Maybe we should be aiming for computer programming instead of calculus in Math?

I read an article one time which questioned why we choose calculus to be the top of the math pyramid in school.  Basically, most of the mathematics students learn once they master the basics aims toward preparing the students to take calculus at the end of K-12 school.  The article I read suggested that statistics instead of calculus should be at the top because it is much more practical to real life than calculus is.

We deliberately choose calculus to be at the top because we want our society to produce more engineers and scientists.  This helped produce a generation of engineers and scientists.

However, although engineers and scientists are still needed, the US Department of Labor predicts that neither engineers nor scientists will be in the fastest growing jobs in the future.  They have predicted the 30 fasted growing jobs in the United States and there is something interesting about the list.  5 of the jobs involve the use of computers.  Jobs number 25, 24, 23, 4, and 1 all include the significant use of computers in a highly technical fashion.  In fact all 5 of these jobs require computer programming skills to some degree.

So I propose that we make computer programming skills should be at the top of the list.  This way we will be preparing our students for careers in the future rather than the careers of the past.

Now we will still end up producing engineers and scientists because there is a huge overlap between the mathematics required to master calculus and the skills required to master computer programming.  We will end up producing a lot people who are totally capable of programming a computer.  Students who do not end up completing the stream will still end up having a very good understanding of how a computer works, which is obviously going to be an advantage in the future anyway.

I suspect that the current stream of math would end up diverging just after algebra.  It would end up involving a lot more number theory and logical reasoning and a lot less graphing and physics based mathematics (except for the stream of students interested in game programming).  I don’t know that students would find this much more interesting, but at least it would pretty easy for them to use the math they were learning and use it in direct applications involving their favorite technological devices.

Maybe kids might enjoy math more? 


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