AP/IB Policy

For the policy about AP or IB credit for math or computer science courses, see the Macalester registrar’s official policy listings: AP/IB Policy

Entry Courses

There are several starting points in the department curriculum. Most students start in the calculus sequence, discrete math, linear algebra, statistics, or in an introductory computer science course.


We have a three course calculus sequence that is different from AP Calculus and different from the traditional Calc I, II, III sequence found at most colleges and universities. In particular, all three of our courses use functions of multiple variables.

Where should I start in the calculus sequence?

Math 135, Applied Multivariable Calculus I: This course is appropriate for students with no calculus background; however, it is different from a traditional calculus 1 and may be an appropriate course for students with a calculus background who are interested in developing mathematical modeling skills. Course Description.

Math 137, Applied Multivariable Calculus II: This course is recommend for students who have had a successful year of high school calculus (as merely one example, AB calculus with a score of 4 or better on the AP exam). Course Description.

Math 237, Applied Multivariable Calculus III: Students who enter Macalester having taken BC Calculus with a score of 4 or higher on the AP exam are encouraged to start here. Course Description.

Flow chart for determining calculus placement

How far do I need to go in the calculus sequence?

Mathematics, Physics, and Chemistry majors need to complete the calculus sequence through Math 237.  Economics and most Biology students need to complete any one of Math 135, Math 137, or Math 237. Biology majors with a Biochemistry emphasis need to compete Math 137. We encourage you to see the departmental web pages (Biology, Chemistry, Economics, Physics and Astronomy) for these other majors and speak with a member of the department to verify their mathematics requirements.


Stat 155: Introduction to Statistical Modeling is our introductory statistics course.  It is required for the Data Science major and minor, the Statistics major and minor, and other majors on campus (including Biology and Economics). It also counts for the Math and Computer Science majors as a supporting class. Stat 155 is a course unique to Macalester, with an emphasis on multivariate modeling, and it cannot be replaced by AP Statistics credits. Course Description.

Math 279: Discrete Mathematics is a good starting point for students who are interested in mathematics and want to try out areas of mathematics that are different than calculus. This course is required for the the Computer Science major and can count towards the Mathematics major. Course Description.

Math 236: Linear Algebra is a good starting point for students who have already completed calculus at the level of Math 137. This course is required for the Data Science major, the Mathematics major, and the Statistics major. Course Description.


Comp 120/Comp 123: Two introductory courses assume little or no experience with programming.

  • Comp 120, Computing and Society, is offered occasionally, usually as a first-year course. It serves as an alternative to Comp 123. Course Description.
  • Comp 123, Core Concepts in Computer Science is the most common starting point in our Computer Science curriculum, and is offered every semester. Course Description

Both courses are suitable for students with little or no background in computing, programming, or computer science.  Both courses serve both as a first course in the major and minor as well as an introduction to computer science for those not planning to take further coursework.

Comp 127: Object-Oriented Programming and Abstraction: Students who have significant prior experience in computer science, like a strong programming course or the APCS course, may choose to start in Comp 127 with permission of the instructor. Course Description.

Comp 128: Data Structures: Students who had a particularly strong APCS course in high school, or additional coursework beyond the APCS course, may qualify to start our curriculum in Comp 128. This course assumes that students are fluent Java programmers who are experienced at object-oriented design. Course Description.

The rare student may begin coursework beyond the introductory level, though we ask such students to complete an extra advanced elective for the Computer Science major. 

Students who are uncertain which course to enroll in should contact the department for advice.