Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

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Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby Infornographer » Mon Sep 29, 2008 12:17 am UTC

So on Friday, two really big things happened that got buried under the economic crisis and the debate. I'd like to bring these two things to your attention.

First off, Obama released an expanded science plan. This is the kind of statement I had wet dreams about. You can read it here.

I will quote Scientists and Engineers for America on the main points of this plan:
SEforA wrote: • Restoring integrity to U.S. science policy to ensure that decisions that can be informed by science are made on the basis of the strongest possible evidence.
• Doubling over a 10 year period the federal investment in basic research by key science agencies, with a special emphasis on supporting young researchers at the beginning of their careers, and backing high-risk, high-return research.
• Making a national commitment to science education and training by recruiting some of America’s best minds to teach K-12 math and science and by tripling the number of the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowships.
• Encouraging American innovation to flourish by making the R&D tax credit permanent, streamlining our patent system, eliminating the capital gains tax on start-ups and small businesses, and promoting the deployment of next-generation broadband networks.
• Addressing the “grand challenges” of the 21st century through accelerating the transition to a low carbon, oil-free economy, enabling all Americans to live longer and healthier lives, and protecting our country from emerging threats to our national security.



He wants to double the size of the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, the National Institutes of Health, and the DoE's Office of Science. Wowza. I strongly recommend everyone take the time to at least read the bolded points of the plan linked above.

On this day, 61 Nobel Laureates of the sciences got together and signed an official endorsement letter in support of Obama. I quote an excerpt from their open letter to the U.S. people:


61 Nobel Laureates wrote:During the administration of George W. Bush, vital parts of our country's scientific enterprise have been damaged by stagnant or declining federal support. The government's scientific advisory process has been distorted by political considerations. As a result, our once dominant position in the scientific world has been shaken and our prosperity has been placed at risk. We have lost time critical for the development of new ways to provide energy, treat disease, reverse climate change, strengthen our security, and improve our economy.

We have watched Senator Obama's approach to these issues with admiration. We especially applaud his emphasis during the campaign on the power of science and technology to enhance our nation's competitiveness. In particular, we support the measures he plans to take – through new initiatives in education and training, expanded research funding, an unbiased process for obtaining scientific advice, and an appropriate balance of basic and applied research – to meet the nation's and the world's most urgent needs.


Were there any doubt about my vote before today, it is gone.

If you guys could digg it here that would be awesome. Submit the news everywhere you can. :)
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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby Ishindri » Mon Sep 29, 2008 2:22 am UTC

That's fantastic. I certainly hope he is elected and follows through on these promises. A pity I'm too young to vote...
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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby TheStranger » Mon Sep 29, 2008 5:00 am UTC

All but the last one are good specific ideas... but that last one loses me (generic political speak in my book).
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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby Kachi » Mon Sep 29, 2008 6:35 am UTC

I'd like to see more emphasis on education research. It may be in his educational policies, but we really need to reevaluate the way in which we teach science. Education in general needs a pretty hard look and a lot more research.

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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby 22/7 » Mon Sep 29, 2008 11:19 am UTC

TheStranger wrote:All but the last one are good specific ideas... but that last one loses me (generic political speak in my book).

1, 3, and 5 are all general political speak, which is fine for now, he's a politician and he's running for office. If he wins and we don't see any "how"s laid down for those (1, 3, 5) then I'll be less than impressed, but if he does elaborate on those then good on him. Not too surprised that a bunch of Nobel Laureates endorsed it, it's pretty straightforward in support of the sciences.
Totally not a hypothetical...

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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby headprogrammingczar » Mon Sep 29, 2008 11:56 am UTC

22/7 wrote:
TheStranger wrote:All but the last one are good specific ideas... but that last one loses me (generic political speak in my book).

1, 3, and 5 are all general political speak, which is fine for now, he's a politician and he's running for office. If he wins and we don't see any "how"s laid down for those (1, 3, 5) then I'll be less than impressed, but if he does elaborate on those then good on him. Not too surprised that a bunch of Nobel Laureates endorsed it, it's pretty straightforward in support of the sciences.

He is also the only politician thinking about science right now. That would be enough for scientists everywhere to endorse him, just for the attention he gets for them.
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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby ishikiri » Mon Sep 29, 2008 12:10 pm UTC

22/7 wrote:
TheStranger wrote:All but the last one are good specific ideas... but that last one loses me (generic political speak in my book).

1, 3, and 5 are all general political speak, which is fine for now, he's a politician and he's running for office. If he wins and we don't see any "how"s laid down for those (1, 3, 5) then I'll be less than impressed, but if he does elaborate on those then good on him. Not too surprised that a bunch of Nobel Laureates endorsed it, it's pretty straightforward in support of the sciences.

I think he put those in to ensure that he doesn't lose votes.

I'd imagine the people who'd be put off by "More Science" are the same people who'd be turned on by having the phrases "National Security" and "post 9/11" repeated to them in a speech.
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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby Hawknc » Mon Sep 29, 2008 12:33 pm UTC

That's reasonable for a lot of people - science, in and of itself, seems like a waste of money unless it is working towards a tangible benefit. For many people, there are higher national priorities than discovery for the sake of discovery. If you tie it to things people care about, like health, national security and their children's future, it suddenly becomes a lot more relevant and spending money on it becomes a much better idea. So yes, it's vague and full of spin, but in doing so it plays to the average person's concerns and gets them to support more scientific research and funding. That can't be a bad thing.

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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby Indon » Mon Sep 29, 2008 3:07 pm UTC

Well, I think I've found one situation in which I might actually support a tax cut. Maybe.

I'm also concerned about patent protectionism - Obama's statement on 'streamlining the patent system' could be read either way in that regard.

Overall, looks like good priorities.
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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby 22/7 » Mon Sep 29, 2008 3:12 pm UTC

Indon wrote:Well, I think I've found one situation in which I might actually support a tax cut. Maybe.

I'm also concerned about patent protectionism - Obama's statement on 'streamlining the patent system' could be read either way in that regard.

