Can you remember the last time you did calculus? Unless you are a researcher or engineer, chances are good it was in a high-school or college class you’d rather forget. For most Americans, solving a calculus problem is not a skill they need to perform well at work.
This is not to say that America’s workforce doesn’t need advanced mathematics—quite the opposite. An extensive 2011 McKinsey Global Institute study found that by 2018 the U.S will face a 1.5 million worker shortfall in analysts and managers who have the mathematical training necessary to deal with analysis of “large data sets,” the bread and butter of the big-data revolution.
The question is not whether advanced mathematics is needed but rather what kind of advanced mathematics. Calculus is the handmaiden of physics; it was invented by Newton to explain planetary and projectile motion. While its place at the core of math education may have made sense for Cold War adversaries engaged in a missile and space race, Minute-Man and Apollo no longer occupy the same prominent role in national security and continued prosperity that they once did.