kitchen table math, the sequel: 8/1/10 - 8/8/10

Friday, August 6, 2010

Merryl Tisch & religious education

In the wake of contemplating whether American citizens will ever be allowed to use vouchers to pay for religious schools, I came across this opening passage from a NY Times profile of Regents Chancellor Meryl Tisch:
Speaking to a group of Catholic educators in a conference room high above First Avenue, Merryl H. Tisch interrupted a dry barrage of bureaucratic references to attendance mandates and Title 2A with a seeming non sequitur.

“When my refrigerator is broken, I don’t call the service department,” said Dr. Tisch, the newly elected chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents and, by marriage, part of one of New York’s wealthiest families. “I call the head of G.E.”

Dr. Tisch, who tends to lower her voice just as she is making an important point, urged her audience to enlist the soon-to-be head of the Archdiocese of New York, Timothy M. Dolan, to make the case in Albany for religious education. She said that she happened to watch the announcement of Mr. Dolan’s appointment, which was televised live from the Vatican at 3 a.m., and was impressed by his style. “Lay it on the line,” she advised.

Advancing Education, Through Work Ethic and Connections

Published: April 4, 2009

Tisch began her career teaching first grade in Jewish schools.

decision trees from lsquared

from Lsquared:
If you're still thinking about this problem, you might find this page useful. It's not an explanation, per se, but there's lots of examples if you just follow the links, and it's intended for students who are almost certainly less mathematically sophisticated than you are.

This looks fantastic - thank you!

fyi: I mentioned Instapaper the other day. I've just stored the probability link in instapaper, where I'll be able to find it faster than I would find it here.

At least, I'll be able to find it faster at Instapaper until I max out Instapaper the same way I max out every other folder system I dream up.

out of sequence

Week 2

Week 4

Humbled, but still having fun

Hunter College High School

Diversity Debate

lgm's typing program

re: touch-typing,* lgm writes:
I used AVKO (pdf file) for my children.

Its advantage was that the children did not feel pressured since no computer was waiting for a response or asking for a speedy response. Also the progression made sense.

After that, they did speed drills with some free online program.

C is making up his own typing program (or will be until I print the AVKO exercises out for him), and we're using an online typing test to check speed.

C's current speed: 10 wpm


OK, I just attempted to take the test and was, predictably, interrupted by household stuff just before the end. Still managed to score 100 wpm with 3 mistakes.

* Can't bring myself to speak of keyboarding.

Yerkes Dodson strikes again

THE Boston Red Sox haven’t given their fans much to cheer about this summer so we’ve had to take our pleasure where we could find it, for example, by watching Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees struggle to hit his 600th career home run — again and again and again.

Rodriguez hit his 599th home run on July 22, bringing himself and his fans to the brink of celebration. And then, for 12 long days, he not only failed to drive the ball out of the park and into the history books, he also went hitless for 17 consecutive at-bats. This wasn’t the first time Rodriguez has stood at the precipice, and then stood there some more: after hitting his 499th home run in 2007, he came to the plate an excruciating 28 times before finally hitting his 500th.

What made all this so frustrating for New Yorkers (and so delicious for Bostonians) was that everyone felt certain that Rodriguez would have slammed several homers in the past two weeks if only they hadn’t mattered so much. Watching him struggle to break the numerical barrier was like watching a man frozen with fear on the last step of a tall ladder: we knew, and he knew, that the last step was exactly the same as all the steps before it — so why couldn’t he just take it?

One of the ironies of human psychology is that desperately wanting something can make attaining that thing all the more difficult. When stakes go up, performance often goes down. In one study, subjects practiced sinking a putt and got better as they went along — better, that is, until the experimenter offered them a cash reward for their next shot, at which point their performance took a nosedive.

This is because we pay close attention to what we’re doing when what we’re doing matters, and though close attention is helpful when our task is novel or complex, it is positively destructive when our task is simple and well practiced. Golfers in another study were told either to take their time and think about their stroke or to step up and swing as quickly as possible. Although novice golfers did better when they took their time, expert golfers did worse.

The lesson from the laboratory is clear: thinking about tasks that don’t require thought isn’t just pointless, it’s debilitating. It may be wise to watch our fingers when we’re doing surgery or shaving the family dog, but not when we’re driving or typing, because once our brains learn to do something automatically they don’t appreciate interference. The moment we start thinking about when to step on the clutch or hit the alt key, our once-seamless performance becomes slow, clumsy or impossible.

The Weight at the Plate
by Daniel Gilbert
Published: August 4, 2010

Yerkes Dodson at Wikipedia
Robert M. Yerkes and John D. Dodson (1908)
First published in Journal of Comparative Neurology and Psychology, 18, 459-482.

help desk - probability

I'm having trouble with some problems in Mary Dolciani's Algebra and Trigonometry: Structure and Method Book 2.

p 749
11.  A bag contains 2 red, 4 yellow, and 6 blue marbles. Two marbles are drawn at random. Find the probability of each event.

a. Both are red.
b. Both are yellow.
c. Both are blue
d. One is red and one is yellow.
e. Neither is red.
f. Neither is blue.

