Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Rules are rules. Especially for Coaches.

Yahoo News has a short piece decrying the horrible tactics of some high school league:
With his stepfather in jail, Brown spent a year at South Kent School in Connecticut, then decided he needed to start over, so he moved to Southern California. After a season at Simi Valley (Calif.) Stoneridge Prep, where the Brooklyn native was a boarding student, Brown was left with nowhere to go when Endres learned of his precarious situation. Without thinking twice, the coach did what he thought was right: He took in a teen in need, regardless of who he was on the court. Now, both the player and coach are being punished for what is virtually universally recognized as a truly samaritan act.
Well, actually, the kid is a pretty good basketball player and they transferred him after the residency deadline and the coach expected everyone to happily go along with it because, of course, he wouldn't have an ulterior motive. It's just a coincidence the kid would be the best one on the team, right?

Here's a thought: If you really want to help the kid, give him a home and send him to school. Next year, his residency requirements will have been met and he can become whatever player he was destined to be. The education he gets will be worth far more in the long run than a single season on the basketball team in the hands of a fool who can't figure out why this "truly Samaritan act" might look a little sketchy. And why can't this genius think of anything good that might happen except for the kid's being able to play?
As reported by the Times, the Marmonte League principals didn't even let Endres speak at the hearing set up to decide whether or not to approve a waiver of CIF residency requirements which would allow him to play for Thousand Oaks.
Maybe this video helped them decide:

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Kindle is Better than Public Schools. Kneel before its mighty visage.

Here is your teacher. Revere it as I do
for it will save the world.
It will remove the shackles of
the evil teachers from the necks
of our precious children.
Deus in Machina. Amen.
I read, with some amusement, A World without Schoolteachers by Richard F. Miniter over at American Thinker.

The Kindle and Nook may make for not only the most important advance in reading since Gutenberg, but also, quite likely, a major lesson in unintended consequences. Especially for the educational establishment, because for the first time in history, Americans should be able to envision a future without public-school teachers -- indeed, a future without public-school administrators or state departments of education with their rigidly enforced, politically correct social-transformation curriculum. A future without onerous school taxes, "education president(s)," self-preening school boards, or million-dollar classrooms. But most happily, a future without a single supercilious finger wagging in our face as we're forever lectured about how much a securely tenured, part-time, self-important, overpaid class of public employees "cares" about our sons and daughters. Really, really, really cares. And, of course, knows much better than we do how to bring them up. And it's all possible because these cheap, handheld, downloadable reading devices such as Kindle and Nook now give parents a choice between tutoring and classroom education.
If only I'd known. It seems so simple. It seems so perfect. So ... egalitarian and utopian.

Call me when it works.

Dividing by a Fraction

We "invert and multiply", "multiply by the reciprocal" or insist on using the fraction key because we can't remember or were never really taught the reasons or the algorithm. Is there a simple explanation for the method we old farts memorized years ago in third or fourth grade? Why does it work?
Let's start with a problem: $\frac{3}{4} \div \frac{5}{6}$ and change to a compound fraction: $\dfrac{\frac{3}{4}}{\frac{5}{6}}$

Now what? Dividing by a fraction is confusing, but dividing by one is obvious. So we turn $\frac{5}{6}$ into unity by multiplying by its reciprocal. Of course, you can't just multiply part of our problem by $\frac{6}{5}$ without changing its value, so we multiply by one: $\dfrac{\frac{6}{5}}{\frac{6}{5}}$

All in one image: $\dfrac{\dfrac{3}{4}}{\dfrac{5}{6}} \rightarrow \dfrac{\dfrac{3}{4}}{\dfrac{5}{6}} \cdot \dfrac{\dfrac{6}{5}}{\dfrac{6}{5}} \rightarrow \dfrac{\dfrac{3}{4} \cdot \dfrac{6}{5}}{\dfrac{1}{1}} \rightarrow \dfrac{3}{4} \cdot \dfrac{6}{5} \rightarrow \dfrac{18}{20} \rightarrow \dfrac{9}{10}$

Divide by one. Seems simple to me.

