A LACK OF RELEVANCE
As a college student I always disliked the quantitative courses like statistics, calculus, management science, and operations management. Unless one is a math or science major, there is very little in these courses that will be remembered, utilized or even relevant in one's future. I've been a management professor for almost 30 years, and I have never needed to recall or utilize any formula from any of those manditory quantitative courses I took as a business student.
I now teach operations management, along with two management courses that are non-quantitative. I stopped using operations management textbooks for my course, because they all seemed to be fixated on formulas like the one above. If you are curious, it is a formula for determining the probability of zero customers (in this case trucks) in a multiple-server system where there are four unloading bays, each crewed by two employees taking one hour to unload each truck as the trucks arrive at the rate of three per hour. Try getting a student to remember it. Harder yet is to convince students why it is important at all, when the reality is that it couldn't be less important.
Thanks to computer technology I can do this analysis quite simply without ever seeing a formula. I don't do statistical analysis, but I could do it quite easily with statistical software. I can also use linear programming software to solve problems without knowing how to solve simultaneous linear equations. I consider the quantitative courses to have been a waste of my time and energy. What I retained from all of them could be put into one very short lecture.
So why are so many quantitative courses required of students who are not quantitatively oriented and not pursuing a career that will utilize that kind of knowledge? The answer is simple. Professors decide curriculum based on what they know and how they learned it. It's not a customer-driven process. And professors, many of whom claim to be on the leading edge of research, are decades behind in teaching what students really need to know.
There is a phenomenon called the "paradox of expertise," which states that as humans become increasingly expert at performing a task, they become increasingly unable to explain what they are doing. Experts perform advanced tasks without even thinking about them, and when forced to give an explanation of what they are doing, they revert to reasoning and strategies that were taught to them as novices. Formulas were the essence of how most current quantitative experts learned their trade, so that is how they teach it. Unfortunately they also write the textbooks – most of which are littered with formulae like the above example.
There is a sign in my office that says: "Immediacy in relevance is particularly critical in adult learning. Adults are quick to forget anything without foreseeable relevance." Solving equations like the one above, as well as a lot of other stuff, is irrelevant to 99% of all college graduates and their future. But professors still teach this stuff – because they can, and because that is how they learned it.
There ought to be a law for teaching that says: "Don't teach me what you know – teach me what I need to know." Of course some liberal arts and quantitative professors might disagree with this because, if relevancy were the criteria for curriculum, then a lot of professors would be out of work. Enlightenment is a noble cause, and learning about history, language, music, and art is relevant to improving a society. Formulas for the masses are not relevant.