Wednesday, June 19, 2013

US Math Education

Caltech is one of the most selective US universities. They admit a tiny freshman class of only about 200 students, compared to 1000 to 2000 at most other elite private universities, and their 25th percentile SAT's are typically the highest anywhere (75th percentile SAT may be maxed out at a few schools). It's also probably the major university most fanatically devoted to science and engineering, with MIT being the only significant top tier competitor. Arun was a physics grad student there a quarter century ago or so, and reports that the profs then complained that the students they were getting didn't have the preparation of the good old days.

I'm not sure when that golden age of US high school students was, but I don't think it was in my generation - another couple of decades earlier. In those days it was pretty rare for American high school students to learn calculus - I didn't. Now, I think, almost any aspiring Caltecher would have completed at least one year of calculus, and frequently some further math.

I wonder if there are any statistics on the math preparation of the top 1% of US high school students over the years?