Friday, June 06, 2008

Principia Mathematica and Stupidity Rampant

The petulant Simon Jenkins regurgitates a hobby horse and writes that the study of mathematics is unneccessary for most people and "finance, marketing and design, on service activities" have fed Britain's booming economy which has led to more students studying finance, economics, psychology and other "soft" subjects instead of mathematics, science and engineering. Note that Jenkins picks "soft subjects" that all require an understanding and use of higher level mathematics.
What stimulates today's students is the realm of the creative imagination and the working of the marketplace. This spectrum, from English and drama to business and finance, seems benign both to individuals and to the economy. Students are not stupid. They know where money is to be made, which is why they flock to medicine among the sciences.
And there was me thinking the money was to be made as a quantitative analyst in a hedge fund. The piece is just so wrong I don't know where to begin and Jenkins gets a new one torn in the comments.

In the comments Professor Ross Anderson makes the equally egregiously wrong point that
I teach computer science at Cambridge, and we've found that students can't cope with our course unless they got an A in A level maths. Pretty much the same holds in engineering, economics, physics and chemistry - indeed across the schools of technology and physical science.
Stop and think through the statement "students can't cope with our course unless they got an A in A level maths". One would think that computer science students at Cambridge fit into one of two camps: those with A level maths at grade A (as with any other grade would you be at Cambridge?); and those who haven't studied A level maths. So the evidence comes out as "students can't cope with our course unless they [have] A level maths". So unless Cambridge is accepting students with Bs, Cs, Ds and Es in A level maths Anderson's point about an A grade being necessary lacks evidence and becomes "our course requires A level maths".

No comments: