Reviewed By: Adway Girish
You’re probably going through a bunch of reviews now, trying to find something you’d like to do as your minor. Having been in the same position two years and one math minor before, I will try and cover everything that helped me make my decision and that I wish someone had told me then, starting with why I did (or one might want to consider – or avoid) a math minor. If you’re still interested after that, you will find me covering the logistics, and looking at the courses that you will have to do and how “relevant” they are to electrical engineering.
My main reason for choosing math was simply that I liked math and found the courses offered interesting. If you did not appreciate the rigour in your firstyear math courses, particularly calculus, look away, because this minor is all about rigour. If you’re looking for a minor to help you with job placements, this is not it. If you’re looking for relaxed courses with minimum effort, this is definitely not it. But don’t be put off just yet – there are benefits to doing a math minor that I have come to appreciate. The lectures happen in the math department (in an offline sem anyway) in wellventilated rooms with loads of fresh air. There are usually no more than 15 students in any given lecture, a refreshing contrast to most other courses. Alright enough with the romanticism, there are also concrete advantages to a math minor. Since each course is of 8 credits, you only need 4 courses to complete the minor (almost all other minors require 5, each of 6 credits), which means that you will be done with your minor before your final year(s), leaving you free to pick other courses that you want. The biggest edge doing a math minor will give you is familiarity with rigour and structured, logical thinking. This will come in handy particularly if you find yourself doing theoryheavy research work, especially as you start reading literature and come across all kinds of technical terms.
Every week, you will have 2 lectures of 1.5 hours each (usually slot 5, which is the standard minor slot, so you should not have any clashes) and a tutorial of another 1.5 hours (usually in slot XD – Wednesday 7 PM; accounting for the additional 2 credits). You will also have to put in considerable effort each week to keep up – since everything is cumulative and builds on the past week’s content, you cannot afford to fall behind. Paying attention in lectures is usually enough to understand what’s what; you will also have to spend some time on your own to make sure you know how to use it. Some revision over the weekend or so won’t hurt. Evaluation is straightforward – two quizzes, midsem, endsem – almost always with open notes. But you do have to be fully comfortable with the theorems and concepts involved; this is where the weekly effort comes in – with the added benefit that you won’t have to do too much work right before the exam.
The math website (as of July 2021) lists 5 courses of 8 credits each, of which you must do 4. It’s slightly more complicated than that. Real Analysis (MA 403, RA henceforth) and Basic Algebra (MA 419, BA) only run in autumn (odd) semesters (both every year), while Complex Analysis (MA 412, CA) and General Topology (MA 406, GT) only run in spring semesters, that too in alternate years. The other listed course is Fourier Analysis and Applications (MA 522), but MA 522 has not run since 2014; Introduction to Fourier Analysis (MA 5106, FA) is what I did – it had never run as a minor course before 2021, so I do not know if this will repeat – you might not have this option at all. The only prerequisite for any of the courses in the minor is RA, so as long as you start with that, you will be covered. Missing one of CA or GT (or FA) could make it difficult to complete the minor. I will now describe each course, but remember that how enjoyable you find the course is very dependent on the instructor – you could find yourself lost in a stream of theorems and proofs that you couldn’t care less about if you aren’t given the right buildup (most instructors are good at doing what they do so this will be rare).

You should start with RA – mainly because it is a prerequisite for CA, GT and FA (possibly not strictly, but this will help you appreciate the latter courses better), but also because this has considerable overlap with and builds up from the firstyear calculus course, which makes this the easiest course that you will do in your minor. This is also the most “useful” of the 5 courses from an engineering perspective, so if you wish to discontinue the math minor after this, RA is still a valuable asset to have.

CA is an interesting course that will throw all kinds of surprising results at you, most of which you will (or will have) seen in MA 205 – things that are brushed under the carpet there will make an appearance in CA. This course is still fairly “relevant” from a general engineering perspective (but everything that you will realistically need will be covered in MA 205) at least compared to what comes next.

BA – extremely abstract, confusing, almost impossible to keep up with – this is the course I struggled with the most (online sem probably played some part). When things do make sense (they eventually do), it is beautiful – getting there is a real challenge. There are areas in electrical engineering where this course will be directly useful (particularly where it merges with physics, looking at electrons up close or something – clearly not the best person to be talking about this; and in control systems) but group theory is such a foundational mathematical concept (like calculus) that it could show up anywhere; this course will make sure you can follow what’s going on.

GT is another abstract course, that I am in many ways thankful to have not had to do (this is not to say I would not have enjoyed it, FA simply proved to be a more appreciable alternative for me). You could find this course useful in some specializations (again mostly with physics involved).

FA was the most satisfying of my minor courses. It deals with all of the nittygritty associated with the Fourier transform that is conveniently ignored in engineering. Doing this won’t really help you get better at applying the Fourier transform – which you will learn enough of in core EE courses – but it will let you justify making whatever assumptions you have to in said applications and give you insights that simply knowing formulae won’t. FA is more advanced than the other courses – it extensively makes use of concepts from measure theory and functional analysis, but the instructor will cover everything that is necessary; you will be able to follow even if you have not done courses in those topics (I had not). This course is only of 6 credits, but 8+8+8+6 = 30 (who said a math minor isn’t useful?), so you will still be able to complete your minor with this (if offered as a minor).
All the “uses” above are from my limited knowledge only – I have, in my own experience, seen many things turn out to be useful in ways I had never imagined. If you really want to do a math minor, don’t let the perceived lack of relevance to electrical engineering stop you, particularly if you are interested in theoretical research. Math is the language of science – pure and applied – so being familiar with different aspects of it will always come in handy. Having a different perspective (as opposed to everyone doing a CS minor, say) also helps. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions and I’ll be glad to help.