Apparently the OSS knew about Highly Ineffective Principals

In Teachers’ Unions as Saboteurs?, Andrew Gillen quotes the Simple Sabotage Field Manual, published by the Office of Strategic Services (precursor to the CIA) during World War II. It includes advice for indirect sabotage in “General Interference with Organizations and Production.”
(1) Insist on doing everything through “channels.” Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions. (Just like my principal - who knew?)
(2) Make “speeches.” Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your “points” by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences… (This sounds like me. What if I'm the one?)
(3) When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and consideration.” (HIPster has this one covered.)
(4) Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.
(5) Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions. (Mission statement, anyone?)
(6) Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.
(7) Advocate “caution.”
(8) Be worried about the propriety of any decision — raise the question of whether such action as is contemplated lies within the jurisdiction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon…
This can also be caused by Ineffectiveness, but ineffectiveness looks the same as sabotage.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

Graphical Literacy - Graphicacy

Graphicacy is a wonderful term, a combination of literacy and graphics, coined here.

I love data visualization, though I admit to not being particularly good at the artistic side of it. Information is Beautiful is a great place to start exploring.

Earlier this year, when the science fair projects were in their beginning stages, we had time in math to get them a narrow picture of methods and types, but nothing too extensive.  I showed them how to make graphs in Excel and led them through a few samples, then had them create a few by hand. I also ran them through some of the correlation - causation slides from the statistics class but they were convinced of their own brilliance and didn't want to pay too much attention.

Well, Science Fair just happened and we'll be reviewing the graphs created for that. It's really fascinating what kinds of things kids will do in pursuit of that last-minute, late-night graph.  I had line graphs that should have been box-and-whisker plots, column graphs that had no business being sorted and probably should have been scatterplots and a couple other sins against proper representation.

We'll critique and re-format, re-create and fix.  It should be interesting. I'll be introducing them to the infographic in its role as a data presentation tool, too.

For the interested person, here is a chart of data visualizations that, strangely, doesn't include periodic-table visualizations ....

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Copper Statue

"The Statue of Liberty ("Liberty Enlightening the World" by Frèdèric Aguste Bartoldi) in New Jersey waters outside New York Harbor is sheathed in copper of average thickness 2 mm. The statue is 50 m high and some 80 metric tons of copper was required for its fabrication. It is probable that few projects before or since the Statue`s construction in 1876-1885 ever required as much copper."

Any Questions?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Finally, Jay Matthews!

Of course, Jay misses the irony in his "5 ways to save American Education".
A research team led by Marc S. Tucker, a relentless advocate for adopting successful international practices in U.S. schools, recently concluded that we, in essence, are doing almost nothing right. His investigators could find no evidence, Tucker said, “that any country that leads the world’s education performance league tables has gotten there by implementing any of the major agenda items that dominate the education reform agenda in the United States, with the exception of the Common Core State Standards.”
I'm from Washington
and I'm here to help. Heh.
In the past, Jay said that the answer is to blindly cast about for another shiny, dangly-bit of education reform so we can save our schools once and for all. "KIPP is the solution," he said. "Play nice, be smart, be indoctrinated into your little cages" he said. "Vouchers will save your kids from the evils of public schools", he mumbled.

How about "Just teach math. Raw, pure math with questions that fascinate and practice that doesn't suck."

I'd be good with that.

Now it's Canada's Turn for Deform

Harrison wasn't allowed either.
Yes, the times tables are vitally important.
Yes, algorithm is important.

No, those new-fangled methods aren't really new. In fact, they are hundreds of years old. They were in use for centuries until the algorithms were developed. Then, everyone switched to the new algorithms because THEY ARE MORE EFFICIENT and EASIER TO USE. Education deformers who lacked any sense of history and never learned those algorithms have developed the old ways all over again: lattice multiplication, grouping by thousands and hundreds.

Isn't that incredible? It's like arithmetic archeology posing as cutting-edge but acting like the Handicapper-General in Harrison Bergeron. Why should today's kids use what works efficiently? If a Deformer couldn't learn this "long division" thing, why should America's kids? The Deformer was a "C" student so everyone must be limited to the same inadequate and tedious multiplication methods. "You MAY NOT USE the easy method."