Overall, looks like good priorities.
That's a good point. I initially read that as "make getting a patent quicker to protect the rights of the author/inventor/company", but that could just as easily be read as "reduce the thorough...ness of patent research", which would be bad.
Totally not a hypothetical...

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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby Oort » Tue Sep 30, 2008 2:29 am UTC

22/7 wrote:
TheStranger wrote:All but the last one are good specific ideas... but that last one loses me (generic political speak in my book).

1, 3, and 5 are all general political speak, which is fine for now, he's a politician and he's running for office. If he wins and we don't see any "how"s laid down for those (1, 3, 5) then I'll be less than impressed, but if he does elaborate on those then good on him. Not too surprised that a bunch of Nobel Laureates endorsed it, it's pretty straightforward in support of the sciences.


To be fair, if you read the full text he goes into greater detail about how to do each of the 5 bulletpoints. Sorry if you already knew that, I just thought that it might have seemed like vague ideals were his plan.

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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby Wiglaf » Tue Sep 30, 2008 2:49 am UTC

From the first PDF link, under the section "Reform the Patent System," it generally says he wants to "improve predictability and clarity," hopefully to "reduce the uncertainty and wasteful litigation that is current;y a significant drag on innovation." Hopefully this means cracking down on patent trolls, but the cynic inside of me (which has been rather loud lately) says that this means frivolous patents will become impossible to overturn.

But yes, this read makes me happy. Seriously, read the linked PDF yourself, it has some good stuff not mentioned in the first post. $25000 Scholarships for science/math teachers? $4000 tax credit for college?

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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby Kachi » Tue Sep 30, 2008 2:55 am UTC

I personally think that math should be integrated with science and otherwise done away with beyond the essential algebra/geometry/arithmetic (K-12, that is). Most higher math has little relevance outside the context of science curriculum. Add some more career-based classes like engineering and business to fill the gap.

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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby Kaiyas » Tue Sep 30, 2008 3:04 am UTC

This. Is. Fucking. Awesome.

Assuming that he does follow through though. (Then again, there isn't much of an alternative is there? Serious question.)

And I'm glad he's moving to reform the patent system- It's been in need of a good fixin' since someone patented the PB&J. :roll:

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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby 22/7 » Tue Sep 30, 2008 12:39 pm UTC

Kachi wrote:I personally think that math should be integrated with science and otherwise done away with beyond the essential algebra/geometry/arithmetic (K-12, that is). Most higher math has little relevance outside the context of science curriculum. Add some more career-based classes like engineering and business to fill the gap.
You want to eliminate math courses for engineering and business courses in high school? You're aware that, at least for the vast majority of engineering courses (and from what I've seen of tutoring business students, the same is true to a lesser extent for business classes) that calculus is generally required? I'm trying to think of a branch of engineering where you wouldn't be behind if you started without calculus.
Totally not a hypothetical...

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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby Indon » Tue Sep 30, 2008 3:23 pm UTC

22/7 wrote:You want to eliminate math courses for engineering and business courses in high school? You're aware that, at least for the vast majority of engineering courses (and from what I've seen of tutoring business students, the same is true to a lesser extent for business classes) that calculus is generally required? I'm trying to think of a branch of engineering where you wouldn't be behind if you started without calculus.


I think he means to roll the math into its' applications. I.E. you would learn about Calculus while learning engineering.

It has its' appeal, since current math courses are so bereft of application that many people just don't care about learning it. On the other hand, the theory's pretty important as well.
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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby 22/7 » Tue Sep 30, 2008 3:33 pm UTC

Indon wrote:
22/7 wrote:You want to eliminate math courses for engineering and business courses in high school? You're aware that, at least for the vast majority of engineering courses (and from what I've seen of tutoring business students, the same is true to a lesser extent for business classes) that calculus is generally required? I'm trying to think of a branch of engineering where you wouldn't be behind if you started without calculus.


I think he means to roll the math into its' applications. I.E. you would learn about Calculus while learning engineering.

It has its' appeal, since current math courses are so bereft of application that many people just don't care about learning it. On the other hand, the theory's pretty important as well.
Which would make you take, say, an engineering class to learn Calculus? Which would basically be a Calculus class due to the aforementioned dependence of those early level engineering classes on Calculus? I dunno.

Anyway, back on topic. I'm feeling pretty up in the air with my vote right now and Obama is pulling pretty hard while McCain isn't doing himself any favors, and this announcement feels like it's making the camel notice the large burden it's currently carrying.
Totally not a hypothetical...

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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby Noc » Tue Sep 30, 2008 6:04 pm UTC

Kachi wrote:I personally think that math should be integrated with science and otherwise done away with beyond the essential algebra/geometry/arithmetic (K-12, that is). Most higher math has little relevance outside the context of science curriculum. Add some more career-based classes like engineering and business to fill the gap.


I, personally, am kicking myself right now for not paying attention in the higher-level math courses back in High School. Do you know what I'm doing? I'm making stuff in Flash. And I'm realizing that I can't remember anything about matrices. Similarly, I can't count the number of times I've been trying to figure out some sort of real-world problem (things like calculating distance or angles or something) and realizing that my basic grasp of trigonometry simply isn't enough. Nevermind dealing with statistics.

And all the stuff from Discrete Math that I didn't manage to pick up? About the formula for calculating compound interest? That stuff's useful all the damn time. From taxes to things spreading virally to what-have-you.

And on top of that, you can't look at a page of headlines without tripping over a story involving statistics. Now, basic statistics are simple and common knowledge, but I keep running into stories that talk about a "20% increase" that doesn't tell me what the 20% is of. Is it 20% of the old value? Of the new value? Of all the people? Of the previous rate of growth? News outlets, especially news outlets that deal in these sort of statistically-bound stories, keep feeding us vague and possibly misleading stories because a) the percentage of the population who possesses the mathematical knowledge to recognize the ambiguity and call them out on it is relatively small, and b) the percentage of the population who will gloss over any block of text containing more than the most basic amount of math is relatively large.

