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Topic: Calculus vrs. Statistics
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Peter Bruce

Posts: 51
Registered: 12/6/04
Calculus vrs. Statistics
Posted: Mar 1, 1996 10:12 AM
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In earlier postings to ap-stat-l, Harvard Admissions Dean Fitzsimmons was
quoted (secondhand) as saying statistics is more important than calculus in
high school:

Marlyn McGrath Lewis, Director of Admissions, responded to my query about
this as follows:

"Members of our faculty have done considerable research on the correlations
between certain kinds of secondary school preparation and academic success
at Harvard. Among the areas they have considered has been mathematics. It
is probably too simple to conclude that statistics is absolutely preferable
to the calculus for study by high school students, but our faculty members
did conclude that proficiency in algebra, functions and graphing is more
useful in our curriculum than the study of calculus in high school."

An accompanying pamphlet (1993: _Choosing Courses to Prepare for College)
has general advice on how to approach mathematics, and the following
specific advice:

"By the time you get to college, the concept of a function, and its
representation by a formula, a graph, or a table, should be second nature to
you. ... you should be thoroughly familiar with the graphs and behavior of
exponential and logarithmic functions, including doubling times and
percentage growth rates. The trigonometric functions and the ideas of
amplitude, period and phase are important. Scientific notation and the
ability to estimate orders of magnitude are frequently used. An increasing
number of fields use the basic ideas of probability and statistics, such as
mean, median, mode and standard deviation."

"If you are well-versed in algebra, functions and graphing, secondary school
calculus will enable you to take more advanced introductory courses in
mathematics, physics and chemistry in college. But do not rush into calculus."

The above mention of probability and statistics (and its reduction to
measures of central tendency and dispersion) is the only one I found.

By contrast, the advice in the sciences is quite definite and specific:

" should study secondary school science for four years if possible: a
year of chemistry, physics and biology, and a year of advanced work in one
of these disciplines. Courses in psychology, astronomy, geology and
anthropology are not appropriate substitutes..."
Peter Bruce voice 703-522-2713
Resampling Stats fax 703-522-5846
612 N. Jackson St.
Arlington, VA 22201

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