MARGARET WENTE: Why Alex can’t add (or subtract, multiply or divide); Globe and Mail

A parent I know went to an information session about math at his kid’s school. After listening to the visiting curriculum expert explain how important it was for students to “understand” the concepts, he asked: “So, how important is it for them to learn the times tables?” The expert hemmed and hawed and wouldn’t give an answer.
The elementary teacher
is a math-phobe.
Where did you think the kids got that fear?

Parents across Canada might be surprised to learn that the times tables are out. So are adding, subtracting and dividing. Remember when you learned to add a column of numbers by carrying a number over to the next column, or learned to subtract by borrowing, then practised your skills until you could add and subtract automatically? Forget it. Today, that’s known as “drill and kill,” or, even worse, “rote learning.” And we can’t have that.
Nope. Can't do it. Practice is right out of the math classroom. It's much better do have the kids hop onto the computer, log in to their Khan Academy account and do rote learning and drill there. It's a computer, don't you see? That means it's not really drill. It's shiny and new so it must be better than making the kids learn math.
“The designers of the new curriculum have decided it would be a really good idea not to teach these things,” says Robert Craigen, an associate professor of mathematics at the University of Manitoba. He sat on the province’s math curriculum committee for years. Unfortunately, nobody was interested in what he had to say. So today, he’s got calculus students who never learned long division. “The undergirding motive is: We want to teach understanding, and all this mechanical detail gets in the way of understanding.”
Because nothing allows you to think like knowing nothing. Lots of room for all those thoughts to bounce around. When you open your mouth, pretty much anything comes out.
The common methods used to add and subtract are known as standard algorithms. They are efficient and foolproof. But, instead of being taught these methods, students are encouraged to find “strategies,” such as breaking numbers into units of thousands, hundreds, tens and ones and working horizontally. It works, but it’s not efficient. And every time a student sees a new problem, he has to start from scratch – and pick his “strategy.” It’s like playing the piano without ever learning scales, or hockey without basic drills.
If Practice is so Bad,
why am I constantly hearing about
Teaching's Best Practices?
But that's how NHL players are made, aren't they? Don't those little kids just skate around the rink devising new ways to score? We should let them invent the rules they want to play by. There's plenty of time to learn skill. We'll use a video game. Yeah, that's the ticket. A video game.
The loony thing is that Canada is way behind the times. After a decade of disastrous experimentation in the United States, this approach to math education has been repudiated. The leading U.S. heavyweights in math came out decisively against it in 2008. Sadly, it seems this news has not yet reached Canada. Here, curriculum developers and boards of education are pressing forward, undeterred by the objections of math experts or the bafflement of parents and children alike.
Ooooooh, you went there. Except that the information is not quite right. There are plenty of experts in the US who still believe that Practice is the Road to Hell and that Engagement at any cost is Royal Road to Mathematics.


Apparently, drills are fine on the football field but not in the classroom.  Maybe that's why we're so much better at football.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Find love elsewhere.

Joanne Jacobs has this from
Reason‘s “Nanny of the Month” highlights a law that would make student-teacher sex a felony, even if the student is 18 or older. Adult ed teachers and school volunteers are included in the proposed Michigan law.
I don't have a problem with this law. Your classroom roster isn't an old-school version of and isn't where you should be looking for a good time.

It's the same as sleeping with your boss, fraternizing in the military, or looking for a wife at the family picnic. It's a bit unseemly and in practice quite problematic. Someone invariably winds up being hurt. While the situation isn't as bad for the two parties, an adult education teacher whose spouse becomes the student shouldn't be teaching a spouse in a formal situation anyway.

Rather, the law seems to be trying to close the "loophole" of a teacher who points out that "his high school girlfriend juuuuust turned 18, so its okay!"

Seriously, graduation can't be that far away.

Submitted. No Comments.

WEST WINDSOR — Two men are accused of breaking into the home of a Vermont state game warden and stabbing two goats in his barn. State police have arrested 33-year-old Nick Ashline and 20-year-old Daniel Parry following an investigation into the Oct. 30 incident.

