Calculus or Statistics? This is the Great Decision for Tomorrow’s Third Graders.

The CTO of SnapLogic has something to say:

Thousands of American high-school students on Tuesday will take the Advanced Placement calculus exam. Many are probably dreading it, perhaps seeing the test as an attempt to show off skills they will never use. What if they’re right?

I started thinking about this recently when my 14-year-old daughter was doing her pre-calculus homework. I couldn’t help wondering: Is this the best direction for children her age? Students need skills to thrive in the 21st-century workplace, and I’m not convinced calculus is high on that list. Sure, calculus is essential for some careers, particularly in physics and engineering. But few eighth-graders are set on those fields.

Nobody takes calculus in ninth grade unless they’re a super-genius. So was this entire op-ed just an excuse to brag on his daughter? Why else would he make completely unnecessary references to her age three separate times?

Anyway, his larger point is that he’d rather see high-school students take computer programming or statistics. I suppose I agree, though I’ll confess to second thoughts lately on statistics, which I think benefits from a certain level of numerical maturity that might be missing in high school. But I’m not sure about that.

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