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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

High-school math in the 21st century?

What math applications are taught in high school? Principally parabolic arches and widget-manufacturing, of course. This is a bit of an exaggeration, but the principle holds. We teach applications like those rather than cryptography and models of voting. At the Crimson Summer Academy (see my post on 5/23) we have the flexibility to teach the latter two topics, which are both mathematically rich and directly useful. But even at Weston High School, which is generally on the leading edge of high-school math, cryptography is limited to honors students and voting models aren’t taught at all. These, of course, are just examples, but most of the topics presented in COMAP’s For All Practical Purposes strike me as more useful for high school students than most of the so-called applications we currently teach. (The book itself is aimed at college undergraduates and is therefore more appropriate as a resource than as a textbook in high school.)

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