"What is it that distinguishes us from cavemen?" asks the mathematician Edward Frenkel. "I would say it’s the level of abstraction that we can reach."
Why do we spend so much time teaching a skill that is best left to computers even as we continue to get such dismal results? U.S. students are dramatically underachieving in this key STEM subject. But let's stop all of the hand-wringing and focus on teaching a deeper understanding of math, Conrad Wolfram has argued. This type of learning involves key skills such as posing the right questions and turning real world problems into math formulations. That's what the computers can't do. That's what we need students to excel at if we hope to get ahead in "the computational knowledge economy" of the future.
"Abstraction is king in this brave new world," Frenkel says, "and the key to abstraction is mathematics."