the material
in another or the material in one Duke course may be treated in greater
depth in a two semester sequence at a foreign university. A foreign
university may offer fewer electives than Duke. This means that
it may be difficult to find courses for which transfer credit can be given.
Math 401 and Math 431 must be taken at Duke except in special circumstances
with prior approval of the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Since
a first rigorous course in analysis (Math 431 or Math 531) is an important
prerequisite for many other courses,
it is frequently advisable to have taken this course before studying abroad.
Math majors planning a visit which will include taking one or more
math courses should begin serious review of the course offerings
at foreign universities two semesters prior to the
planned semester abroad. Advanced students may learn from their
professors of strengths of some foreign programs in particular
subfields. Make a short list of courses
you would like to take. Then gather data which give
a clear and detailed picture of the courses.
The following list covers the information which the math
department generally needs to judge if the course is suitable
for transfer credit:
1. Official name and number of the course. Beginning date of the
course. End date of
the course. Information about the total number of course meetings.
2. A syllabus of the course indicating topics covered, text used,
sections in the text which are covered. (If the syllabus is on the
web, just giving the web address is fine.)
3. A list of prerequisites for the course and information about
what is covered in the prerequisite courses. A syllabus for
each prerequisite course is best.
4. Sample problem sets and exams for the course at the foreign
university are a help when available.
5. A complete list of the math courses which you have taken at Duke together with
a list of your AP credits and transfer credits.
6. A brief explanation as to how the course fits in with your educational and career goals.
Once you have the answers to 1-6 you send the information to the Director of
Undergraduate Studies of mathematics at email@example.com and
ask about the possibility of transfer credit. Alternatively, you may
contact the global education office and supply them with the answers
to 1-6. They will then contact the math department.
Courses taken abroad must be approved through the Global Education Office
before you go. In case a course is canceled or does not
fit the original course description, the student
is responsible for contacting the Global Education Office or the
Director of Undergraduate Studies for advice and approval of
alternate courses. Finally, don't overlook
the fact that at least half of the major/minor courses must be taken at Duke.
Questions about taking mathematics courses while studying abroad
should be directed to the
Director of Undergraduate Studies,