kitchen table math, the sequel

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

"Sit and get"

I actually hadn't heard that one. (Well, I think I had, but I'd forgotten....)

So we've got:

Sit and get
Drill and kill
Talk and chalk
Guide on the side

Did traditional teachers have slogans about the badness of student-centered classrooms?

I don't think they did.

Comments needed

If you have time to comment on Barry and Katharine's new article at The Atlantic, please do!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Help desk - is this question worded properly?

This problem is from Engageny math. Here's the sheet I assume it appeared on. Grade 2 - Module 3.

Here's Andrew Gelman.

Speaking as a writer, and as a parent who spent a lot of time teaching my son and myself grade-school math, I don't like the wording at all.

"Sally did some counting" ---- the word "count" means count by ones, especially to a 2nd grade child.

Plus the question about why Sally did what she did invites commentary on Sally, not Sally's method.

Is there a way to ask this question that makes more sense?

And is there a reason to ask it this way -- to ask a student to analyze Sally's answer -- rather than to ask the student to use 1s and 10s to count up to 214?

I have to say .... offhand, I see no reason to ask this question this way.

I would much rather see this as a story problem about giving change.

Sally has pennies and dimes in her pocket.
Her friend Jane sells her a glass of lemonade for $2.14.
Sally gives her $1.77.
How many more pennies and dimes does Sally owe?

That wording doesn't produce the specific sequence, of course ....

What if you just said, "Count up from 177 to 214 using the fewest (whole) numbers you can. You can count by 1s or skip-count by 10s."

Here's a question.

Does "skip counting" by 10s only mean 10, 20, 30, etc.?

Can it mean 177, 187, 197?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Against grit

Give Up 

New research shows that grit can be costly and unnecessary.

What if it’s more important to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, and know when to walk away?

For a recent study published in the Journal of Research in Personality, researchers from the University of Southern California and Northeastern University put hundreds of participants through a series of three studies on grit. In each, the researchers quizzed subjects about how “gritty” they are, based on how much they agree with statements like, “Setbacks don’t discourage me” and “I finish whatever I begin.”

The first test was a set of anagrams, or word scrambles, which participants were rewarded for solving by being entered into a $100 lottery for each correct answer. Sprinkled amid the do-able anagrams were 16 unsolvable words and 21 very difficult ones, like “kismet.” The participants who ranked higher on the grit assessment attempted fewer anagrams overall—a sign they didn’t skip the difficult or unsolvable ones like their less determined peers did.

Next came a computer-game exercise, which the researchers rigged such that some participants would feel like they were losing for much of the game. The grittier subjects worked harder when they were losing, but not when they were winning.

For the final test, the researchers gave the subjects a math game, which was also rigged so that some of the participants felt like they were fighting an uphill battle. They also gave the participants an offer: When things got tough, they could either drop out of the experiment and get $1 for their troubles, or they could press on and get $2 if they won, but nothing if they lost. Grittier people didn’t solve any more math problems than their lazier counterparts, even though they felt more optimistic about the test than the others. They were, however, more likely to continue the game when they were losing, even though they risked walking away with nothing.

It would seem, then, that grit comes with a downside.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Looking for puppies...

This is funny.

(To me.)

I've mentioned several times becoming a Fed watcher in the wake of the crash. Which puts me in a tiny little group of about 5 people in the country:
Using polling data for the US, Binder (2015) documents that the US public lacks knowledge about monetary policy. In particular, only one in every three Americans was able to correctly identify the chair of the Federal Reserve System. Very few were able to predict low levels of inflation when asked about inflation over next ten years. Nor did they appear to display much eagerness to learn about the Fed and monetary policy. In terms of social media, numbers of Twitter and Facebook followers of the Federal Reserve System do not appear remarkable. In fact, FBI, the CIA, and Paul Krugman, among others, have more followers than the entire Federal Reserve System. Google searches confirm this paucity of interest. Total online searches for macroeconomic variables like GDP, the unemployment rate, and inflation are consistently topped by online searches for puppies.

Inflation Targeting and Expectations thing I will say.

It's a lot easier to find puppies on the Internet than GDP (never went back to trend), the unemployment rate (employment to population ratio still up by 3 points, even for prime working age adults), or inflation (low and going lower).

Saving the hard stuff for home

Auntie Anne writes:
This has been our experience as well. Teachers are always trying to make "learning fun!", which means no boring stuff like worksheets and drills, but lots of group chatting/working, lots of craft work, lots of "exploration" in the classroom.

