Statistics have become an afterthought in secondary education. While HB 661 and SB 770 both create career and technical education diplomas for Florida high schoolers, they focus math requirements on two core classes: Algebra I and Geometry.
This reflects every other diploma program in our state. Even though Statistics is taught at many high schools, it is often an afterthought to Algebra II, Pre-Calculus and Calculus. Florida cannot afford to continue robbing students of statistical literacy in favor of more abstract disciplines in mathematics.
I’ll be the first to defend the algebra requirement (regardless of how much I struggled in algebra) because algebraic thinking is essential to developing lifelong problem-solving skills. But a similar argument can be made for the importance of statistics.
From a career readiness perspective, statistical literacy is one of the best skills our education system can give a student. Big data is no longer just a buzzword, it is the key to making money in the 21st century. Even in more traditional trades, the ability to analyze and monetize customer data will give companies significant advantages over their competition. And statistics education doesn’t just help people earn money — it helps students avoid losing money in schemes like the Florida Lottery.
But career readiness and financial literacy are not the only goals of education. Our republic cannot function properly if voters are not educated enough to make informed decisions. Citizens without a basic understanding of statistics can be fooled into believing any policy is based on indisputable facts. More commonly, look how often anecdotal evidence is used in place of statistical evidence in the legislative process.
We need Sen. Sirois’ and Rep. Duggan’s Career and Technical Education diploma. But as a state, we need to crunch the numbers and decide if the lack of statistics in high school math is the best option for students’ lifelong success.
The lottery may take a hit if we change our ways, but statistically speaking, that risk is well worth the reward.
Jennings DePriest is a tech entrepreneur and education policy advocate. You can reach him on Twitter @JenningsLawton
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