Police said Steven Majeski had returned home in West Windsor after work. He said two of three goats housed in his barn had been stabbed. One of the goats died. Ashline and Parry have been charged with burglary and cruelty to animals.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Top the Nation in Blood

 This is what comes of not paying too close attention to banners and headlines. I was signing up for blood donation.  The big city (pop. 63,000) is trying to beat the national record for a one day blood drive. We hold the New England per-person record, but lost out last year to Boston for the overall.  Unwilling to let Boston attempt to claim any type of superiority ....

So anyway, I'm clicking the form and I glance at the header:
"Let's top the nation in blood." I had just gotten finished watching a "Zombie Christmas" so I'm primed to see that Texas Chainsaw Massacre headline.

Alas, it was blood donation:

"The GOLM collected 368 pints that first year, and has grown steadily ever since. For three straight years, the GOLM has broken the New England record for a one-day community blood drive. Boston held the record of 772 pints until Rutland collected 856 in 2008 and 1,024 in 2009.

In September 2010, Boston collected 1,177 pints to reclaim the New England record, but Rutland took it back in December, with 1,400 pints. Manchester, N.H., broke that record – and the national record – in August 2011, with 1,968 pints – setting the stage for our 2011 goal of topping the nation in blood donation.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Colleges' Math - Science Death March

The group that made a YouTube
video denigrating the education
they were ignoring while they made it
-- and then wondering
why they couldn't understand
the material they were ignoring.
But maybe there's a reason that so many drop out?
But, it turns out, middle and high school students are having most of the fun, building their erector sets and dropping eggs into water to test the first law of motion. The excitement quickly fades as students brush up against the reality of what David E. Goldberg, an emeritus engineering professor, calls “the math-science death march.” Freshmen in college wade through a blizzard of calculus, physics and chemistry in lecture halls with hundreds of other students. And then many wash out.
So what? There's a reason why they made those courses so hard -- so 75% of the freshmen WOULD drop into something else. They need the worthless chaff to switch and leave the wheat behind.

The STEM courses have always been difficult if your preparation
  • consisted of "fun" and "dropping eggs" and stupid computer games pretending to teach.
  • involved "student-directed learning", standards-based grading based on vague rubrics instead of knowledge and ability, and open-ended questions with no middle, beginning or point.
  • didn't include calculus, chemistry, and physics.
  • focused on inquiry-style explorations that managed to avoid inquiring or knowledge.
  • didn't involve 40-page research papers and English teachers who dropped the grade by a LETTER for each grammatical mistake on an in-class, timed essay.
  • focused on computer usage and gaming rather than programming. (Hello World!)
I love the appeal to pity "a blizzard of calculus, physics and chemistry in lecture halls with hundreds of other students. And then many wash out."

If you can't learn from her,
you need to change your major.
It's hard. It's supposed to be hard. None of these careers has all that much room for error and few have much room for whiny crybabies. There's a LOT to learn. Relying solely on a Google search and a Wikipedia article while building a 2000' skyscraper is dubious at best. If you can't hack it, get out of the way of those who can.

Face facts. Stop lying to yourself.  Tell your momma to go home; this is your time to make a decision. Work for a degree or don't. There are lots of people who destroy their health and hole up like an anchoress to get a degree in this stuff. Slide your lazy, drunken, over-sexed butt into something more your speed.

If you can't put some effort into the $35,000 /year you're spending (or borrowing), why should anyone care about you and your obvious lack of critical thinking and adult decision-making skills?

Outlook Confusion

This cracks me up. I should only preview files from someone trustworthy but previewing might not show everything so I should open it instead but always warn myself before doing that.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Grade Inflation in College? I'm Shocked!

Who would have thought?
Go to this web site and search the course roster at the University of Wisconsin and find out what grades were given each semester for the last several years.

I wandered the Fall 2010-2011 Grades
Intermediate Organic Chemistry: 2.8
Evolving Universe (in the Astronomy Department): 2.9
Freshman Composition: 3.7
Curriculum and Instruction (EDU) had a department average of 3.927
Engineering: 2.902
Thermodynamics: 2.818

You get the knowledge you work for.  The grade hardly matters anymore.

College debt Post Hoc fallacy

Joanne Jacobs asks: Is fear of debt worse than debt itself? College students who borrow are more likely to go full-time and complete degrees.
Is it the going into debt that causes the degree completion, or is it that those who feel confident of their ability to finish are more likely to incur some debt to do so?