Still, the hard stuff has to happen, so they just send it home at night. Instead of school being where kids work, and home being where they can play and relax, the opposite is now true.

Meanwhile, the people who have the burden of getting kids through the not-fun part of their education end up being the parents who have to get their kids to get their homework done.
That's what suddenly hit me, the other day, talking to the mother of a second grade child who is melting down over her homework.

What is her child doing during the day?

I also realized that one aspect of Morningside Academy I haven't stressed is the fact that students there don't do homework.

Interestingly, I don't recall Kent Johnson telling us that Morningside kids don't do homework. I found out later, when I visited a precision teaching school in CT, where the kids did lots of homework. The principal told me that Kent's philosophy was that Morningside students worked hard during the day and should be free to play after school. She may have been wrong, of course, but in fact I don't think I saw children take homework home during the two weeks I attended the Summer Institute.

I definitely didn't see teachers collect homework.

So think about that.

Morningside teaches children in grades K through 8.

It guarantees that each students will make two years' progress in one year's time, in their subject of greatest difficulty, or tuition will be refunded. Most or all students are there because they're having difficulty in their regular schools.

And they make two years of progress in just one year without doing homework.

I know I've told this story before, but by the time we finally pulled C. out of our schools here, I had recurring images of the school scooping up heaping armloads of his childhood and tossing them in the trash.

(Does anyone remember Carolyn J. setting up the "FWOT" category on the old ktm? I sure do. Had never encountered the acronym before.)

More from Anonymous:
Yup. This was our experience as well. Soft, touchy feely classroom activities, and the hard stuff came home. Not only did it come home, it came home with a child who hadn't received any instruction about how to do whatever it was (and this was middle school).

Why can't they get it all done in the 6-7 hours the kids are in school? There should be no homework in K-8. Frankly, I don't think there should be homework in high school either unless they go over to a university model and drastically reduce the amount of time in class. K-8ers need time to be kids, and high school students need time to learn who they are beyond their schoolwork.
And chemprof:
The whole idea of homework with kids this age does mean that you are asking them to do the most intense academic work when they are totally wiped out.

That said, by second grade she needs to know her addition and subtraction facts (and if she doesn't, that's something they should be working on at home). They are starting to do multi-digit addition and subtraction, and that's tough without knowing the facts. That's where we are right now (2A Singapore Math), and without those math facts, we'd have lots of tears.

Since we are homeschooling, we do a lot of our heavy work in the morning or early afternoon. Sometimes we do work in the evenings, but only if she's in the mood. But we are also working on a checklist, so she's got a lot of control over what she does on a given day.

This is a great example of how FedUpMom says our educational system is neither traditional or progressive, but the worst of both. A real traditional system would have them doing the hard work all day, with a little homework to reinforce it at night. In a real progressive system, students would do projects and group work all day in school, with a lot more choice of activity, but then not have homework. Instead, they do the projects but follow up with homework that they aren't prepared to do.
And--ding! ding! ding!--lgm's district takes the cake yet again:
Well, the hard stuff didnt come home here. The tears come during prep for the state math test...when the district tries to cram the top kids into earning a 3. Most of the year is spent in remediation to benefit the included and poverty. The parent of the lad needs to afterschool like everyone else that is serious.
My conclusion: things have gotten worse.

C. didn't have lots of onerous homework to do--and I did start taking his math homework away from him & doing it myself at one point, as education realist advises.

Taking homework away from a conscientious child, by the way, is easier said than done. I took C's math homework away because I was trying to accelerate him so he could take algebra in 8th grade, which meant that he needed to do math practice well ahead of the homework being sent home. But C., only in 5th grade at that point, absolutely could not stand the idea that we were lying to the teacher and doing things wrong. So I didn't do it often.

Anyway, C. didn't have lots of onerous homework, so our time was taken up with reteaching, as opposed to reteaching and beaucoup homework, which may be where things stand today.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Help desk - math HW

What's the story with this little boy's homework? (And how old do you think he is? I'm guessing 2nd grade - ?)

If you click on the link, you'll see a photo of a little guy crying, presumably about his math homework. The worksheet is titled "Using Mental Math to Add" or "Doing Mental Math to Add."

This photo was posted. Watch what happened next.