Hell, remember way back in the year 2000's presidential campaign? When Bush waved off Al Gore's research by calling it "fuzzy math?" The reason that caught on so very well was because math is "fuzzy" to many, many people. They look at it the same way they look at the inside of their car; they know the most basic principles involved, and how to use the result, but all of the inner workings are a mystery to them. Which is why a) people look upon car mechanics with suspicion, because they're fiddling around with the fuzzy, unknowable workings of their car and claiming that it'll cost $800 to get that rattling noise to stop, and b) car mechanics can get away with doing the exact same bullshitting that their customers suspect them of.

Math education is important in the same way any other education is, be it Science or History or English. Learning Math enables people to better understand the world around them, and better understand the numbers being thrown at them every day by . . . well, everything, really. A more mathematically aware population is a better informed one, and . . . well, look at the trouble we're going through right now because of bad loans and risky ventures built off of them! Being able to work out things like whether or not you can afford a loan is a function of higher math. These things are important!

Now . . . yes, there IS a lot of higher math that's not useful at all outside of field specialized around it. But I haven't encountered any of that in high school.
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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby EstLladon » Wed Oct 01, 2008 1:46 pm UTC

People need more math. It gives you some very useful concepts that are almost universally applicable. Like logic. Like fallacies.
Like "do not skip steps in an algorithm, even it does not make sense to you right now". Like that repeating something a lot of times is not a valid proof. And so on.
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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby pyroman » Wed Oct 01, 2008 8:37 pm UTC

One thing i hear all the time as an engineer is that you wont need to do (whatever) when you get into the real world. While they are often correct in that you will very rarely need to break out the ol' pencil and paper and figure out the exact answer. The important part is being able to recognize the trends and patterns that you will see on a daily basis. The only way to really learn to recognize the patterns is by doing a whole bunch of problems so you can learn how each variable effects the out come. I don't know about other majors but of the 17 classes i have taken thus far 11 of them have used calculus on a daily basis. The only ones that didn't were gen eds.
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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby Falmarri » Thu Oct 02, 2008 7:23 am UTC

Indon wrote:Well, I think I've found one situation in which I might actually support a tax cut. Maybe.


Are you kidding me?

Kachi wrote:I personally think that math should be integrated with science and otherwise done away with beyond the essential algebra/geometry/arithmetic (K-12, that is). Most higher math has little relevance outside the context of science curriculum. Add some more career-based classes like engineering and business to fill the gap.


Again, are you kidding me? I think calculus at least through integration (so Calc II, vector isn't as important) should be required, if not in high school at least in college for ALL majors.

The only problem with all this is how the hell is he going to pay for it? If Obama says he'll put this forth, not raise taxes (read: cut taxes), cut government spending on all the bullshit, I'd vote for him. But of course we're either going to spend this money without worrying about the fact that we can't pay for it, or raise taxes which is just as bad.

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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby 22/7 » Thu Oct 02, 2008 12:51 pm UTC

Falmarri wrote:
Indon wrote:Well, I think I've found one situation in which I might actually support a tax cut. Maybe.


Are you kidding me?

Kachi wrote:I personally think that math should be integrated with science and otherwise done away with beyond the essential algebra/geometry/arithmetic (K-12, that is). Most higher math has little relevance outside the context of science curriculum. Add some more career-based classes like engineering and business to fill the gap.


Again, are you kidding me? I think calculus at least through integration (so Calc II, vector isn't as important) should be required, if not in high school at least in college for ALL majors.

The only problem with all this is how the hell is he going to pay for it? If Obama says he'll put this forth, not raise taxes (read: cut taxes), cut government spending on all the bullshit, I'd vote for him. But of course we're either going to spend this money without worrying about the fact that we can't pay for it, or raise taxes which is just as bad.

First, "not raise taxes" != cut taxes. Second, how is raising taxes just as bad as printing money to pay for your programs?
Totally not a hypothetical...

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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby Minerva » Thu Oct 02, 2008 11:11 pm UTC

Oooh yeah. Obama for the win.

The only thing that bugs me about Obama and science policies is when he says things like "we need to find safe ways to use nuclear power"... well, he hasn't got far to look. We already have those ways, being used, safely.
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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby Jack Saladin » Thu Oct 02, 2008 11:14 pm UTC

Except there's no fantastic way to deal with the waste, and the new technologies that have been touted as improving the situation have been admitted by whatever the face of the industry over in America is to be unrealistic and unlikely to ever come to fruition.

I can get linx if you need them. The idea of clean, safe nuclear power is a well propagated myth.

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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby Intercept » Fri Oct 03, 2008 12:12 am UTC

Jack Saladin wrote:Except there's no fantastic way to deal with the waste, and the new technologies that have been touted as improving the situation have been admitted by whatever the face of the industry over in America is to be unrealistic and unlikely to ever come to fruition.

I can get linx if you need them. The idea of clean, safe nuclear power is a well propagated myth.


Safe nuclear power is easily attainable. Three Mile Island was hardly dangerous, and it was the worst incident in American history. Chernobyl was caused by a bunch of stupidity that would never be repeated in the modern USA. Compared to coal, nuclear power is far cleaner. Also, if reactors were allowed to recycle their materials it would be even cleaner.
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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby Kachi » Fri Oct 03, 2008 1:58 am UTC

I think he means to roll the math into its' applications. I.E. you would learn about Calculus while learning engineering.

It has its' appeal, since current math courses are so bereft of application that many people just don't care about learning it. On the other hand, the theory's pretty important as well.


This is what I was suggesting.

I realize that most of you are probably a bit... biased, against my proposal. Afterall, you read a webcomic about science, are reading a post about news in a science plan, and are most likely interested in or involved in some program or profession that deals directly with these mathematical applications.

Most people are not, and most careers are not. Most higher level mathematical applications are highly specialized. Enough so that they would be better taught by the specialties they are involved with. Yes, that may mean that Engineering I contains a lot of basic calculus, but it also ensures that you are learning everything you need to know and nothing you don't. I personally didn't need to learn any Trig or Calculus, like at least 90% of my peers, but we did because it was in the general curriculum.