Should I go into debt to ensure that I finish?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Algebra 2 for All

When all adults in California can understand and complete an algebra II course, then it makes sense that all high school students should be able to.
Otherwise ...

It's not that these California math teachers had the stones to sign, it's that more of us don't feel we can.

Maybe this is why tenure is so necessary?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

I Don't Do Math - Accepting False Limits

Seth Godin (Marketing Expert) has this: Accepting false limits and you'll probably guess that I'm about to throw out "I Don't Do Math", but bear with me.

I will never be able to dunk a basketball. This is beyond discussion.

Imagine, though, a co-worker who says, "I'll never be able to use a knife and fork. No, I have to use my hands."

Or a colleague who says, "I can't possibly learn Chinese. I'm not smart enough."
This is a mystery to me. A billion people have learned Chinese, and the failure rate for new kids is close to zero. If a well functioning adult puts in sufficient time and the effort, she'll succeed.

The key to this disconnect is the unspoken part about time and effort and fear. I agree that you will never ship that product or close that sale or invent that device unless you put in the time and put in the effort and overcome the fear. But I don't accept for a minute that there's some sort of natural limit on your ability to do just about anything that involves creating and selling ideas.

This attitude gets me in trouble sometimes. Perhaps I shouldn't be pushing people who want something but have been taught not to push themselves. Somewhere along the way, it seems, I forgot that it's none of my business if people choose to accept what they've got, to forget their dreams and to not seek to help those around them achieve what matters to them.

Not sure if you'll forgive me, but no, I'm not going to believe that only a few people are permitted to be gatekeepers or creators or generous leaders. I have no intention of apologizing for believing in people, for insisting that we all use this moment and these assets to create some art and improve the world around us.

To do anything less than that is a crime.
Not exactly.

There's a huge difference between the picture above (girl being told she isn't good enough, pretty enough, fat enough, skinny enough, smart enough, slutty enough) and a girl making an honest self-assessment of her abilities.  There's a big difference between giving up too early (accepting FALSE limits) and accepting true limits.

Not everyone seems to be able to do math as well as I can. I can't draw or paint as well as my uncle. My uncle can't drive (and doesn't need to) and certainly can't do math. My grammatical sense is better than that of most teachers, if I can believe what I read and hear on the Internet.

I know scads of folks who "can't do algebra" but who consider themselves successes, engineers who could never understand related rates or scale factors, artists who understand percentages and accounting but not much more, actors who couldn't write to save their lives, and scientists who can't speak to an audience or write coherent sentence without endless rewrites and help from their significant other. White Men Can't Jump ... but that didn't stop him from playing basketball and pretty damn well.

The California teachers who signed a letter saying that students should not be required to pass algebra 2 as a graduation requirement are probably spot on with their assessment of the kids' abilities and completely off the mark when it comes to assessing the political and academic climate. Eighth grade math seems to be about the least you can learn and still have a shot at claiming yourself a success in life.

"I don't DO math" should be an incentive rather than an excuse, I know, but I also have to accept that not everyone is going to be "proficient" in this topic or any other. We need to tell them "Do your best and don't let the stupidity of youth drive you to deny an ability that you may develop in a field you haven't got a clue about yet" but we also must accept that not everyone can be good at everything.

Even math teachers.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Good to Know about those Exit Cards.

We're back with another episode of "Highly Ineffective Principal."


"Oh, sorry. That wasn't a joke?"

So we all got an email from him that told us of the information that he put in our mailboxes (right there, you know this is a good one). He went to a conference and heard about something INCREDIBLE and he wanted to make sure we all knew about it. It had the key words "brain research" and "student engagement" and "achievement" so you know we were all on pins and needles.

Exit cards.


Forget instant communication, clickers, voting by text, Google poll, smartphone. We aren't going to be trying any new, 21st Century stuff. Our HIPster is enthralled by note cards. "Before I file the information away, there are several items in my notes that I want to share with you."

We teachers apparently have never heard of this "Exit Cards" idea.

We also can't seem to get the 12 pages (double-sided, too) of information as a .pdf or a text email. It was photocopied for every person in the building. And put in mailboxes.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

This moron is teaching future math teachers

and giving them extra credit for this:

Unless they changed the rules recently and I never noticed, irrational numbers are still real.

