Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Math Ed: Don't drop calculus (or Arithmetic) in favor of statistics

re: video where Arthur Benjamin says to Drop calculus, mainstream statistics for all students

This is what a math person thought:

> This is exactly the direction that the NCTM has pushed towards since 1989..... and it is why we are falling behind the rest of the world.... No Calculus.... No doctors, dentists, veterinarians, pharmacists, engineers, computer programmers, and an array of important careers.... check out the UW online catalog and see how many majors require Math 124.

> I think every student should have a course in elementary statistics.... not because they are going to use it..... because they need to know where the saying..... "there are lies, damn lies, and statistics" comes from. Statistics can be used for good but it is also the one area of mathematics that is the most misused. Statistics do not represent truth.... they represent a better guess....this fact is lost on many.
> Bob D
> Math Dept Chairman
 Evergreen High School
 State Board of Education
 Math Advisory Panel Member
 OSPI Standards Revision Team

My take:

This is the direction since the new math of the 1960s. I looked at 1960s books and even coverage of "average" was pretty sketchy back then. Now the WASL expects 4th graders to know what median and mode are, terms that were not taught even in K-12 up to the 1970s when I did prep for MIT, so most adults today were not even exposed to this level of statistics until very recently. The real idea was to DROP ARITHMETIC, TEACH GRAPHS AND STATISTICS. I never in my life saw a stem and leaf plot until I saw fuzzy math homework. I never had to draw a pie chart until I was at Hewlett Packard Data Terminals as an intern and was paid to write a BASIC program that could draw these charts using trig and precalculus graphics concepts. 6th grade TERC and Connected instruction consists of "this is a pie chart. Can you draw something that looks like that?" Nothing that tells you that to do it properly, you need to add up the data, convert each data point to a percentage, and multiply each percentage by 360 to get the angle of each slice, and then add them up to get the starting angle of each slice. To create a chart, you in addition need to know how to convert from r and theta angle to x and y coordinates. Most college students even in computer science aren't taught exactly how to do this other than run an Excel or Powerpoint chart.

It's really all about powerpoint presentations and coming up with jazzy numbers to justify whatever crazy social agenda you are promoting. The important thing is to promote trees, polar bears, fish, or disadvantaged cultures, NOT the underlying mathematics.

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