Assuming he's crying over the worksheet (I have no reason to think he's not) -- what's the problem?

By this point, would he know his addition facts?

Or is he having to do these problems without knowing his facts by heart?

Is there something else going on?

One thing I've become concerned by of late: children spending their days engaged in mini lessons and peer discussion, then doing the 'hard stuff' at home, when they're tired.

I was talking to the mother of a second grade child here who has some sensory issues. The little girl is getting completely overwhelmed at night, trying to do her homework. She melts down and sobs unless her other is in the room with her. Even with her mother by her side, she struggles to get through the work.

I asked how much homework she's doing, and it sounded like a lot. Too much. In math alone, she has a full worksheet to do and several minutes of computer practice.

Listening to the mom, I suddenly realized: it's entirely possible students here are doing no worksheets during class time at all.

The kids have to do worksheets because Common Core, but worksheets aren't constructivist and we are now a Tony Wagner district so .... maybe all the worksheets have to happen at home. Out of sight, out of mind.

But that means kids go through a full day of school and a full raft of after school activities before they start the real work.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

A loss is a loss

x = opening balance, index fund
y = monthly deposit to index fund
z = 1 - % by which market has declined. (For example, if the previous balance was $100, and the market was down by 2%, z would equal 0.98.)

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Ed and I were trying to figure out what to do about our 401(k).

What we're told to do, and what we did do during the 17-month bear market of 2007-2009, is nothing.

That's John Bogle: "Don't do something. Just stand there."

That's what we did.

We stood there for the entire 17 months.

Worse than that: we continued to contribute money.

Ed finally took a close look at his Vanguard statement last week. Seven years later. He found that for the first several months of the bear market, his balance stayed the same.

Which meant that every penny he and NYU were putting into the fund, month after month after month, was instantly burned up in the market. Every penny. Not one survived.

Then at some point, presumably in October 2008, the account balances started going down. Which meant that not only was every new penny being burned up, but now the old pennies were being disappeared as well.

17 months of this.

We're not doing that again.

A paper loss is a real loss

The money we lost didn't come back.

New money came in.

That may sound like a distinction without a difference, but it's not.

The reason the market made such huge gains after 2011 was that the Fed did quantitative easing. If the Fed hadn't done quantitative easing, there was no reason for stocks to go back up. The Bank of Japan didn't do quantitative easing when they hit zero, and Japan's stock market declined for two decades, losing 3/4 of its value in that time.

This is America, and the Fed did do quantitative easing, so all things equal I assume they'll do it again if need be.

But I don't assume they'll do it before the market loses more than it has already. The Fed obviously wants, desperately, to tighten money, and tight money is bad for markets.

If, at some point during those 17 months, Ed and I had redirected his monthly deposits to a money market, we would be far ahead of where we are now.

We couldn't have timed the move exactly, of course. We would have sustained losses for a few months going into the bear market, and we would have missed the return of the bull market for a couple of months on the other side.

Doesn't matter. We'd still be far ahead because when we got back in we'd have had lots more to invest than we did when we got out. We've have had all the money we'd protected by putting it in a money market instead of the stock market.

The trend is your friend

The reason people like us are told to put our money in index funds and forget about it is that people like us can't time the market.

(I used to think no one could time the market, but a friend of mine, whose money is managed by Neuberger Berman, tells me she's been earning 1% above market returns, after fees, for years.)

It's true that I can't time the market.

But there's no trick to timing a market that goes down 17 months and loses 56% of its value. That's not a blip. It's a trend.

My new rule: if the trend is up, we're in the market. If the trend is down, we're not in the market. If the market is moving "sideways," which is more or less what it's doing now, we're also not in the market, but we're paying attention so as not to miss too much of the bull market when the bull market returns.

My Fed watching hobby helps with all this, needless to say.

Because the Fed is a monetary superpower.

Another one bites the dust

Carol Dweck's "growth mindset" has been hijacked by constructivists:
Recently, someone asked what keeps me up at night. It’s the fear that the mindset concepts, which grew up to counter the failed self-esteem movement, will be used to perpetuate that movement. In other words, if you want to make students feel good, even if they’re not learning, just praise their effort! Want to hide learning gaps from them? Just tell them, “Everyone is smart!” The growth mindset was intended to help close achievement gaps, not hide them. It is about telling the truth about a student’s current achievement and then, together, doing something about it, helping him or her become smarter.