This is the problem with math education in America.

  • Not the students who hand in this mistake.
  • Not the teachers nationwide who cringe at this mistake.
  • Not the schools who do their best with unwilling or unmotivated students.

No, it's the college teacher preparation programs that instill faulty knowledge and reinforce it with extra credit ... these students obviously don't know their subject all that well and this "teacher" is no better. "Hands On Math: Burn The Textbooks, Shred The Worksheets, Teach Math." is the blog motto.

Seems like reading a book and learning a fact or two might come in handy.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cost of Changing to Common Core?

Joanne Jacobs - What will common standards cost?
It will cost $800 million for California to implement Common Core Standards, down from an earlier estimate of $1.6 billion, according to the state education department. That includes training, learning materials and testing.

Other states are starting to worry about the cost. Washington state estimates it will take $300 million to prepare teachers and principals and buy new textbooks; updating the state’s testing system will be extra.

Give me a break.

“Washington state estimates it will take $300 million to prepare teachers and principals and buy new textbooks; updating the state’s testing system will be extra.”

This is a silly point. Washington will buy new books regardless. They will also spend money in Professional Development to train new teachers (and old) in the current system or they can spend money in Professional Development in Common Core. What would be interesting would be the amount EXTRA needed with Common Core. My guess is zero.

I’ve personally gone through full curriculum rewrites and what seems like dozens of formatting changes in order to to align to old standards, new standards, frameworks, GLEs, etc. This is simply the new fad. The real problem isn't the Common Core. It's "Change the Standards Because We Don't Know What Else to Do".

It's the idea that all students will succeed if we could just find the ONE SINGLE PERFECT WAY TO DO THINGS. Watch Malcolm Gladwell's discussion of finding the perfect spaghetti sauce.

Public schools can never be the perfect solution to all students, all the time, by 2014 or any other date.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

AnyQs - Cleaners

Two seemingly identical bottles. 28 and 32 oz.

If you can't read it, it says
33% more 
than other leading national brands **
**Compared to 24 fl.oz. of other leading national brands.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Monster blog has monster sized misconceptions

Monster blog has this article about Gen Y Talent Myths. I am amazed at the nearsightedness in evidence here. Not to knock the guy -- he has spent over six years as a career counselor at a top-flight research university so he must know the habits and talents of the entire Gen Y demographic, right? Anyway. I was amused.

First, he feels that Gen Y is CONFUSED rather than LAZY. Okay, not all of them are lazy but the truth is that they would rather be playing video games and chatting and Facebooking than working. This is not a particular surprise since every generation back to prehistoric times has said that about it's teenagers.

That being too complicated a thought, he felt it was due to "the world and technology constantly changing and becoming more complex, members of Gen Y are just trying to decipher how to navigate their way around" and "Generation Y lacks the experience and foundation to best utilize these various technological resources." On the other hand, "Generation Y is the most experienced and qualified to understand and decipher the social media landscape".  Proof by confusing contradiction?

He then feels that if we aren't "moving at the speed of these technologies, we are already behind before we’ve even started." You say, "Touche", I say "Cliche." Come on, dredge up a better one than that. "Moving at the speed of these technologies" doesn't even mean anything.

Generation Y seems to "Lack Morals". According to David, they merely have "Different Values" because they were the product of the ‘Me Generation.’ I guess that excuses them from sharing the values of the society at large or something.

Conservative AND socially conscious.
Now we get weird. Correlation, causation and all that. He claims that Gen Y got Obama elected (really!) and so we think they must be more liberal. They're not, though, because they "prefer to seek opportunities to make a difference in their communities". Wow. They're not liberal because they like to make a difference? That's just funny.

"How else do you explain the rise of social entrepreneurs (Tom’s Shoes?), the growth of core value-laden companies such as Zappos and Google (witnessed by Google’s core principle 'you can make money without doing evil?'), and the new found commitment/interest in non-profit organizations?" Actually, dude, those companies weren't founded by, and aren't run by, GenY.

The last bit of fun comes when this guy claims that GenY thinks it's smarter than the older folk, and therefore is smarter. How dumb can you be?