As an educator, I am convinced that relevance is of the highest priority in any curriculum, and most higher math is not general or universal enough to be taught with relevant context. This affects heavily influences student interest and retention. Removing those classes from the curriculum would not only reduce irrelevant curriculum, but also allow for more time in career-based classes.

Actually, I'll wager that most students that take Trig or Calc don't know what real life purposes they serve even after they complete the courses, and if they do learn those purposes, they will likely grow disinterested when they learn that it does not actually align in any way with their goals.

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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby roc314 » Fri Oct 03, 2008 4:11 am UTC

Kachi wrote:
I think he means to roll the math into its' applications. I.E. you would learn about Calculus while learning engineering.

It has its' appeal, since current math courses are so bereft of application that many people just don't care about learning it. On the other hand, the theory's pretty important as well.


This is what I was suggesting.

I realize that most of you are probably a bit... biased, against my proposal. Afterall, you read a webcomic about science, are reading a post about news in a science plan, and are most likely interested in or involved in some program or profession that deals directly with these mathematical applications.

Most people are not, and most careers are not. Most higher level mathematical applications are highly specialized. Enough so that they would be better taught by the specialties they are involved with. Yes, that may mean that Engineering I contains a lot of basic calculus, but it also ensures that you are learning everything you need to know and nothing you don't. I personally didn't need to learn any Trig or Calculus, like at least 90% of my peers, but we did because it was in the general curriculum.

As an educator, I am convinced that relevance is of the highest priority in any curriculum, and most higher math is not general or universal enough to be taught with relevant context. This affects heavily influences student interest and retention. Removing those classes from the curriculum would not only reduce irrelevant curriculum, but also allow for more time in career-based classes.

Actually, I'll wager that most students that take Trig or Calc don't know what real life purposes they serve even after they complete the courses, and if they do learn those purposes, they will likely grow disinterested when they learn that it does not actually align in any way with their goals.
So you don't think we should have to read Shakespeare, or study history, or any other subject not directly related to your future career as part of education? That unless the class can directly show you how what they are teaching will be used by you, that you should not have to take the class? Even if you won't need to know the Taylor series for ex everyday of your life, it is still good to learn. What is wrong with learning something you don't directly need to know? Some things are good to know just have a more well-rounded education and better understand the world around you. And how would you not need to know trig and calc? If you are an educator, how can you be opposed to the idea of learning, even if it isn't directly usable in the student's life? And you are right, much of higher math is highly specialized. But the math classes most take (including basic trig and calc) are not at that high level. We've had two to three hundred years to build upon the knowledge we have since calc was first used. I'm pretty sure that we have much higher math.

There are two reasons to learn things in school. The first is that it would be useful in life. This would include all of those classes you are talking about when you said "career-based classes". The other is that society has deemed the knowledge in question important enough to be known by anyone considered education. Hence we make students read Shakespeare. And learn about geography and world history. And maybe even take some calculus. Sure they may not use it often, but it helps to understand physics and chemistry, which helps to understand biology, and gives you so much of a better understanding of the universe. (http://xkcd.com/435/ is relevant here. Many subjects are based on math, and are harder to truly understand without a knowledge of the theory behind it.)

(Note that as a Pure Math/Computer Science double major, I'm probably somewhat biased towards the importance of math education (of course, saying you think all math classes should be bundled in with other subjects isn't going to endear you to me either(why do you hate my major?)). But that doesn't mean that all education should be reduced to only what is directly applicable to your daily life.)

EDIT: And to stay on topic somewhat, I think Obama's plan is pretty good. Even if (when) it doesn't work out as well as it should, anything that would help to get America supportive of science again is awesome. Seriously, does USAian society seem to look down on scientists as "nerds" (in the most derogatory way)?
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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby Noc » Fri Oct 03, 2008 5:57 am UTC

Kachi wrote:I realize that most of you are probably a bit... biased, against my proposal. Afterall, you read a webcomic about science, are reading a post about news in a science plan, and are most likely interested in or involved in some program or profession that deals directly with these mathematical applications.


For the record, I'm an artist. An Illustration major. I haven't taken a math class since High School. While I just spent quite a bit of time arguing how mathematical skills are useful in this context, I'm pretty sure that I'm probably in the field that deals least directly with mathematics. Furthermore, I was a horrible math student back in the old HS; my grades were perennially mediocre, at best.
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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby Kachi » Fri Oct 03, 2008 6:45 am UTC

For the record, I'm an artist. An Illustration major. I haven't taken a math class since High School. While I just spent quite a bit of time arguing how mathematical skills are useful in this context, I'm pretty sure that I'm probably in the field that deals least directly with mathematics. Furthermore, I was a horrible math student back in the old HS; my grades were perennially mediocre, at best.


Frankly I just didn't find your arguments compelling enough to address. Perhaps math classes would have been of greater use to you than I give them credit for, though I'm suspicious. At the very least I find it unlikely that you wouldn't have been better off learning about the specific math skills you need within your department.

I needed to learn a great deal about statistics in education. That's where I learned them-- in my education courses. Yes, if I had had more math education in high school, they might have been very marginally useful. A class on statistics would likely be more universally valuable due to the large number of fields that depend on research and interpretation of stats.

So you don't think we should have to read Shakespeare, or study history, or any other subject not directly related to your future career as part of education?


Reading Shakespeare imparts little in the ways of useful skills. It's useful in the sense that you're expected to know it because everyone knows it because it's been a part of the curriculum for so long. It's not that it's not at all useful-- it's just much less useful than many things that could be taught in its place. That's indicative of a great deal of education, really. It's a matter of efficiently using time and resources. You'd be surprised how much of the current K-12 curriculum is based on tradition rather than supported by education research.

History is relevant depending on the impact of the events and how recently they transpired. It's necessary to the curriculum because of its political nature-- part of the purpose of education is to prepare students to play a role in the political process. Far less emphasis on understanding current issues and events than should be taught is a typical problem of a history curriculum, though.

