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What Math Do Architecture Majors Have to Take?

by Gale Thompson, studioD

Architecture majors study the design and structure of buildings using angles and linear planes. They must make sure that a building is safe, functional and good for a particular budget. Students with this major go on to careers in fields such as landscape architecture, urban design and planning, interior design and historic preservation. Because the design and planning of buildings involves comprehension of mathematical concepts, an array of math classes are essential to becoming a successful architecture major.


Depending on the level at which architecture majors enter college, courses including algebra, trigonometry and geometry are required before taking more advanced courses like calculus. These subjects are generally offered in one course called pre-calculus, or they may be separated into courses like college algebra and trigonometry. Some students complete these requirements before entering college and may move straight into calculus. However, being able to understand and manipulate functions, logs and exponentials, and trigonometry are essential for future math courses, and for the architecture curriculum.


Calculus is the study of change, making it a crucial component of architecture. This field explores topics like limits and continuity, differentiation and derivatives. Architects use these concepts to compose models and calculate the best design plan for a building. In addition, problem solving, such as understanding efficiency and change, is essential for all aspects of architecture. Architecture majors may even take up to three courses in college-level calculus, moving on to three-dimensional mathematics. Architects must be able to understand various relationships between observations, and use this information to maximize efficiency for a building or design plan. Architecture majors are commonly required to take a sequence of calculus-based introductory physics courses, for which calculus is a prerequisite.


Architecture majors take statistics to understand basic concepts in the collection and analysis of data and observations. While statistics is not always required of students in an architecture program, this course teaches methods in probability and hypothesis testing that will be useful for advanced architecture courses, as well as a future career in architecture. Architects may even use computer systems to analyze data in order to maximize efficiency in cost and product.

Linear Programming

Courses in linear programming and optimization teach architecture majors how to find the best possible value in certain situations. These courses deal with mathematical models that will be used in the design and construction of buildings. Allocating the right amount of resources for a building, and building models to understand this organization and allocation, are necessary concepts architects use every day. Much of linear programming and analysis is done on computers, so this course may be offered in either the mathematics department or computer technology department.

About the Author

Gale Marie Thompson's work has been published in "Denver Quarterly," "Los Angeles Review" and "Best New Poets 2012." Thompson holds a BA in English and creative writing from the College of Charleston, a MFA from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and is working on a PhD at the University of Georgia.

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