I also fear that the mindset work is sometimes used to justify why some students aren’t learning: “Oh, he has a fixed mindset.” We used to blame the child’s environment or ability.

Must it always come back to finding a reason why some children just can’t learn, as opposed to finding a way to help them learn?

Carol Dweck Revisits the 'Growth Mindset'
Yes, Carol, it must.

All cool-sounding psychology concepts will be used to justify the fact that some children aren't learning.

Growth mindset, grit, noncognitive skills, what have you.

Whatever you've got, it will be used to blame failure on children and parents (and poverty, where  applicable).

Not on teachers, administrators, schools, ed schools, teaching philosophies, curriculum, or lack of curriculum.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Terrific comments on Willingham's "Teachers Aren't Dumb"

As a parent whose children just graduated from elementary school, I whole heartedly agree. Some of my kids' teachers were wonderful writers, but a lot of them seemed to have a middling grasp of basic grammar. Once, a teacher corrected my son's proper use of "all together" as in "My family was all together" to read "My family was altogether." That was altogether unfortunate! No wonder the kids can't spell.


I could not agree with Mr. Willingham more. I would only add that there is a huge ideological hurdle to surmount that dwarfs the one requiring an overhaul of the teaching of the teachers. It is ideological. There is a mass of thought that children will learn to read when they are ready, instead of learning because they are given the tools and taught. There is a revolt against "drilling". It's true in math, science, and all the literary arts: reading, writing, spelling.

Many, many children today are labeled learning disabled when they are only curriculum disabled. There is no artist, athlete, farmer, architect, doctor or nurse that didn't have to practice, didn't have to memorize information so that it might be accessed instantaneously without thought when needed. But somehow asking teachers to cause children to practice and children to do so is perceived as destructive, uncreative. Even coders practice, fail and try again. It's called a learning curve


My daughter transferred to a university that has a fast-track program to certify STEM majors as teachers. In her 2nd day of her introduction to teaching class, the lecturer, a former geneticist, said "We don't believe in the scientific method." She said there are no truths. This is part of the discredited pedagogy they are pushing: that teachers are the "guide on the side" and are hardly even allowed to tell students things. Students are expected to come up with complex rules themselves.

As someone who has been teaching math and Computer Science at the college level for 20 years, this makes my skin crawl. Actually I wouldn't know how bad this method of teaching is unless they had already tried to practice it on my daughter. Perhaps there is some good way to do this, but how it ends up in the hands of young unskilled, poorly educated, teachers is that they don't tell the students anything and the students flounder, feel lost, get discouraged, and doubt themselves. It makes me crazy.

Teachers Aren't Dumb by Daniel Willingham 9/8/2015

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Just world

For quite a while now, I've been fascinated by the degree to which a sense justice comes built in (not just in people but in "non-human" animals as well):
When responding to ownership violations, children can focus on the victim’s needs, the perpetrator’s punishment, or both. Recent studies show that 3- and 5-year olds are equally likely to respond to second- and third party violations, and 3-year-olds return objects to their rightful owners. Children’s interventions are consistent with justice for victims.


Together, these results suggest that although children intervene in loss events experienced by them- selves and others, their interventions are a general re- sponse to any unpermitted loss of property rather than punishment of theft.

Young children remedy second- and third-party ownership violations
Julia W. Van de Vondervoort and J. Kiley Hamlin
Trends in Cognitive Sciences | September 2015, Vol. 19, No. 9
A "second-party" violation means that the child himself or herself was the victim; a third-party violation means that a puppet was the victim.

In either case, your basic 3-year old's attitude, with which I completely agree, is: Give it back.

I wonder at what age children start to feel that justice requires punishment? (Or perhaps children at this age innately feel that punishment relates to a different set of wrongs?)

I'm pretty sure I've come across a fair amount of research showing that a desire to see wrongdoing punished is built-in, too.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Aloha from guillotine-deadline land

This weekend's events:

I just got the answer to this problem right:
Ten out of every 1,000 women have breast cancer. Of these 10 women with breast cancer, 9 test positive. Of the 990 women without cancer, about 89 nevertheless test positive. A woman tests positive and wants to know whether she has breast cancer for sure, or at least what the chances are. What is the best answer?
I realize most ktm readers can do this in their sleep, but I had to reason it through ... and I did!

That really makes me happy.

Which brings me to yesterday's challenge: I wrote a proof!