For a, b, and c, I can solve this problem using two methods and arrive at the same answer:

a. Both are red.

2/12 x 1/11 = 1/66

OR, using the combination formula, nCr:

sample space (number of ways any 2 marbles can be picked out of 12):
12C2 = 12! ÷ 2!(12-2)!
          = 12 x 11 ÷ 2
          = 66

ways to pick 2 red out of 2 red:
2C2 = 1

probability of picking 2 red:
1 ÷ 66 or 1/66

Trouble is: when I use both approaches to solve d, I get 2 different answers, and I don't understand why.

d. One is red and one is yellow.

2/12 x 4/11 = 1/6 x 4/11 = 4/66 = 2/33

OR, using combination formula nCr:

12C2 = 66 (number of ways any 2 marbles can be drawn from 12)

2C1 = 2 (number of ways 1 red marble can be drawn from 2 red marbles)
4C1 = 4 (number of ways 1 blue marble can be drawn from 4 blue marbles)


2 x 4 ÷ 66 = 4/33 (probability of drawing 1 red & 1 yellow)

2/33 ≠ 4/33

What am I missing here?

Thank you!

Algebra and Trigonometry: Structure and Method Book 2

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Chart Book

celeration chart how-to

Robert Munsch

A member of the Precision Teaching list just sent me to Robert Munsch's web site and I'm passing the tip along.

About Robert


Finally going to happen this summer.

I hope.

color chart here

keyboarding practice

source: History of Woodring College of Education

SAFMEDS StudyStack


I started my first stack of "SAFMEDS" flash cards yesterday!

outsourcing legal work

My friend R. has been telling me about this:
NOIDA, India — As an assistant attorney general for New York State, Christopher Wheeler used to spend most of his time arguing in courtrooms in New York City.

Today, he works in a sprawling, unfinished planned suburb of New Delhi, where office buildings are sprouting from empty lots and dirt roads are fringed with fresh juice stalls and construction rubble. At Pangea3, a legal outsourcing firm, Mr. Wheeler manages a team of 110 Indian lawyers who do the grunt work traditionally assigned to young lawyers in the United States — at a fraction of the cost.

India’s legal outsourcing industry has grown in recent years from an experimental endeavor to a small but mainstream part of the global business of law. Cash-conscious Wall Street banks, mining giants, insurance firms and industrial conglomerates are hiring lawyers in India for document review, due diligence, contract management and more.

Now, to win new clients and take on more sophisticated work, legal outsourcing firms in India are actively recruiting experienced lawyers from the West. And American and British lawyers — who might once have turned up their noses at the idea of moving to India, or harbored an outright hostility to outsourcing legal work in principle — are re-evaluating the sector.

Outsourcing to India Draws Western Lawyers
Published: August 4, 2010


If you're looking for a real-world example of the growth in hiring by public schools, click the 'role' button on the Math in Focus Contact page.

They list fourteen different job titles:

Assistant principal
Assistant Director
Assistant Superintendent
Team Leader
Staff Development
School Board President
Director of Education

I guess we can all be grateful coordinator of learning immersion experiences didn't make the cut.

The U.S. Economy Needs Fewer Public School Jobs, Not More by Andrew Coulson

Math in Focus

For those of you who haven't heard yet, Math in Focus is the new "American" version of Singapore Math.

Any thoughts?


The bargaining stage, though. Maybe there’s a loophole here. The oncology bargain is that, in return for at least the chance of a few more useful years, you agree to submit to chemotherapy and then, if you are lucky with that, to radiation or even surgery. So here’s the wager: you stick around for a bit, but in return we are going to need some things from you. These things may include your taste buds, your ability to concentrate, your ability to digest, and the hair on your head. This certainly appears to be a reasonable trade.

Topic of Cancer
By Christopher Hitchens
September 2010

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Math Made Visual

Math Made Visual: Creating Images for Understanding Mathematics (Classroom Resource Material)

Math Made Visual: Creating Images for Understanding Mathematics (Classroom Resource Material)

Does anyone know this book?

Proofs without Words

Proofs without Words: Exercises in Visual Thinking (Classroom Resource Materials) (v. 1)

Proofs without Words: Exercises in Visual Thinking (Classroom Resource Materials) (v. 1)


Arthur Whimbey web site

Have I ever mentioned I'm a fan of Arthur Whimbey's?

Possibly not, apart from the 6 posts I see I've written on text reconstruction.

Analyze, Organize, Write

I've just discovered (re-discovered?) an Arthur Whimbey web site

I'm ordering one of the Thinking Through Grammar books.

Page samples here.

Thinking Through Grammar: Senior

Phil Mickelson channels Marilyn Burns

Back when Phil Mickelson was a child, he came up with a project for science class that hinted at his future: an experiment measuring which compression golf ball was best in terms of distance and accuracy.