"Any other subject"... no. I merely suggested some common math-heavy fields that would be more efficient investments of time and resources. You're reading too much into what I've proposed.

That unless the class can directly show you how what they are teaching will be used by you, that you should not have to take the class?


Um, absolutely. This is basic educational theory. If the teacher, nevermind the students, cannot appreciate the importance of the material, it's little more than trivia. That may be adequate preparation if you plan to make a career out of winning game shows.

What is wrong with learning something you don't directly need to know?


Nothing is wrong with it other than it being worse than learning something that you do need to know. If there are more important things to learn, then those should take precedence.

If you are an educator, how can you be opposed to the idea of learning, even if it isn't directly usable in the student's life?


Learning for the sake of learning is not an educator's goal. An educator's goal is to prepare students for their lives. Learning that does not prepare them or prepares them less than other knowledge falls to the wayside.

Ah, a math major. Well, yes, you're probably a bit biased, to say the least.

Look, computer science is an increasingly needed field, and one which requires a firm grip on math, but from an educational perspective, there is no benefit to learning math separately from computer science. You have to keep in mind for just how long "Math" has been a subject in our schools. It used to only have a few applications. I'm sure everyone here can attest that the math that they learned in high school was much more complex and diverse than what their parents did, and it was the same for their parents before them. Unfortunately, the concepts are not so universal in application, and this has only worsened as new fields have emerged that require specialized mathematics knowledge. None of this is to say that math education is unimportant-- it has simply become the case that there are many different concepts which are important and most of them are not important to the average student. On the other hand there are at least a half a dozen subjects which are very important which are underrepresented in the schools or not represented at all.

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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby Xeio » Fri Oct 03, 2008 7:26 am UTC

Kachi wrote:Look, computer science is an increasingly needed field, and one which requires a firm grip on math, but from an educational perspective, there is no benefit to learning math separately from computer science. You have to keep in mind for just how long "Math" has been a subject in our schools. It used to only have a few applications. I'm sure everyone here can attest that the math that they learned in high school was much more complex and diverse than what their parents did, and it was the same for their parents before them. Unfortunately, the concepts are not so universal in application, and this has only worsened as new fields have emerged that require specialized mathematics knowledge. None of this is to say that math education is unimportant-- it has simply become the case that there are many different concepts which are important and most of them are not important to the average student. On the other hand there are at least a half a dozen subjects which are very important which are underrepresented in the schools or not represented at all.

May I ask which subjects? (not trying to be an ass or anything, just not aware of what these could be)

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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby roc314 » Fri Oct 03, 2008 7:46 am UTC

Kachi wrote:there is no benefit to learning math separately from computer science.
I can think of one very good reason why math should be taught separate from other classes. If most math classes (or just a significant enough minority of math classes) were integrated (pun unintended) into other subjects, then where would the math majors take classes? And if there are no math majors, then who would go on to become math professors/mathematicians? Who would teach math to others? Who would discover new mathematical techniques? Who would prove them? There might still be some progress made in the field, but it would slow down immensely. We kind of need the people who do math exclusively, just like we need theoretical physicists.

Besides that, if we combine math classes into everything else, then we would never be able to teach enough of the theory behind it. If you are teaching a calculus/physics class, do you choose to teach the Chain Rule and then rigorously prove it, or do you quickly teach the Chain Rule and then explain how it can be used in computing acceleration and velocity? By combining two different, distinct subjects, into one learning environment, you lower the detail you can explain and teach of each.

It is debatable what level of math education should be required, but there is really no reason to combine math classes into every other class that would ever use the applications of that math class (if you are only bringing in a single concept (like with the statistics in your education class), then it is understandable to simply slip it in rather than create a whole new class to learn one thing, but as far as learning larger things (such as all of vector calc, a separate class is needed).

Xeio wrote:May I ask which subjects? (not trying to be an ass or anything, just not aware of what these could be)
A lot of signal processing, probably some higher physics, some statistical stuff, encryption, and much more. There are many different subjects which require specialized math. The level of applicability to other fields varies on a case-by-case basis. Some maths are more universally applicable than others.
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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby Xeio » Fri Oct 03, 2008 8:04 am UTC

roc314 wrote:
Xeio wrote:May I ask which subjects? (not trying to be an ass or anything, just not aware of what these could be)
A lot of signal processing, probably some higher physics, some statistical stuff, encryption, and much more. There are many different subjects which require specialized math. The level of applicability to other fields varies on a case-by-case basis. Some maths are more universally applicable than others.
Ah I must have misunderstood then, I thought he meant subjects to be taught in high school, not subjects to which higher math could be applied.
roc314 wrote:It is debatable what level of math education should be required, but there is really no reason to combine math classes into every other class that would ever use the applications of that math class (if you are only bringing in a single concept (like with the statistics in your education class), then it is understandable to simply slip it in rather than create a whole new class to learn one thing, but as far as learning larger things (such as all of vector calc, a separate class is needed).
It may also be good to note that while not only would each class suffer from combining in math, but they would suffer as a whole because no class could assume you have the relative maths behind it without a class to teach those specific parts of math you might need, and introduce needless redundancy. I've seen professors who are surprised how little was covered in previous courses (or just the lack of general student knowledge on a subject), this could only be worsened by such changes.

Also, I'm going to be inclined to argue that high school should prepare you for higher education, even if you don't plan on attending it. I don't believe we should 'dumb down' curriculum in order to accommodate those with different aspirations. Granted, I can't think of a good solution, but it seems counter intuitive to conform to the low end of the academic spectrum.

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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby 22/7 » Fri Oct 03, 2008 12:20 pm UTC

Kachi wrote:
That unless the class can directly show you how what they are teaching will be used by you, that you should not have to take the class?
Um, absolutely. This is basic educational theory. If the teacher, nevermind the students, cannot appreciate the importance of the material, it's little more than trivia. That may be adequate preparation if you plan to make a career out of winning game shows.
Just so we're clear, I want my Algebra teacher to teach me how to FOIL even if he can't tell me why I'll ever need it. It turns out I'm an engineer and knowing how to do that has been fairly important over the last 9 years. My teacher, however, shouldn't have to know whether or not I'll be an engineer before he decides whether or not to teach me how to FOIL. He should teach it to me regardless of whether I'm me (an engineer) or Noc (an artist), because he's an algebra teacher.

