Sunday, July 29, 2007

High-school math: highest correlation with college science achievements

USA Today

According to some research published in Science, the amount of maths taken by high school students is more tightly correlated with successes in college sciences than the amount of biology, chemistry, and physics taken at high school.

You can see that most commenters in USA Today find the link obvious, and so do I. Even Mormons find this fact obvious (click):

When Windows Vista evaluates your computer, the overall rating is determined by the poorest one among the partial ratings. It's because the hardest thing among the essential ones is always slowing you most efficiently: it decides about the overall performance. Mathematics is clearly the most non-trivial and most difficult set of concepts underlying natural sciences: it is the subject that divides the people to those who are "in" and those who are not. It's clearly the case in theoretical physics but to a lesser extent, it is also true in the rest of physics, chemistry, and biology.

On the other hand, the high-school students who have become math haters - and who try to deny that mathematics is crucial in natural sciences and especially in theoretical physics - may be more successful in writing books and blogs addressed to other enemies of mathematics. Am I right, Lee?

You should notice that correlation doesn't imply causation. However, in this case, I think that the obvious explanation of the correlation is a conglomerate of two influences:

  • the high-school math education directly influences the access to advanced sciences
  • the amounts of both the high-school education and the access to advanced sciences are controlled by a common cause such as the level of pure intelligence.

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