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11112015, 03:56 PM #1
Should Calculus Be Made Part of Compulsory Education?
Really to my surprise, Calculus is not part of compulsory education in high school in most part of the world. Yes, Calculus is not required subject of high schools over here, but to my surprise, high schools in the west generally do not make Calculus a required subject, neither.
Why? If a grown man cannot do calculus, how can one claim he/she know Mathematics?

11112015, 04:33 PM #2
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No. I'm an engineer, am completely comfortable using calculus, complex variables, abstract and linear algebra, and many other esoteric maths. And I almost never use any of them, even in my work. Maybe once every couple of years, I'll have to dust off my calculus to solve a design problem. There is absolutely no reason for most people who aren't research scientists/engineers to learn calculus. I'd argue that practical statistics are way more useful and applicable to everyday life.

11112015, 04:39 PM #3
Why? Calculus is relatively hard and isn't that much use. Even as a professional programmer I've not had to do any since University.
In the UK maths is compulsory up to the age of 16 and calculus is done at the year above that 1617, where it is optional. However if you need any kind of maths qualification for university/work then calculus is effectively mandatory. If you're doing a job which doesn't really require much maths like being a journalist what's the point?
Most people need the following in life:
 ability to understand basic statistics for when people say random statistics at them. Or to work out percentages to see if the revenue are screwing you on your taxes
 Ability to understand compound interest to work out how the bank is screwing you with interest rates
 Able to do arithmetic so they can divide a round at a pub or work out the change someone needs
Probably about it.

11112015, 08:05 PM #4
Yeah, I can only agree with what's said above. Most people would never use it, and many of those who do use it don't do it very often. It's better to focus on actually useful stuff for the general populace and leave this kind of knowledge to the ones who need it. I'm from a business school and while some majors probably use calculus, most hardly ever encounter it (it was mandatory for enrollment, however).

11112015, 09:46 PM #5
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12112015, 09:55 AM #6
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Calculus is a funny fellow because it takes a lot of machinery and understanding to really do it properly, so is completely inappropriate for school, but on the other hand it's really very easy to see informally what's going on and do some simple calculations. For instance, my mother, who didn't do maths past 16 and didn't like it, understood the basic concept and was able to informally calculate the derivative of x^2 with a little prompting.
It's not really important to learn it at school, but then again there's a lot of stuff in school maths that isn't important to know for the sake of knowing, but is good training for "thinking like a mathematician".
To add to Zephro's list, some other things that are very useful for many people:
 familiarity with how lengths and area correspond
 ability to do very quick orderofmagnitude calculations, and a feeling for when a number "can't be right" or "seems plausible"
 logical thinkingnot something that'llbe specifically taught in maths at school, but just doing maths stuff seems to help with this.Irrelevant on further examination of the rest of the thread.

12112015, 11:13 AM #7
I think teaching logic at school would be a big positive. General boolean logic, even a bit of mathematical analysis (throw in a proof by induction to stretch people). Though also philosophical logic with rhetoric, understanding arguments, fallacies and that kind of thing. Maybe more of a course in reason/reasoning. Not specifically maths though.
I think that would help a lot with public debate, general understanding of science and be quite useful in most jobs for when managers are talking insane bullshit.
Also that's the skill people need to be good programmers in life, not learning to hack a bit of code when they're 10.

12112015, 12:11 PM #8
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It's useful because it gives you an idea of what 'real' Maths is like. It doesn't have many practical uses, but then neither does Shakespeare. I think there's something to be said for introducing small elements of "this is what this subject is like if you take it further" rather than having them be something totally different.
Like how history is just about learning facts and figures until you do it properly, and it's all about analyzing and assessing sources. And computing is about using Excel until it's about coding.

12112015, 01:12 PM #9
one is missing from school at least from mine is history of religions. my history teacher touched upon that subject a bit but it is not part of curriculum at all. Would give people a lot of perspective.
just sortof on/off topic.