Three decades and three Masters' jackets later, he's busy with an even more ambitious science project: the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy. The academy is sort of a summer camp for science teachers, where third, fourth and fifth grade teachers come to learn how to improve their teaching of math and science. So the morning after finishing the British Open, Mr. Mickelson has flown into town for the start of this week's academy at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, N.J.

"I've always used math and science in my career," Mr. Mickelson explains over coffee, his conversation laced with references to coefficients, vectors and vortices. "It helps me know what I need to focus on. On putting, for example, at three feet the success rate is about 99%. At four feet it drops off to 88%; at five feet to 75%; at six feet to 62%; and so on.


"I used to think that companies went overseas for cheap labor. That may be part of it. But I've learned that the larger issue is to attract people who have the engineering and other skills they need."

It's not just Google and Intel and Apple and ExxonMobil that have a hard time finding enough people with these skills. So do the public schools, with the result that, at least in the lower years, the majority of math and science courses are taught by people who never studied the subjects in college. Hence the academy program, which is designed by experts from Math Solutions and the National Science Teachers Association, and which emphasizes the link between these two fields.

JULY 20, 2010
Phil Mickelson's Science Project
by William McGurn

Too bad Mickelson didn't call MSMI.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

parents & charters

In the Wall Street Journal today:
This past week the NAACP, the National Urban League and other civil-rights groups collectively condemned charter schools. Claiming to speak for minority Americans, the organizations expressed "reservations" about the Obama administration's "extensive reliance on charter schools." They specifically voiced concern about "the overrepresentation of charter schools in low-income and predominantly minority communities."


The truth is that support for charters among ordinary African-Americans and Hispanics is strong and has only increased dramatically in the past two years.


For the past four years, Harvard's Program on Education Policy and Governance, together with the journal Education Next, has surveyed a nationally representative cross-section of some 3,000 Americans about a variety of education policy issues. In 2010, we included extra samples of public-school teachers and all those living in zip codes where a charter school is located.

survey results:
  • Support for charters among African Americans rose to 49% in 2009, up from 42% in 2008. This year it leapt upward to no less than 64%. Among Hispanics support jumped to 47% in 2010, from 37% in 2008.
  • Opposition to charters is expressed by 14% of African-Americans and 21% of Hispanics. Twenty-three percent of African-Americans and 33% of Hispanics take a neutral position.
  • Among the public as a whole, charter supporters currently outnumber opponents by a margin of better than 2 to 1. Forty-four percent say they are in favor of charters, while 19% stand in opposition. 
  • Parents in general are even more supportive of charter schools: 51% like them, 15% don't.
  • [P]arents in communities with charter schools favor them by a margin of 57% to 16%.
  • [C]harter support among public school teachers has slipped to 39% in 2010, from 47% in 2008.
African-Americans for Charter Schools
I think the figure from parents is huge.

51% pro; 15% con

I don't know how to extrapolate from polling data, but my feeling about that figure is that charter schools are here to stay.

I hope vouchers will be next. I worry about charters killing off private schools.

20 years at the kitchen table

Karen H just emailed me this passage from a Malcolm Gladwell article on late bloomers:
We’d like to think that mundane matters like loyalty, steadfastness, and the willingness to keep writing checks to support what looks like failure have nothing to do with something as rarefied as genius.But sometimes genius is anything but rarefied; sometimes it’s just the thing that emerges after twenty years of working at your kitchen table.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

physician training in the U.S.

re: lawyers without law school

A friend sends the educational requirements for physicians:
Four years of college
then four years of medical school (during those last two years, you do a
bunch of rotations through whatever teaching hospital your medical
school is connected to).
Then residency -- which has varying lengths.
I believe the standard residency is 3 years, but can be much longer
(surgery is much longer -- 5 years).
After residency, you might choose a subspecialty, which would require a
fellowship (of varying length).

My husband’s pre-career training went something like this
4 years at xxxx undergraduate in engineering
4 years xxxx Medical school
3 years residency at xxxx in general pediatrics
3 years fellowship at xxxx in ped cardiology
so about 14 years of training and he was in his early 30s when he got
his first job.

Surgery is much longer. Not only is the residency longer, but if you
chose a subspecialty as well (such as cardio-thoracic) the surgery
fellowship is much longer.

in Scarsdale

Speaking of the SAT, my Scarsdale friend told me the other day that more than a few parents there are spending $25K for one year of SAT prep for one child, one test. They use Advantage Testing, she said.

Which looks great.

spies like us

Haven't read the Wall Street Journal report on internet spying yet, but I've been chuckling over what they'll turn up on me.

Beaucoup SAT books, mostly. SAT books, math books, and papers on precision teaching. That and a lot of pointless surfing the internet looking for good better news about the economy.

SAT Question of the Day

For some reason, I love this problem.

What makes some problems fun (for some people) and others just OK, I wonder?