I wanted to get some directions on how to prepare for a MS Degree in Mathematics.


  1. I'm interested in getting a Ph.D in Statistical Learning or related area in 5-6 years.
  2. I took some courses in Mathematical Statistics and I struggled because I do not have recent coursework in Analysis, Measure theory, etc.
  3. I studied electrical engineering with a very heavy mathematical component from a very decent University 20 years ago however, it is amazing how much I've forgotten.
  4. I've always been fascinated by mathematics and I'm very tempted to build a solid foundation before partaking in doctoral study.
  5. I am working at the moment - my job is flexible and I'm saving to take off a year or two for the final years of my doctoral work.
  6. I have a couple of graduate degrees in the area of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence


  1. I'd like to build up to where I was 20 years ago: calculus, linear algebra, diff equations, calculus of complex variables, frequency domain analysis.
  2. I'd also like to take courses that are typically reserved for math majors like proofs, analysis, group theory, algebra, etc.

    I think the best way to accomplish the plan would be a decent community college or extension program like (UC Berkeley extension) that offers online classes -- any recommendation?

2 Answers 2


I fear that not so many community colleges would offer the upper-division courses a math-major sort of person would want, especially to aim toward graduate school in mathematics. Further, you'd be needing letters of recommendation for grad school, and community colleges would not generate letters that would help you, since the letter writers (by far most often) would not be familiar with grad school from the side of mentoring and supervising grad students (even if they themselves did have a Ph.D.).

It is true that community colleges are usually much cheaper than "universities", but the coursework, context for coursework, and outlook of faculty teaching the upper-division courses you need, and their letters on your behalf, are things that you can't avoid but need.

  • 1
    I think the community college route could work as a Step 1. (Our local community college offers courses in calculus, linear algebra, and differential equations). There's no reason the O.P. couldn't start his journey with some refereshers there.
    – J.R.
    Mar 3, 2014 at 23:07
  • What about extension programs like "UC berkeley extension"? The prices seem to be pretty reasonable? Know of other good extension programs. Mar 4, 2014 at 3:14
  • 1
    Indeed, as @J.R. says, community colleges could be money-savers on refreshers about lower-division and maybe middle-divion courses. Also, some universities do offer "extension" courses that have essentially the same content, but just not "in day school". (Indeed U of Minnesota formerly offered "evening/extension" courses that were cheaper, very small classes, etc., at a historical point that "night school" was declasse' in comparison to "day school", but, a few years ago, "night school" was "inloaded", and now there's no substantial "extension" alternative.) Mar 4, 2014 at 3:37
  • The Berkeley extension program doesn't seem to offer any upper division courses either. If you are entering a math masters program you'll really want the background you typically get in upper-divison courses: abstract algebra, real and complex analysis, topology, etc. Community College and extension courses may be helpful if your calculus and linear algebra are rusty, but not much beyond that. Aug 9, 2014 at 0:33

Unless you are using the term "community college" different than I am use to for in Canada and the US, then no.

If you mean a local state or government funded degree (4-year) granting universities then perhaps. Another possibility, if they exist anymore are one or two-year junior college which acts like a feeder, or extension campus to a 4-year university.

Not the 9-months to 3 year diploma granting colleges which tend be vocational oriented. (Similar to a bit lower academic standard than Polytechnical post-secondary schools in Europe)

You should be able to find introductory classes (years 1 and 2) via distance education through out the world easily.

In the interests of cost and legitimacy, I recommend avoiding privately owned/run distance education programs including online universities. This does not mean government owned or run distance education like Open University or Athabasca University, those are great and affordable.

At an university you should be able to register as a "non-degree program" (or similar) student, either part-time or full-time. This is commonly used for preparing towards a degree program in the future for not-fresh-from-high-school student enrollment cases.

I have a couple of graduate degrees in the area of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence

(emphasis added)

This makes no sense when you previously said "I'm interested in getting a Ph.D in Statistical Learning." If you have a M.Sc. or Ph.D. in Computer Science (I don't know off-hand of any place that grants degrees in AI).

Do you mean you previously have taken graduate level courses in CS and AI? If so, I would expect you to start your search from that university unless geographic reasons prevent it, at least speaking to them as a starting point for recommendations.

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