Should schools count coding as math?

By Joe Garofoli, The San Francisco Chronicle
December 4th, 2015

California officials make push for universities to accept high school coding as a math class

computer-scienceBacked by an all-star cast of Silicon Valley executives and nonprofit leaders, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom asked the University of California Academic Senate on Dec. 2 to count high school computer science classes as math classes instead of electives — a move supporters say could help to diversify the tech industry.

Newsom’s hope is that the shift will encourage California high schools — which frequently tailor their curriculum to reflect what the UC system requires — to beef up their computer science offerings.

Turning computer science into a core requirement could eventually pull more women and people of color into those classes at a younger age, and help diversify the talent pool in an industry dominated by whites, Asians and men.

Last year, fewer than 9,000 California high school students took the AP Computer Science exam, according to Newsom’s office. A little more than one quarter were women, fewer than 1,000 were Latino, and only 148 were African American.

“Every student learns about photosynthesis and fractions even if they don’t grow up to become botanists or mathematicians,” the former San Francisco mayor wrote in a letter to the Academic Senate’s Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools Committee. “A basic understanding of computing and computer science is foundational to many fields and will prepare students both for college and for the careers of tomorrow.”

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One Response to “Should schools count coding as math?”

I honestly do not understand the obsession with coding. I have one degree in math and a graduate degree in engineering. I cannot code. I stumbled around trying to get a BS in engineering before I switched to math because I hated coding so much. The three grad school classes that caused the most trouble were those that required coding. The math was easy but the arbitrary rules of coding were impossible for me to memorize. The unforgiving nature of computers was just too frustrating when the logic was perfect but there was a semicolon in the wrong place.

It is important to study math because it teaches disciplined thinking, deriving all subsequent results from a handful of axioms. I learned calculus starting with 1 follows 0. Everyone should be required to take math all the way through high school.

Coding teaches disciplined thinking using random, but inflexible, rules. And that is valuable, too. But it does not teach the same skills as math. Add coding to the required course of study. Don’t replace one kind of thinking with another.