Both high school physics and calculus are featured in Florida’s media today.
A story on WUSF radio by Robin Sussingham titled “The Anemic State Of High School Physics In Florida” describes Florida’s below-national-average physics enrollment rate and the challenge of recruiting highly qualified high school physics teachers.
The Orlando Sentinel’s Annie Martin touts Orange County’s successful effort to increase enrollments in calculus courses in “Calculus classes figure more in students’ lives”.
Martin mentions one issue that requires a response. She quotes Johns Hopkins Professor and Forbes contributor Steven Salzberg saying in a 2014 article that high schools should stop teaching calculus to make room for statistics and computer programming courses. Research says otherwise.
An article published in Science in 2007 by Philip M. Sadler of Harvard and Robert H. Tai of the University of Virginia showed a strong correlation between high school calculus-taking and success in introductory college courses in biology, chemistry and physics.
Furthermore, the American Society for Engineering Education recently adopted a resolution recommending high school calculus (in addition to chemistry and physics) for preparation for college engineering programs.
Instead of saying that statistics and computer programming should replace calculus in high schools, Salzberg should have said that statistics and programming should be added to students’ high school programs. If something has to go to make room for statistics and computer programming, it shouldn’t be calculus. Maybe it should be AP Human Geography, or AP Psychology, or Biology 1. But not calculus.