The End Point of Math

I recently watched a presentation on TED that caused me to ruminate for quite a while. The TED initials stand for “technology, entertainment, and design.” Some of the best and brightest in these fields join regularly to share ideas that stimulate a great deal of thought. The seminars are eighteen minutes or shorter, and they are free online.
One very brief presentation by Arthur Benjamin lasted about three minutes and poses the question about the “end point” of math. Mr. Benjamin is both a professor of mathematics and a magician. (Perhaps these are related fields.) He maintains that, currently, all of math education leads to the ultimate course: calculus. While he admits that learning calculus is an exquisite intellectual endeavor, he questions its practicality. Of course, we want our engineers, economists, and scientists to be well versed in the subject. However, for the majority of the population, calculus isn’t meaningful. They will never use it.
Rather, he suggests that statistics and probability would be much more meaningful endpoint for most students. People would be able to understand data analysis, business market trends, and much more about their daily existence if they used statistics. The change in our world from analog to digital necessitates an alteration from the old to the new. He believes that teaching statistics is a vital part of that change. He makes a very good case!

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