Combinatorics and Optimization

Master two of math’s most powerful techniques

Hone the skills you need to solve problems in computer science, business, communications, and more.

Combinatorics looks at permutations and combinations. Optimization explores ways to make any operation work more efficiently within given constraints. Together, they provide powerful methods for modelling and solving large management problems, from optimizing flight schedules to making a factory’s layout as efficient as possible.

In Combinatorics and Optimization at Waterloo, you’ll learn concepts such as enumeration, combinatorical designs, graph theory, linear programming, nonlinear optimization, operations research, and combinatorical optimization, and how to use them in real-world applications. Plus, you'll have the opportunity to gain paid work experience through the co-op program.

When you graduate, you can put your skills to work in areas as diverse as cryptography, electronic security, software development, social media, and risk analysis.

#1First faculty of mathematics in North America

briefcaseAvailable as a co-op and regular program

book iconAvailable as a major and minor


Combinatorics and Optimization admission requirements

Apply to Mathematics and choose Combinatorics and Optimization as your major at the end of first year. Once you've applied, you'll need to complete the Admission Information Form as part of the application process.

We strongly encourage you to participate in the Canadian Senior Mathematics Contest and/or the Euclid Mathematics Contest to enhance your admissions status.  

To be considered for entrance scholarships in the Faculty of Mathematics, you must write one or both of the contests. If you complete both contests, we'll use the results of the contest in which you performed best.

Student writing equations on whiteboard

The Department of Combinatorics and Optimization at Waterloo was the first of its kind in the world and houses the largest concentration of faculty and researchers in the field.

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Monthly topics include how to choose a program, what it's like to be a Waterloo student, the differences between high school and university, and more.

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Ask them questions such as why they chose their program, what the classes are like, and how you can get involved on campus.


Arrow pointing up and clickingApply to Mathematics and choose Combinatorics and Optimization as your major

math tieOffered by the Faculty of Mathematics

Graduation capEarn a Bachelor of Mathematics degree


Ready to learn more?

Add research to your résumé

As an undergraduate research assistant, you could spend a term working on a research problem with one of our award-winning professors.

Visit our Waterloo Stories website to learn about current research in Combinatorics and Optimization at Waterloo.

Have fun with other mathies

Take a break from your studies. The student-run Pure Math, Applied Math, Combinatorics and Optimization Club offers talks, food, board games, and more.