What A Future With Quantum Computing Looks Like If Our Children Aren't Strong in Math

Jul 5, 2024 6:42:06 PM

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What A Future With Quantum Computing Looks Like If Our Children Aren't Strong in Math
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The dawn of new technologies, such as quantum computing, presents a future brimming with potential and innovation. As Jim Al-Khalili's What the Future Looks Like (2018) and Michio Kaku's Visions (1998) forecasted years ago, these advancements will reshape our world in unimaginable ways. The foundation for navigating this future lies in our present-day mathematical literacy and proficiency, particularly for our children. Without a strong grounding in mathematics, we risk leaving future generations unprepared for the challenges and opportunities ahead.

Quantum computing exemplifies the need for advanced mathematical understanding. Unlike classical computing, which operates on binary digits (bits) with values of either 0 or 1, quantum computing uses quantum bits (qubits). Thanks to the principles of quantum superposition and entanglement, a qubit can exist simultaneously in multiple states (0, 1, or both).

These two principles are mind-blowing! They allow quantum computers to perform multiple calculations simultaneously, exponentially increasing their processing power. In simpler terms, while a classical computer solves problems sequentially, a quantum computer can tackle numerous problems concurrently, transforming fields such as cryptography, material science, medicine, and artificial intelligence.

Understanding quantum mechanics—the fundamental theory underlying quantum computing—requires a solid grasp of mathematics. Quantum physics describes the behavior of particles at the smallest scales, where the usual rules of physics no longer apply. Concepts like superposition (where particles exist in multiple states simultaneously) and entanglement (where particles become interconnected and instantly affect each other regardless of distance) are mathematically complex but crucial for harnessing the power of quantum technology.

Reflecting on my experiences as a math teacher and engineering student at Michigan State University, I recall transformative programs like DAPCEP (Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program) and WIMS (Wireless Integrated Microsystems for Women). These initiatives inspired and equipped students with necessary math and science skills, highlighting the importance of early and robust STEM education. I had the privilege of writing curricula that integrated math and physics with practical applications in robotics, showing students the tangible impact of their learning.

Despite these efforts, data across the country indicate that many children, particularly Black children, are not acquiring the math proficiency needed for future technological landscapes. The disparity in math literacy and confidence is alarming and has far-reaching implications. To address this, we must adopt a multifaceted approach:

Higher Education: Colleges and universities must enhance teacher preparation programs, ensuring educators possess deep content knowledge and effective pedagogical skills. Teachers who are well-versed in their subjects and passionate about teaching will inspire and elevate their students' understanding and interest in mathematics. Liping Ma’s book Knowing and Teaching Mathematics showed us how dire our teacher training programs are in this country.

Parental Involvement: Parents play a crucial role in their children's education. They must prioritize learning and curiosity, fostering an environment that values and supports academic achievement. Parental engagement can significantly boost children's confidence and motivation in their studies.

Educational Reform: The education system needs an overhaul to become more efficient, relevant, and engaging. Incorporating modern teaching methods, integrating technology, and making curricula culturally relevant can help students connect with the material and see its real-world applications.

Political and Corporate Support: Policymakers and businesses must prioritize and fund educational initiatives that promote STEAMQ learning. Investment in education is an investment in the future workforce, ensuring students can contribute meaningfully to society and the economy.

The future will be imagined and constructed now, with AI and quantum technologies leading the charge. Our children must be ready to participate in this future as consumers, innovators, and leaders. We must ask ourselves: What will the future look like if our children are not strong in math? The answer is in our collective efforts to nurture and develop their mathematical abilities, ensuring they are ready to navigate and shape the world of tomorrow.

By emphasizing the importance of mathematics and fostering a culture of learning, we can equip our children with the tools they need to thrive in a future dominated by quantum principles and technologies. The pieces of the future puzzle are on the table, and it's up to us to ensure our children are capable and ready to assemble them.

Dr. Assata Moore

Assata Moore is educator and author who advocates for educating young Black children, using math as the driving force. She believes in the supreme intelligence of Black children because she has seen it time and time again. As a teacher and principal, she traveled the world teaching other teachers how to teach Mathematics, physics, and engineering in a fun and engaging way; effective leadership; and systems and strategies for running a successful school. She has a Mathematics degree from Michigan State University where she also served as the program coordinator. In 2009, she was voted one of the top Mathematics teachers in the state of Illinois and, under the Obama Administration, Assata received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. In 2015, under the direction of Michelle Obama, she revisited the White House for a college conference initiative. Her workshops and speaking engagements are what she calls, “EduAction”. You will be educated and you will put that learning into action.

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