Every generation thinks it's smarter than the previous one. This one isn't smarter, but they think they are. David feels they are smarter "as long as they utilize reputable sources" and points out that "Five-year-old children are able to find more information on a smartphone or tablet than their parents."

Holy crap, what kind of evidence is that? Are you sure you're at a university? A five year-old on an iPad makes for a cute picture but it’s less of an indication of brilliance than a 1990 kid on a Commodore 64 with an encyclopedia nearby.

The next line is the funniest. In his day, "one could get a quality college education with an SAT score of 1100 … care to guess the average now?" Uh, 1538.

Does genius boy know why the average has risen ... all the teachers reading this do. Ding-ding-ding! Three sections! 1538/3 is 513 or so per section. Back in his day, the per-section score was 550. OOPS, not so good on the math, either. Must be more of that top-flight research university training, huh?.

I guess I know why so many kids come out of college they way they do.

Obligatory Nov 5 reference:

The article below the fold:

Condi Rice's Opinion of Khaddafi

She said it, not me.

Herman Cain's Positively Negative Trendline

FiveThirtyEight had this little graph and the comment. "It looks to me as if Mr. Cain had been on a positive trajectory before, perhaps having moved up to about 28 percent of the Republican vote.

Really? You see an upward trend there? Is that blue trendline all that reasonable?

I see a downward trend if I get rid of the first week's data.  If I include the first week, then I can see that blue line being the calculated trendline but it should be obvious that the bump he received on Oct 8th (appearance on Huckabee, touting his 999 plan?) brought him to a plateau and he's been losing ground ever since. The allegations didn't change that downward trend.

Borrowing Without Collateral

The country is running up against the whole college loan things again. There's a website that claims the trillion dollars of student loan debt should all be forgiven because that'll stimulate the economy.

Intelligent people ask that those loans get deferred a couple years so that the loan payments can be made when the borrowers are a little more solvent. I'm okay with that as it acknowledges that the borrowers are accepting their debts and making the books right.

Others want all college loans wiped off the slate so that graduates can get on with their lives. WTF?

Why adults should get $100,000 loans wiped clean is beyond me. They took out loans as adults to pay for adult things and now they all get off free? What's next? Should we give them a home loan and then excuse the loan when the first few mortgage payments are due?

Which begs a question: What's the collateral in a student loan?
NYT Sob Story

Future earnings, of course.

At what point are the banks and loan-makers going to ask for that collateral? Why should a bank finance a degree in women's studies or in some other navel-gazing, narcissistic puffery which has ZERO value in the future marketplace?

I'll say it again. If you're using your own money, or you're putting up Daddy's business as collateral for this loan, then feel free to get any degree you'd like.

If your state is willing to give a free college education (not including fees), then you are free to accept the offer and take any degree the college will offer you.

If you're borrowing money with no other collateral than your future earnings, you shouldn't be surprised if the lender asks for a degree with better prospects than Burger King or trophy wife.

If you're "conned" into borrowing what you can't afford, yet you still "need" a degree in women's studies at very expensive college like NYC, don't expect much sympathy.  Pay your damn loans.

"Do you want fries with that degree?"

It's high time the federal government college loan programs start demanding valuable degrees as "collateral" for their loans.  Otherwise, taking out a loan with no thought of paying it back is fraud.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Seth Godin (Marketing Guru) has this little post
Are you doing math or arithmetic?
I have enormous respect for mathematicians. They're doing work on the edge, a cross between art and science and music. Arithmeticians, not so much. They are merely whacking at a calculator, doing repetitive work better done by a computer or someone cheaper.

Many fields have precisely this same division. There's a chasm between the proven, repetitive work that can be farmed out and the cutting edge risky work that might just change everything.

With my students, I tell it this way:

A mechanic is looking for a job.
He tells the manager "I have twenty years experience."
The manager asks "Is that twenty years of experience or two years experience repeated ten times?"

Which is it for you? Are you still teaching the same things with the same worksheets and the same quizzes and the same methods that have worked over and over? There's a lot to be said for consistency, but you do have to stick your head up and make sure that what and how you're teaching is still relevant.