On purpose!

I had been talking to friends about index funds, the stock market, and the ever-terrifying Federal Reserve...and pretty soon I found myself utterly confused.

My question was whether Ed and I needed to get the 401(k) out of an index fund and into cash while the stock market is losing its mind.

Both of my friends seemed to think that something called "dollar cost averaging," which I had never heard of, meant that you don't actually lose more money when the stock market declines because your dollar cost average now goes down as you buy more shares with each new deposit into the 401(k).

One said she sees stock market declines as opportunities to buy more stock at a discount. She doesn't seem to worry about stock market "corrections" at all.

Neither of my friends was making an argument about timing the market. Both seemed to be saying that when the market falls, your dollar cost average falls, too, so you come out OK regardless of whether the market has hit bottom or not.

I was so flummoxed that I pulled up an Excel sheet and did three hypotheticals comparing two investors starting with the same amount of money distributed between the market and savings. In each one the investor who stayed in the index fund as it sank, or who put more money into the fund from savings as it sank, ended up worse off.

Then I wrote a proof!

That was a moment.

Regardless of whether my proof is correct or incorrect, I had just had a real-life experience of the incredible power of mathematical proof. I was thinking about all those people asking when students will ever use algebra in 'real life' -- I just used mathematical proof in real life.

Several years ago, I read a book which explained that a loss is a loss is a loss: money you've lost in the stock market today doesn't come back tomorrow. That made sense to me, but now I find that, apparently, few people believe it.

And it is a hard idea to hold on to, because intuitively it feels like money "comes back" when the stock market rises again.

Intuitively, it feels like you lose the money only when you sell after the loss, not when you hold.

Now I can look at my proof and know that money lost is money lost. You can sell, you can hold. Either way, that money is gone.

What to do about it--if anything--is another question, of course.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015


Speaking of recessions and teachers, the Hamilton Jobs Gap calculator now projects a return to pre-recession job levels sometime between January and August 2017.

The recession began in December 2007 (the crash came nine months later, in September 2008).

So ten years.

The Hamilton projection surprises me because everyone else I read seems to think we'll never return to pre-recession job levels -- "never" meaning not in this generation, at least. A big chunk of workers has been sidelined, the thinking goes, and they're not coming back.

But Hamilton seems to be assuming we can get back to the employment-population ratios of 2007.

At least, that's what I think Hamilton assumes. I don't have the patience to work through their explanation tonight. Or maybe ever.



In January 2007, 80.3% of people age 25 to 54 were employed.

Today that figure is 77.2%, up from a low of 74.8% in November 2010.

Prime working age.

Weaker economy, better teachers

Department of silver linings.


Markus Nagler
Marc Piopiunik
Martin R. West
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
July 2015


How do alternative job opportunities affect teacher quality? We provide the first causal evidence on this question by exploiting business cycle conditions at career start as a source of exogenous variation in the outside options of potential teachers. Unlike prior research, we directly assess teacher quality with value-added measures of impacts on student test scores, using administrative data on 33,000 teachers in Florida public schools. Consistent with a Roy model of occupational choice, teachers entering the profession during recessions are significantly more effective in raising student test scores. Results are supported by placebo tests and not driven by differential attrition.


How do alternative job opportunities affect teacher quality? This is a crucial policy question as teachers are a key input in the education production function (Hanushek and Rivkin, 2012) who affect their students’ outcomes even in adulthood (Chetty et al., 2014b). Despite their importance, individuals entering the teaching profession in the United States tend to come from the lower part of the cognitive ability distribution of college graduates (Hanushek and Pace, 1995). One frequently cited reason for not being able to recruit higher-skilled individuals as teachers is low salaries compared to other professions (e.g., Dolton and Marcenaro-Gutierrez, 2011; Hanushek et al., 2014).

Existing research provides evidence consistent with the argument that outside options matter. A first strand of the literature has used regional variation in relative teacher salaries, finding that pay is positively related to teachers’ academic quality (e.g., Figlio, 1997). A second strand has used long-run changes in the labor market – in particular, the expansion of job opportunities for women – finding that the academic quality of new teachers is lower when job market alternatives are better (e.g., Bacolod, 2007). However, both bodies of evidence suffer from key limitations. First, relative pay may be endogenous to teacher quality. Second, measures of academic quality are poor predictors of teacher effectiveness (cf. Jackson et al., 2014). This important policy question therefore remains unresolved.