Also, Kachi, I think that where you're running into so much resistance is that some people value education regardless of whether or not it is required for your job/career/whatever. It appears that you do not, and if that is the case, I believe that's an irreconcilable difference.
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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby Noc » Fri Oct 03, 2008 2:38 pm UTC

22/7 wrote:
Kachi wrote:
That unless the class can directly show you how what they are teaching will be used by you, that you should not have to take the class?
Um, absolutely. This is basic educational theory. If the teacher, nevermind the students, cannot appreciate the importance of the material, it's little more than trivia. That may be adequate preparation if you plan to make a career out of winning game shows.
Just so we're clear, I want my Algebra teacher to teach me how to FOIL even if he can't tell me why I'll ever need it. It turns out I'm an engineer and knowing how to do that has been fairly important over the last 9 years. My teacher, however, shouldn't have to know whether or not I'll be an engineer before he decides whether or not to teach me how to FOIL. He should teach it to me regardless of whether I'm me (an engineer) or Noc (an artist), because he's an algebra teacher.

Also, Kachi, I think that where you're running into so much resistance is that some people value education regardless of whether or not it is required for your job/career/whatever. It appears that you do not, and if that is the case, I believe that's an irreconcilable difference.


On the other hand, there might be something we're overlooking . . . which is that schools have a finite amount of time and resources with which to teach. I don't like the "We-don't-need-Math!" argument because I've heard it so many times from people who were just bitching about having to take a Math class without understanding, you know, why it's so incredibly useful.

But from the other perspective, that of the educator, it's not a matter of "Would it be cool if people knew this?" Instead it's a matter of resource management, and scrapping things that are less necessary in favor of things that are more necessary that don't get taught. But it's under this logic that schools keep lopping big chunks off of the Art and Music budgets, which is a whole other can of worms. As is the fact that while this budget-slashing is happening, the Football team gets shiny new uniforms and equipment every year.
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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby Falmarri » Mon Oct 06, 2008 6:42 am UTC

I've found a very serious flaw in your logic. So you think calc should be taught when it's applied to the subject you're applying it to, right? Well, as an engineer, EVERY SINGLE ONE of my classes uses calc ALL THE TIME. At what point should I learn it? And what if there's a low level class that requires calc, but it's not a required class. Should calc be taught then? Well what about the people who don't take that because it's required? Should I have to learn it again and waste my time because I then take a required class that teaches calc again? What about if I double major in physics and engineering? Why shouldn't there be a class that everyone takes that teaches the math, so that I don't have to be taught the math twice in two entirely different applications?

Edit: seems my sentiments have been expressed already, I overlooked that post.

Noc wrote:As is the fact that while this budget-slashing is happening, the Football team gets shiny new uniforms and equipment every year.


I completely agree. I don't have a solution to this though.

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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby Princess Marzipan » Mon Oct 06, 2008 7:00 am UTC

Falmarri wrote:
Noc wrote:As is the fact that while this budget-slashing is happening, the Football team gets shiny new uniforms and equipment every year.


I completely agree. I don't have a solution to this though.


...isn't it just something like "don't throw so much money at god damn high school sports"?
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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby Kachi » Mon Oct 06, 2008 8:32 am UTC

Eh, I'll try to address all of these, but it's late and I wasn't really anticipating so much opposition (because I forgot about this thread).

May I ask which subjects? (not trying to be an ass or anything, just not aware of what these could be)

Ah I must have misunderstood then, I thought he meant subjects to be taught in high school, not subjects to which higher math could be applied.


(No, you were right the first time.)
Just to name a few that are generally not a requisite in the general curriculum or are heavily underrepresented (in a very disproportionate way): nutrition, parenting psychology, home financing, and software application literacy.

If most math classes (or just a significant enough minority of math classes) were integrated (pun unintended) into other subjects, then where would the math majors take classes? And if there are no math majors, then who would go on to become math professors/mathematicians? Who would teach math to others? Who would discover new mathematical techniques? Who would prove them?


To put it very plainly, the number of people who go into a pure math field aside from the pyramid scheme that is math education today (i.e., we need math teachers to train tomorrow's math teachers!), are insignificant in number. If you wanted to become a mathematician? Simple. You would do that in college as a course of study, much like you do with every other profession. Put it to you this way, how many people go into medical fields compared to becoming mathematicians? Which, realistically, do you think would be of greater benefit to emphasize?

Besides that, if we combine math classes into everything else, then we would never be able to teach enough of the theory behind it. If you are teaching a calculus/physics class, do you choose to teach the Chain Rule and then rigorously prove it, or do you quickly teach the Chain Rule and then explain how it can be used in computing acceleration and velocity? By combining two different, distinct subjects, into one learning environment, you lower the detail you can explain and teach of each.


Not so. You will be teaching more that is relevant to the student and less that isn't. Things that are relevant to the subject would actually get more instructional time. Your problem seems to assume the impossibility of simply having twice as much time for physics classes (to students who intended to go into a related field).

(if you are only bringing in a single concept (like with the statistics in your education class), then it is understandable to simply slip it in rather than create a whole new class to learn one thing, but as far as learning larger things (such as all of vector calc, a separate class is needed).


The former is far more often the case than the latter. I don't know the applications of vector calc, so I could only take your word on it having a very high universal value to several specialized fields. For the sake of argument, assume that an entire semester or year of vector calc can be universally applied to five different fields. Students then need to be made very aware of what those fields are.

Also, I'm going to be inclined to argue that high school should prepare you for higher education, even if you don't plan on attending it. I don't believe we should 'dumb down' curriculum in order to accommodate those with different aspirations.


It is not a dumbing down in the least bit. Specialization is becoming increasingly important in competitive markets. A different curriculum for an individual is not a worse one simply because it has less emphasis on math.

