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August 21, 2009

I have recently watched a TED talk about the problem with mathematics in high schools and colleges by Arthur Benjamin.

I can’t agree more with his take on the need to “change the summit of the mathematics curriculum”. Currently calculus is the foundation and basis in mathematics. While attending university our math department required eight credit hours of calculus to graduate and only four credit hours of statistics.

The same concept was true in high school where the emphasis was placed on calculus. The aim was always calculus. At my high school there were only three AP math classes you could take. Two of them were calculus and the other was statistics (the statistics class was new and my senior year was the first time it was offered).

I can honestly say that I have never needed to use a calculus book as a reference to accomplish a task in the workforce. On the other hand, I use statistics more or less everyday.

Statistics can and is used in everyday life to help make sense of it. Think about all the studies and polls that are done for medicine and politics. Finding and understanding trends and patterns in spending habits. Other examples.

There are many uses for calculus, however, they all seem very specific and not for everyday use (examples).

Don’t get me wrong calculus is very important and should be taught in schools, however, I think the emphasis should be on a subject that will be more widely utilized.

Newton created calculus to help explain the universe and statistics will help you put it into perspective.


From → math

  1. Do you think that NCLB is (at least partially) responsible for this?

    Public schools now need to focus on topics that are inclusive of the standardized tests in order to score well and receive funding. If statistics is particularly lax, but some arbitrary and obscure calculus problem is covered in detail, then they need to teach that calculus concept instead of the statistics stuff.

    It's not about what's good for the kids anymore, it's about the schools being able to receive the funding that they need to function. And if some kids end up learning something that is almost completely useless over something that has practical applications, so be it.

    Who thought this was a good idea?

  2. NCLB doesn't help. no child let behind and none excelling.

    People who's first priority is money think it is a good idea.

    Great thoughts overall, thanks for the response and I hope it got you thinking.

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