13112015, 07:34 PM #10
Might as well give every US high school student a mandatory 'F' on their report card instead. I would have taken that in a heartbeat as long as it meant I didn't have to sit through Calculus classes. I only managed a 'C' in basic and college Algebra.
Last edited by Xzi; 13112015 at 07:36 PM.
~Æ

14112015, 08:41 AM #11
Well It's really helpful when you step into professional life. When I studied my engineering, I always had this feeling that where the hell someone could possibly need calculus for anything. But really it does help a lot. Calculus then Differential Equation, Linear Algebra and complex Variables and few more courses really make your Base if you want to work in this Industry. Otherwise they are useless tbh.

14112015, 01:10 PM #12
It seems to me that you guys oppose making Calculus part of compulsory education is because it's too hard. It's okay it's an elective subject for the period of compulsory education, just do not make it part of graduation requirement.
My view is firmly that it should be made compulsory subject all students must take, and therefore target is to ensure 100% population should at least know Calculus, even if they may not be proficient in it. If they cannot do integration, at least they must be able to do differentiation. Although yes, one should be proficient in integration to claim himself/herself proficient in Calculus.
We should not determine which subject be included in core curriculum of compulsory education because we cannot foresee the social need. We can never foresee social need. Who would know that those know programming would have such a competitive edge that decades ago did not?
Promoting Science and Technology, isn't that a good enough reason to implement compulsory Calculus training?
Compulsory education is compulsory because this is not the free choice we can afford to permit individuals to make for themselves and their children. Political leaders should be making this step. That's why we need a government in the first place.

14112015, 01:53 PM #13
Can't say I agree with this. I think the main objection raised here hasn't been that it's hard, but rather that it's unnecessary for most people. I don't even agree that it's that hard. It's a bit different at first, but once you understand the basics, I found it pretty simple.
And the argument that calculus should be included because we can't know what will be needed later on could be used for any subject. We can't teach everyone everything because that would take lifetimes, so we have to try to estimate what is needed and what will be needed down the line. Sure, calculus will come in handy for some, but that's why we introduce it during specializations.
Bottom line, there are significantly more important topics to cover as part of basic education than calculus.

14112015, 02:44 PM #14
Yeah in the UK you start to specialise your education at 16, which is when you learn calculus if you did a Maths course. There's no way in to becoming a scientist/engineer without having done calculus. So most of this talk of training people towards science and engineering is moot because it's already the case. Even then most people who learnt it, end up barely using calculus.

14112015, 02:50 PM #15
Not everyone has the aptitude for STEM subjects so why make something compulsory to have a significant portion of your school population labelled as failures so early?

14112015, 10:07 PM #16
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15112015, 06:32 AM #17
Okay you win, I got caught offguard.
But I am viewing this from the angle of social interest. Calculus is too hard for common students, but compromise can be that this can be made elective in assessment for admission to tertiary education, but basic differentiation techniques should be required for anyone who are required to complete secondary education. I really don't see how a society can afford to have about half of its population to be illiterate in Mathematics in the 21st century.
Yet I would like to clarify, I am not saying that commoners should be required to be as proficient in Calculus as those competing for admissions to undergraduate Science or Engineering education. I am realistic, I won't be asking for something idealistic yet unfeasible.

16112015, 12:18 PM #18
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16112015, 12:29 PM #19
I still think everyone should do First Order Predicate Logic and Inductive Reasoning in maths as they're the more FUN bits, and everyone should just do what I consider makes you literate in maths.

16112015, 01:39 PM #20
I don't understand the doubt that 100% population knowledgeable in differentiation being unreachable. You don't need to be a genius to understand differentiation. I started to learn it in college, HKUST had a policy requiring all student to be knowledgeable in Calculus. If you don't come with Math background, they had a elementary math course that you had to pass in Year 1. I pass it through practice, so I really don't see why you guys have doubt in commoners being able to do so.
Of course math requires practice, just like we have to memorize the single digit multiplication results in P2. Once you know Calculus, you open the door to the scientific world. I mean, this is a great investment no modern nation can afford to miss.