We find that teachers who entered the profession during recessions are roughly 0.10 standard deviations (SD) more effective in raising math test scores than teachers who entered the profession during non-recessionary periods. The effect is half as large for reading value-added. Quantile regressions indicate that the difference in math value-added between recession and non-recession entrants is most pronounced at the upper end of the effectiveness distribution. Based on figures from Chetty et al. (2014b), the difference in average math effectiveness between recession and non-recession entrants implies a difference in students’ discounted life-time earnings of around $13,000 per classroom taught each year.2 Under the more realistic assumption that only 10% of recession-cohort teachers are pushed into teaching because of the recession, these recession-only teachers are roughly one SD more effective in teaching math than the teachers they push out. Based on the variation in teacher VAMs in our data, being assigned to such a teacher would increase a student’s test scores by around 0.20 SD.


Our finding that the effect of recessions on teacher effectiveness is twice as strong in math as in reading is consistent with evidence that wage returns to numeracy skills are twice as large as those to literacy skills in the US labor market (Hanushek et al., 2015).


Our results also suggest that recent improvements in cognitive skills among new teachers in the US documented by Goldhaber and Walch (2013) may be attributable to the 2008-09 financial crisis, rather than an authentic reversal of long-term trends.


To our knowledge, ours is the first paper to document a causal effect of outside labor market options on the effectiveness of entering teachers in raising student test scores.


We find that teachers who started their careers during recessions are more effective.


Chetty et al. (2014b) find that students taught by a teacher with a one SD higher value-added measure at age 12 earn on average 1.3% more at age 28. Using this figure, our preferred recession effect translates into differences in discounted lifetime earnings of around $13,000 per classroom taught each school year by recession and non-recession teachers (evaluated at the average classroom size in our sample).

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Way too much thinking

I've mentioned (a gazillion times -- sorry!) that I'm writing a book to do with the basal ganglia.

The basal ganglia handle nonconscious learning and intuition. (Turns out intuition is a real thing - ! Basically, intuition is nonconscious category learning.)

Meanwhile, the entire education world is obsessively focused on conscious processes.

Critical thinking.

Problem solving.

GROUP problem solving.

Cognitive science (and common sense) tell us that all of these activities depend upon nonconscious processes, but never mind.

Here's a typical passage describing current thinking (thinking!) in cognitive science:
A great deal of complex cognitive processing occurs at the unconscious level.


It is largely accepted that lower levels of processing (e.g., motor reflexes, sensory analysis) can operate outside of perceptual awareness (implicitly) (e.g., Castiello, Paulignan, & Jeannerod, 1991). And although the existence of nonconscious computations at higher levels (e.g., semantic or inferential processing) has been controversial (Dixon, 1971; Eriksen, 1960; Greenwald, 1992; Holender, 1986), a range of empirical findings on the unconscious over the last several decades has led most cognitive neuroscientists today to believe that mental activity can occur outside of conscious awareness (Hassin, Uleman, & Bargh, 2005). Some have argued that all information processing can, at least in principle, operate without conscious experience, and that consciousness (C) may thus be of a different nature (Chalmers, 1996). This view goes along with the hypothesis that nonconscious processes can achieve the highest levels of representation (Marcel, 1983). A large amount of complex cognitive processing appears to occur at the unconscious level in both healthy and psychiatric and neurological populations. For example, evidence from patients with blindsight (Goebel, Muckli, Zanella, Singer, & Stoerig, 2001; Weiskrantz, 1986), prosopagnosia (Renault, Signoret, Debruille, Breton, & Bolgert, 1989), implicit awareness in hemineglect (Cappelletti & Cipolotti, 2006; Marshall & Halligan, 1988; Vuilleumier et al., 2002), nondeclarative learning even in amnesia (Knowlton, Mangels, & Squire, 1996; Knowlton, Squire & Gluck, 1994; Turnbull & Evans, 2006), and the “split-brain” syndrome (Gazzaniga, 1995) supports the idea that unconsciously processed stimuli can activate high-level cortical regions.

- The Neural Basis of the Dynamic Unconscious
Expertise is heavily nonconscious. Most of the time experts don't know how they do what they do,  they just do it.

Yet all of K-12 these days seems to be premised on the belief that being able to "explain your answer" equals "understanding."

That belief is nonsense on stilts.

Yes, experts think when they solve problems. But eureka moments come out of the depths.