I'm making the change to tablets instead of textbooks, .pdf instead of paper.  It's still a work in progress, especially the video.  I'm still trying to figure out if the inverted classroom is fad or future. I'd love to get the note-taking features of the iPad/Android to mesh with the marginalia of the textbook, but we're not quite there yet. Where is the graphing calculator app that works with a spreadsheet?

Some tech is incredibly useful.  Some tech is incredibly damaging, especially to teenagers. Texting is, without a doubt, the most pernicious distraction ever created by man.  Read Daniel Willingham's work on concentration, learning and the cellphone call in the middle of the information storage process.

It'd be nice if the nation was a little more together on all this.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Very Difficult Treasure Hunt

A while back, I was floating around the web and found the following treasure hunt. I saved the images, and put a description and source into a Word document which has disappeared. If anyone can help, I'd appreciate it.

Who is responsible for this nasty, wonderful, complex, multi-layered, multi-disciplinary, I-Can't-Wait-To-Edit-It-and-Give-It-To-My-Own-Students puzzle?

Yes, it will take you a while.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

Samples must be numerically significant or else conclusions are worthless.

Parents Against Tired Truckers is losing it's religion over the results of a new study on an experiment up here in Vermont. Just as in education, small sample sizes and incomplete data are being misunderstood and misrepresented to further a viewpoint that may do more harm than good. PATT has it's heart in the right place, but it's brains are sorely lacking.

Vermont asked the Feds to study whether allowing 100,000 lb rigs on major highways would be more dangerous than having them travel the back roads.

The study results came out. PATT shouted

The Trucking Industry Is Wrong on the Maine and Vermont 100,000 lb. Truck Pilot Program – DEAD Wrong 

Wow. That must be some study. "Dead wrong" isn't mincing words.

" .. the Truck Safety Coalition (TSC) released startling information revealed in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request sent to the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans)."
Impressive. "Startling", you say? Took a FOIA request, huh? I must read further. "Catastrohic results" "People needlessly died." Damn.
The number is SO BIG.
Documents show that during the 100,000 lb. truck pilot project in 2010, Vermont’s commercial motor vehicle fatal crash rate tripled from .49 fatal crashes per 100 million miles traveled in 2009 to 1.44 fatal crashes (“Vermont Truck Interstate Pilot Study- Report to Congress (State of Vermont Version for Review) – Summary Report (Draft)” prepared for FHWA by Cambridge Systematics, Inc, hereinafter “Vermont Report”).
What does that mean Regis? The Death rate tripled.  Holy Batman, mackerel.  They're quoting Government documents and it sounds so official.

Well, actually, it doesn't mean much at all. You see, Vermont had one death involving trucks on its roads in 2009 and three in 2010. Yeah, the death rate "tripled" but you need to have a bigger sample size before you can claim that trucks are making things more dangerous.

You also need to look at the reality of those crashes. In the one crash, two trucks and a car were involved in an accident that was blamed on icy roads and bad conditions. One of the truck drivers and the car's driver were killed. In the other accident, the car (probably drunk) crossed the 50-foot median and hit the truck head-on. Again, hardly the fault of the truck driver.

As in education, there's always some fool trumpeting results based on small sample sizes and assuming the study will scale up. Remember when Bill Gates spent nearly a billion dollars to create the Small Schools Initiative? The smaller schools that did better than the large public schools were showcased until the next year when the same school would do worse, at which point the deformers would shout about some other school which HAD done well that year. Variation of the small groups, not the inevitable superiority of the charter school, small-school, voucher school, Catholic School, whatever.

To give you another example, consider Daisuke Matsusaka (RedSox). He had four starts. Two were terrible and then two were decent. Can we say that trend is positive? Yes, but I'm not giving him a contract based on that.

Still another comes from here:
Last week I tossed a coin a hundred times. 49 heads. Then I changed into a red t-shirt and tossed the same coin another hundred times. 51 heads. From this, I conclude that wearing a red shirt gives a 4.1% increase in conversion in throwing heads.

Pretty foolish.  Besides, everyone knows that wearing a red shirt is tantamount to a death sentence anyway, so I'm not sure what can be made from this "study" either.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Any Questions? License Plates

Yup. Nearly 100 years old.