It may also be good to note that while not only would each class suffer from combining in math, but they would suffer as a whole because no class could assume you have the relative maths behind it without a class to teach those specific parts of math you might need, and introduce needless redundancy. I've seen professors who are surprised how little was covered in previous courses (or just the lack of general student knowledge on a subject), this could only be worsened by such changes.


This would actually be less of a problem, because it would ensure that emphasis went to skills related to the career path (so you would get emphasis on more of the necessary skills, and more likely to have the ones you needed for your program). If there are issues, it lies solely in the curriculum management of the school. That's true regardless, really. If there are excessive redundancies or gaps in the curriculum, then your school needs to reevaluate their program.

Just so we're clear, I want my Algebra teacher to teach me how to FOIL even if he can't tell me why I'll ever need it. It turns out I'm an engineer and knowing how to do that has been fairly important over the last 9 years. My teacher, however, shouldn't have to know whether or not I'll be an engineer before he decides whether or not to teach me how to FOIL. He should teach it to me regardless of whether I'm me (an engineer) or Noc (an artist), because he's an algebra teacher.


Most likely your classmates won't feel the same way. Regardless, basic algebra is fundamental enough that I wouldn't suggest removing it from the curriculum. Now, on the other hand, if FOIL were something that only applied to a handful of specialized fields, it would be very inefficient to teach it to the 98% of students not going into any of those fields who could be learning something that they might actually use. I won't address the, "He should do his job because it's his job," point.

Also, Kachi, I think that where you're running into so much resistance is that some people value education regardless of whether or not it is required for your job/career/whatever. It appears that you do not, and if that is the case, I believe that's an irreconcilable difference.


I'm not, nor have I ever suggested that education is only valuable if it enhances a career. But it must enhance something, and the more vital to the person's wellbeing, the better. The fact is, we have a very traditionalist curriculum because we have made no effort to adapt it to the changing dynamic of our nation.

But from the other perspective, that of the educator, it's not a matter of "Would it be cool if people knew this?" Instead it's a matter of resource management, and scrapping things that are less necessary in favor of things that are more necessary that don't get taught. But it's under this logic that schools keep lopping big chunks off of the Art and Music budgets, which is a whole other can of worms. As is the fact that while this budget-slashing is happening, the Football team gets shiny new uniforms and equipment every year.


And it's very unfortunate that those programs are getting scrapped, but that is more of an issue of underfunding than a philosophical perspective. Schools MUST reinforce their performance in subjects like math due to federal regulations that are not supported with additional funding, otherwise NCLB steps in. It's a classic example of demanding more for less. You might be interested to know, by the way, that the current emphasis on math education (when you hear presidential candidates talking about its importance, for example) are based on a couple of things. One is the Reagan administration and its emphasis on these subjects after a study revealed the importance of science (and by association, math) education to the strength of the nation.

The other is a bit more... cyclical (see: silly). Studies consistently find that students depend on math education to be prepared for college! That's why the federal government regulates the college aptitude tests and licenses through accreditation departments (specifically, the Department of Education). This makes sure to test students' mathematical aptitude regardless of what field they want to enter. So, essentially, the federal government finds that students who lack certain math skills aren't prepared for college, because... the federal government has mandated that they know these math skills. So we're clear, that's one of the main reasons why many people aren't accepted into college. They don't score high enough on the tests that are supposed to determine their aptitude for math, and they need to know this math because the government has set this standard because they found that people who don't have these skills aren't prepared for college. To summarize, the reason math skills are so important to college aptitude is mostly due to the fact that the government has unnaturally forced them to be important, rather than having an innate importance in most of the fields.

Now this is all fine if you take the attitude that not everyone can or should go to college, and the world needs burgerflippers and custodians. Obviously that's true to an extent, but it could be a far lesser extent. If the government simply reduces the math requirements, it may magically find that more people who didn't do as well on their college aptitude test are actually more than capable of being successful in college! Now, you may not understand how that could possibly be beneficial, but there are plenty of fields where math skills are only marginally important at best.

...isn't it just something like "don't throw so much money at god damn high school sports"


Oh, and about the football teams, just to fact check-- they often are a source of revenue for the schools. They often (not always) not only pay for their own expenses, but also fund other athletic teams and programs. Concessions and admissions. Go figure.

So you think calc should be taught when it's applied to the subject you're applying it to, right? Well, as an engineer, EVERY SINGLE ONE of my classes uses calc ALL THE TIME. At what point should I learn it? And what if there's a low level class that requires calc, but it's not a required class. Should calc be taught then? Well what about the people who don't take that because it's required? Should I have to learn it again and waste my time because I then take a required class that teaches calc again? What about if I double major in physics and engineering? Why shouldn't there be a class that everyone takes that teaches the math, so that I don't have to be taught the math twice in two entirely different applications?


It sounds like you're talking about college. That's really an entirely different subject. I've been talking about K-12 education this entire time.

But in your example, if you use calculus all the time, then it should be a prerequisite course. In line with my argument, all you're really asking is if I think it should be taught by a general math teacher, or someone who specializes in engineering. My answer would obviously be the latter. Even if there are absolutely no differences between the calculus education you need for a physics program, or an engineering one, it would still be ideal to have someone who can teach the subject within a frame of the applications you'll be using the skills for. As a double major, you could take either Calculus: Physics or Calculus: Engineering and presumably sub one for the other. If they're too different, then yeah, you'd take both. As a double major with some overlapping concepts, you can expect to.

