kitchen table math, the sequel: 80 mph

Monday, March 25, 2013

80 mph

My brother showed me this video --- can't remember if we've ever posted it here.

What I love about it is that the girlfriend actually comes up with a guesstimate that's pretty close to correct, which reminded me of something I once read about the difference between really good math students versus the "works hard" variety.

To wit: the really good students devise elegant and efficient solutions and proofs. The 'works hard' students go on wild goose chases.

Works-hard students do get to the answer or the proof eventually, but the process isn't pretty. (Speaking as a person who has spent a lot of time teaching herself math, I relate.)

The process may not be pretty, but it can be funny.

Another thing: this exchange is a brilliant example of "inflexible knowledge" in action. The young woman isn't transferring the meaning of "per hour" to a different phrasing of the same situation.

Speaking of inflexible knowledge, in Atlantic City this weekend we had a semi-galling episode of Failure to Transfer. My father-in-law has been deaf for years, and Ed and I -- and Andrew -- have had iPads for at least two. We use Andrew's iPad to communicate with him via typing (Andrew types, too). Yet it had never occurred to us that we could do the same for Ed's dad.

Two years to make the connection!

Immediately after I'd had the blinding revelation that iPads work for old people with hearing loss as well as young people with autism, we began plotting and scheming how to get an iPad for Ed's dad (would he use it?? Which one should we get?? The big one?? The little one that would take up less space on a dinner table?? Etc.)

It took me a good 5 minutes to figure out that Ed's dad does not need an iPad. He can talk.

We had a chuckle over that & then an hour or so later Ed raised the subject again.

We have spent a LOT of years living with people who can't talk.


Anonymous said...

My thought when I first saw this was that you don't do something like to someone you love.

Double-plus you do not do this publicly.

-Mark Roulo

Anonymous said...

this is right up there with "thank you for my wife" (indictment of Whole Language)

SATVerbalTutor. said...


Re: good math students vs. hard workers, something very similar happens on the verbal side. There's a world of difference between working with someone who can summarize arguments lucidly and someone who just looks at CR passage as a mass on random details. The former reads like an adult, the latter like a high school student. It actually doesn't occur to them that there's a big picture, and that they can use it to reason logically. I'm think of this because I'm starting to encounter a lot of kids who are stuck at 700 on CR because they think like this; it's agonizing working through a passage with them because I want to scream at them, "READ FOR THE ARGUMENT," "THINK ABOUT THE BIG PICTURE," but I can't because I only have them for a handful of sessions, and there's just no way I can teach (most) them to read in a completely different way in that short a time. I just have make do with what I they know how to do and do my best to get their score up. It's such a ridiculously inefficient way to read that it makes me nuts. But I'm also aware that I might as well exist in a different dimension from them when it comes to reading.

Btw, if it makes you feel any better, I went out for a bit this morning without my umbrella, got wet, went home, walked back out, and was promptly startled to discover that it was raining. I've also spent approximately 35 hours fighting with Word over my book manuscript in the last week or so, that could be why.

Glen said...

My favorite failure-to-transfer example comes from my own occasional lab work. It has happened several times. I'll be repeatedly timing some operation, looking at my watch and carefully clocking start and stop times, calculating time intervals and so on. After an hour or so of intensely focusing on the time of day displayed on my watch, reading it over and over again, I might start feeling hungry. I sometimes get lost in my work and lose track of time, so I'll wonder how many hours might have passed and if it might be getting close to lunch time.

I'll look at my watch to see what time it is, having only the vaguest impression that it's sometime midday, and notice that the time displayed seems somehow "familiar." I then slap my forehead, realizing that it's still about the same time it was the last dozen or so times I checked my watch. The part of my brain doing the experiments knew the time to the minute while the part thinking of lunch had to check my watch to know what hour it was.