I myself majored in both math and computer science as an undergraduate. While the math I learned gave me “mathematical sophistication,” practically the only math I used later (in my Ph.D. studies in computer science) was an elective course in abstract topology.

I think one needs calculus to go into (physical) engineering and some hard sciences (although more fields unnecessarily require it). I think more students would do well with combinatorics and discrete math (anyone who uses computers in a “deep” way, and there are more and more of us). I think a working knowledge of probability and statistics is necessary to be considered numerate.

In using the term “numerate,” I mean the analogue to “literate.” No one is proud to be illiterate. No one should be proud to be “innumerate.” It should be objectionable when someone says, “I don’t do math.” On the other hand, there are increasing elements in society that is anti-science.

For those who don’t consider probability and statistics to be important, consider this: The lottery is a tax on the innumerate.

]]>But it would be good for him to be able to get high school credit for, say, a combinatorics class, which the school certainly doesn’t offer.

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