We have no access to our nonconscious minds, and we can't explain what our nonconscious minds do.

What's more, if we didn't have nonconscious minds, we wouldn't solve problems.

So what happens to problem solving when you stop teaching the nonconscious mind?

What happens to problem solving when you believe that conscious "thinking" is all that matters?

Here's Barry on Explaining Your Answer.

Pythagorus (& the cognitive unconscious)

I've just come across this post by Gary Rubenstein: You-reeka-math.

Here's a question.

For 8th grade students, Rubenstein prefers a visual proof of the Pythagorean Theorem to the algebra-based proof in Eureka Math/engageny math.

I follow the engageny math proof, but I can't make head or tails of the visual proof Rubenstein argues is more appropriate.

Am I missing something?

Is the visual proof easier for the teacher to explain, but harder for me to explain to myself?

Related: I've been meaning to read Rubinstein's Reluctant Disciplinarian forever.

I remember a fabulous passage (which I don't have time to fact-check at the moment, so if I'm remembering some other book, I'll have to come back and revise): something to do with novice teachers (Rubinstein) asking the old hands how they dealt with things like spitballs and talking out of turn and the like.

The old hands' advice: "I don't put up with that."

"I don't put up with that" is a classic example of experts having no idea how they do what they do.

Filed under: cognitive unconscious.

The cognitive unconscious is a sadly neglected concept in K-12.

K-12 education: way too much thinking, way too little knowing.


Andrew graduated high school in June and is now, all of a sudden, moving to Jimmy's group home.

Sad story: New York state has zero new group homes opening up for adults with developmental disabilities--and this at the very moment the children of the autism epidemic reach 21. The only adults able to enter the system are homeless and/or orphaned, and they're all on waiting lists. Andrew is getting in by the skin of his teeth because his brother lives in the home and Andrew was already 'in process.' All of which means we can't delay. We take this spot, or we take nothing.

I'm not ready.

I've spent the past two mornings crying, then recovering enough to get some work done.

I remember, several years ago, when my brother's firstborn was leaving for college. My brother and his wife were a wreck. I said, "Well, at least you have two kids still at home," and my brother said, "Right. We get to keep going through this over and over and over again."

Andrew is the third to leave home. Third and last.

Making it so much worse .... he doesn't want to leave. Jimmy didn't want to leave, either, but he was less verbal than Andrew and, after all, we still had two children at home. Hard on him, not as hard on us.

We've found a condo development we love (and that we can probably afford) that's just down the street from the group home, so we plan to be close by forever.

Still, it's not the same.


I don't even know if this is the right thing.

But I don't see, immediately, what else we can do given the fact that we are not going to live forever, and given the equally salient fact that Ed will not be employed forever.

New York seems to be moving to a "system" whereby parents will essentially set up their own group homes with state support .... which so far means 80-year old parents living with tantruming 50-year old autistic people and trying to hire, train, and oversee staff at a time when they themselves are at high risk of becoming disabled if they aren't already.

The officially sanctioned idea seems to be that parents will buy an apartment or a house that becomes the developmentally disabled adult's permanent home.

I don't know whether the state helps with cost of purchase. Sounds like no.

I'm not at all against having such an option, but how many parents who've spent their lives raising a developmentally disabled child are now in a position to buy a second apartment or house in Westchester County, beyond the apartment or house they've living in themselves?

There is state funding available for staff to look after developmentally disabled adults living in parent-bought homes, but who's in charge of the staff?

Is it the parents?

And if it is, what happens when the parents are gone?

Plus: autism is neither simple nor intuitive. A high school graduate can't walk in off the street and know how to deal with a nonverbal autistic adult who has challenging behaviors and an eating disorder to boot.

But maybe there's something I'm not seeing here. I'm going to look into things as soon as I finish my book.

Nevertheless, I suspect what I'll really be doing is finding out that I need to engage politically.

The literature we've been given reeks of good intentions and person-centered ideology run amok.

Developmentally disabled adults must have their own private bedrooms!

Because having your own private bedroom is synonymous with human dignity!

So close down the group homes because adults living in group homes sometimes have roommates!

It sounds to me as if the day programs may be in danger, too.

Developmentally disabled adults have a right to employment in real businesses, outside the confines of sheltered workshops!

Because human dignity!

It's full inclusion for developmentally disabled adults but without the institutional backing or training for the people making all of it happen.

