MathAs an educator, you know about the necessity of math for a student to move towards an IT academic path and career. Solid math skills, particularly higher math skills in algebra and calculus, are necessary for a student to pursue an IT path in college. The exact application of these two disciplines, however, isn’t always so clear-cut.

If your students ask you, “When will I use calculus when I’m programming software?” or, “Why do I need to know this function to be a web designer?” you might find the answer complex.

Math Standards for IT

The Special Interest Group for Information Technology Education (SIGITE) recommends, in a 2005 report, the study of discrete mathematics and statistics.

Statistics is often mentioned as a recommended prerequisite for an IT program. But what about discrete mathematics?

What is Discrete Mathematics?

Simply put, Discrete Mathematics involves finite, rather than continuous, mathematical structures. It involves integers, graphs and statements of logic. More formally, discrete mathematics has been described as dealing with “countable sets.”

Examples of Discrete Math in the world:

  • The number of people in a group. You can count 6 people or 7 people, but you can’t count 6.5 people
  • Sets or groups of symbols that form a language, such as HTML

By contrast, Calculus is considered a continuous function. Very simply put, it deals with change and infinite series (among many other things). Historically, Calculus was called “the calculus of infinitesimals.”

Why Should We Focus More On Discrete Math?

  • It’s highly applicable: Discrete Math has been described as the mathematics of decision making for finite settings. Broadly, it can be used to represent and solve problems (with graphs), find the shortest distance between two points, and calculate probability
  • It’s engaging: Because of its real-world applications, many students might find discrete math more exciting than abstract mathematical concepts, such as calculus or algebra.
  • It’s at the heart of computer science and IT: Modern computer science depends heavily on discrete math, especially graph theory and combinatorics. To really grasp the structures behind computer programming, students will need to know discrete math
  • It’s been endorsed: The 2000 “Principles and Standards for School Mathematics,” published by The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, recommends that discrete mathematics, “are an integral part of the school mathematics curriculum.”

Your school might have already adopted the teaching of discrete math. If not, see what you can do to influence the system to integrate more discrete math into the curriculum. This webpage features a textbook (for sale), that teaches discrete math. You can download the preface for free. As with anything else, make sure that the content meets your school district’s standards.