Via Joanne Jacobs' blog, a mathematician makes case for learning statistics over learning calc. He says:
“For the last 200 years, the mathematics that we’ve learned starts with arithmetic and algebra, and everything we do after that is taking us toward one subject, calculus. I think that is the wrong mathematical goal for 90 percent of our students,” he says. “We’re now living in an age of information and data, and the mathematics that will be most relevant to our daily lives is probability and statistics.”
Only some professions require calculus.
Everyone reads—and many misunderstand—media reports about health, science, and the environment that contain statistics. Better literacy in probability and stats would benefit everyone.
Joanne's commenters chime in. One says:
The biggest problem with avoiding calculus as a goal (even if never reached) is that students who are not on the “calculus track” are not getting the preparation that they need for more advanced work in any of the disciplines that require mathematics; e.g., the hard sciences and engineering, even honest economics. That is, and speaking statistically, options are cut off before students have determined whether or not they have the ability and/or the interest in pursuing one of these areas. Even statistics itself, and a deeper level, requires an advanced form of the calculus. Statistics-lite is important and does get taught but often very badly by poorly prepared teachers.
If 5000 high school seniors are applying for 1250 places at a selective university, it is very likely that more than 2500 of them have taken and did well in calculus. A student without calculus and the advanced sciences is just another liberal arts types that the university has too many compared to science majors.
A third commenter on Jacobs' blog says:
I teach both the AP calculus course and statistics course at our school. The statistics course is not an AP course but students can elect to take it as a dual enrollment course earning credit from a local community college. The students in the statistics course that have not yet had a precalculus course are really struggling. Some are having a hard time with the embedded algebra in the course, others because they are having a hard time making connections, even when I point them out.
Not everyone can be successful calculus, but those students who can succeed in it are the ones that will do a lot more in life than be the TJ Friday assistant managers.
At our high school, most kids have traditionally arrived from their various middle schools unable to do basic arithmetic (fractions, decimals, etc). Our sequence culminates in AP Calc for most seniors, after a massive investment of 1-on-1 tutoring.
I wonder if most should take AP Stats instead. Also rigorous. Possibly better aligned with college and beyond.