As for taking a class you don't need again, well, that's pretty much college, isn't it? Unless you took a class for college credit in high school, or tested out of the class, there's really no difference there either way. Most people I know have had to take classes that they didn't need. It was a nuisance, but if you already know it, then it's easy. My math classes were easy and taught skills that I didn't need. They did serve the nice purpose of affirming why it was so important that I knew enough math for the ACTs to be prepared for college! :lol:

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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby roc314 » Tue Oct 07, 2008 12:42 am UTC

Kachi wrote:To put it very plainly, the number of people who go into a pure math field aside from the pyramid scheme that is math education today (i.e., we need math teachers to train tomorrow's math teachers!), are insignificant in number. If you wanted to become a mathematician? Simple. You would do that in college as a course of study, much like you do with every other profession. Put it to you this way, how many people go into medical fields compared to becoming mathematicians? Which, realistically, do you think would be of greater benefit to emphasize?
We can emphasize both. And we currently do have math as a course of study; there is no reason to change that. It's not relevant how many major in math; we need relatively few as a society, but we need those ones. You seem to be of the mistaken opinion that mathematics is static, that no new discoveries are made. If we quit putting out pure math majors, who do you think would come up with new theorems? And while they might not be immediately applicable to anything, the history of math is filled with discoveries that found a use years and decades after they were put forth (logarithms, binary, non-Euclidean geometry).

(if you are only bringing in a single concept (like with the statistics in your education class), then it is understandable to simply slip it in rather than create a whole new class to learn one thing, but as far as learning larger things (such as all of vector calc, a separate class is needed).
The former is far more often the case than the latter. I don't know the applications of vector calc, so I could only take your word on it having a very high universal value to several specialized fields. For the sake of argument, assume that an entire semester or year of vector calc can be universally applied to five different fields. Students then need to be made very aware of what those fields are.
I wasn't referring to the universal (or not) applicability of a class, I was referring to the time it would take to cover it. If it would take a full year of full time classes to learn something, what would be the purpose in combining it with another class? All you would do is take two years for a math/science class (or a doublely long class for one year) rather than one year of math and one year of science.

[stuff about math requirements for university acceptance.]
The USA's math requirements for college enrollment are already low. Really low. Most first world countries have much higher requirements. And contrary to what you claimed earlier, it would be dumbing things down to decrease standards.

It sounds like you're talking about college. That's really an entirely different subject. I've been talking about K-12 education this entire time.
In that case, specializing classes is even more of a bad idea. As very few know what they want to major in during high school, it is not practical to teach classes for a specific field.
In line with my argument, all you're really asking is if I think it should be taught by a general math teacher, or someone who specializes in engineering. My answer would obviously be the latter.
I'm going to have to strongly disagree with you here. I think that engineers could probably teach math, but from my experience, they don't understand the theory as well. Even though they are very competent, I wouldn't trust any of the engineering professors I've met or taken classes from to adequately prove any theorems in math.

As a double major, you could take either Calculus: Physics or Calculus: Engineering and presumably sub one for the other. If they're too different, then yeah, you'd take both. As a double major with some overlapping concepts, you can expect to.
Why have both? Why not have Physics, Engineering, and Calculus as three separate classes? You are going to learn it anyways, where is the advantage in putting it in with another class? All you would do is make each class less transferable to another major.
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Kachi
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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby Kachi » Tue Oct 07, 2008 4:06 am UTC

We can emphasize both. And we currently do have math as a course of study; there is no reason to change that. It's not relevant how many major in math; we need relatively few as a society, but we need those ones. You seem to be of the mistaken opinion that mathematics is static, that no new discoveries are made. If we quit putting out pure math majors, who do you think would come up with new theorems? And while they might not be immediately applicable to anything, the history of math is filled with discoveries that found a use years and decades after they were put forth (logarithms, binary, non-Euclidean geometry).


Yes, well there already being math as a course of study was sort of the point. Nothing would really change there.

I'm not contesting the importance of having mathematicians. Well, relatively speaking, I am. There are other fields that are neglected in which new discoveries also need to be made.

I wasn't referring to the universal (or not) applicability of a class, I was referring to the time it would take to cover it. If it would take a full year of full time classes to learn something, what would be the purpose in combining it with another class? All you would do is take two years for a math/science class (or a doublely long class for one year) rather than one year of math and one year of science.


Well, that much is not even debatable, really. It's not even up for argument among teachers whether it would be more effective or not. It would. Retention is far higher and learning occurs much more quickly when skills are taught within their respective applications. There are further benefits to having the same teacher for both subjects, if that's the way you go about it.

The USA's math requirements for college enrollment are already low. Really low. Most first world countries have much higher requirements. And contrary to what you claimed earlier, it would be dumbing things down to decrease standards.


That's a bit comparable to saying that it's dumbing down the elementary curriculum of a school to not have the students memorize all 50 of the state capitols, and instead having them learn, I don't know, something actually useful, like -more math-.

In that case, specializing classes is even more of a bad idea. As very few know what they want to major in during high school, it is not practical to teach classes for a specific field.

Why have both? Why not have Physics, Engineering, and Calculus as three separate classes? You are going to learn it anyways, where is the advantage in putting it in with another class? All you would do is make each class less transferable to another major.


(1) No, because it won't be an entire loss to math skills, as they'll be integrated into those specialized classes, again, increasing retention. (1&2)You're operating under the sensible but mistaken assumption that students would learn fewer valuable skills in an applications course than a fundamentals course. (1)Especially in this context, that isn't true. Further, students taking a semester of engineering and finding that they don't like it is not at all a waste. Changing majors in college would be far less efficient.

I'm going to have to strongly disagree with you here. I think that engineers could probably teach math, but from my experience, they don't understand the theory as well. Even though they are very competent, I wouldn't trust any of the engineering professors I've met or taken classes from to adequately prove any theorems in math.


College professors in general are not especially reliable teachers, because they generally aren't required to have any education/pedagogy background. That's an entirely separate problem.

Is proving theorems of any real significance to actually using the math associated with engineering, or is it just "nice to know"?

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Re: Obama releases science plan, endorsed by 61 Nobel Laureates

Postby Falmarri » Tue Oct 07, 2008 5:36 am UTC

Kachi wrote:Is proving theorems of any real significance to actually using the math associated with engineering, or is it just "nice to know"?


Umm, it's pretty damn necessary to know WHY applying this formula in this situation works so that when you get a slightly different situation, you know what to do instead of going OH MY GOD, THIS DOESN'T FIT TO THE PREDEFINED FORMAT THAT WE HAD TO MEMORIZE.


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