I despair.

No one has a right to employment in private-sector businesses, and the number of "discouraged workers" in prime working age (25-54) is at record or near-record highs.

When only 54% of high school graduates are employed, how exactly are aging parents running their own private group homes going to find private-sector employment for 100% of their developmentally disabled adult children?

And I'm just thinking about autistic adults at the moment, who tend to be hale and hearty. At least, my own two autistic adult children are hale and hearty. One of Jimmy's friends at his group home is in a wheel chair. His mother has diabetes & an infected leg, & she has had difficulty walking herself for several years now. How exactly are people in such circumstances going to get their wheelchair-bound adult child to a job at McDonald's?


I have to hang onto my hat.

We're incredibly lucky to have a loving home for Andrew to move to, where he'll live with his brother, with his father and me just down the street.

I need to hang onto my hat, figure out who's leading the charge, and join the ranks.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The deskilling of U.S. jobs

No idea what to make of this.
The Great Reversal in the Demand for Skill and Cognitive Tasks
Paul Beaudry, David A. Green, Benjamin M. Sand

Many researchers have documented a strong, ongoing increase in the demand for skills in the decades leading up to 2000. In this paper, we document a decline in that demand in the years since 2000, even as the supply of high education workers continues to grow. We go on to show that, in response to this demand reversal, high-skilled workers have moved down the occupational ladder and have begun to perform jobs traditionally performed by lower-skilled workers. This de-skilling process, in turn, results in high-skilled workers pushing low-skilled workers even further down the occupational ladder and, to some degree, out of the labor force all together.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

When oh when will I have time to take the new "core maths quiz"?

Quiz: Could you pass the new core maths test?

I'm in book hell.

Jet lagged in high school

Andrew has graduated!

In June --- (which reminds me, I must try to get the photos the director of pupil personnel took...)

We've been getting up at 6:15 am for years (is it 7 years now? longer?).

The bus for his new program comes around 9, so now we get up when we wake up.

It's amazing, but also disorienting. Have to figure out a new morning routine.
In a series of conversations with sleep scientists this May, facilitated by a Harvard Medical School Media Fellowship, I learned that the consequences of lack of sleep are severe. While we all suffer from sleep inertia (a general grogginess and lack of mental clarity), the stickiness of that inertia depends largely on the quantity and quality of the sleep that precedes it. If you’re fully rested, sleep inertia dissipates relatively quickly. But, when you’re not, it can last far into the day, with unpleasant and even risky results.

Many of us have been experiencing the repercussions of inadequate sleep since childhood. Judith Owens, the director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Boston Children’s Hospital, has been studying the effects of school start times on the well-being of school-age kids—and her conclusions are not encouraging. Most adults are fine with about eight hours of sleep, but toddlers need around thirteen hours, including a daytime nap. Teens need around nine and a half hours; what’s more, they tend to be night owls, whose ideal circadian rhythm has them going to bed and waking up late. As schools have pushed their start times earlier and earlier—a trend that first started in the sixties, Owens says—the health effects on students have been severe. “It’s not just sleep loss. It’s circadian disruption,” Owens says. “They have to wake up when their brain tells them to be deeply asleep. Waking a teen at six in the morning is like waking an adult at three at night.”

The result is a kind of constant jet lag—and one that is exacerbated by sleeping in on the weekends. Executive function and emotional responses get worse, hurting everything from judgment to emotional reactivity. The ability to make good decisions can suffer, and kids can become more prone to act out and get depressed. In fact, the rise in A.D.H.D. diagnoses may, in part, be the result of inadequate sleep: in children, symptoms of sleep deprivation include hyperactivity and impaired interpretation of social cues. Owens has seen many such misdiagnoses in her clinical practice. The effects are physical, as well. Children who undersleep are more likely to gain weight and become obese. Even for infants as young as six months, amounts of sleep can predict weight gain three years later.

Schools with healthier start times, on the other hand, see an increase in attendance, test scores, G.P.A.s, and health. In one study in which an intervention pushed start times later, it wasn’t just academic outcomes that improved; car crashes went down by as much as seventy per cent, and self-reported depression rates fell. Even a delay of as little as half an hour, Owens has found, improves outcomes. “It should be about the health and well-being of the students,” she told me, “and not the convenience of adults.”

The Walking Dead by Maria Konnikova | July 9, 2015 | The New Yorker