kitchen table math, the sequel: 1/12/14 - 1/19/14

Thursday, January 16, 2014

High school

Chris Christie January 9:
Let me just clear something up, O.K., about my childhood friend David Wildstein. It is true that I met David in 1977, in high school. He’s a year older than me. David and I were not friends in high school. We were not even acquaintances in high school…. We didn't travel in the same circles in high school. You know, I was the class president and athlete. I don’t know what David was doing during that period of time…. So we went twenty-three years without seeing each other, and in the years we did see each other, we passed in the hallways. So I want to clear that up. It doesn’t make a difference, except that I think some of the stories that’ve been written implied, like, an emotional relationship and closeness between me and David that doesn’t exist. I know David and, you know, I knew that Bill Baroni wanted to hire David to come to the Port Authority, and I gave my permission for him to do it, but that was Bill’s hire. He asked for permission, I gave my permission for him to hire David. But let’s be clear about the relationship, O.K.?

Apparently Christie has now proposed lengthening the school year and the school day.

Which makes sense because teens need a lot more exposure to the I'm-class-president-and-you're-not peer culture high schools have to offer.


Last fall, when the Christie administration closed the lanes, traffic was backed up all the way to Rye. It caused quite a stir. I remember, shortly after the excitement began, ping-ponging back and forth re: Andrew's oxytocin, which comes from a pharmacy in Rye and has to be kept refrigerated.

A: I was glad the pharmacy was delivering as opposed to me driving cross-county to pick it up, but then again B: that didn't solve the problem of a fantastically expensive hormone requiring refrigeration stuck in traffic for 4 hours, which led to C: idle musing about just how long the refrigerated silicon thingies they put inside the mailer stay cold….and as I made the circuit from A to B to C and back again the "backed up all the way to Rye" refrain continued to sound in my kitchen, sparking query D: what did backed-up all the way to Rye, which I figured meant all the North-South corridors here in Westchester County had to be a nightmare, mean for driving East-to-West?

East-to-West in Westchester County is a losing proposition under the best of circumstances; when it comes to driving across the county, as opposed to up and down the county, no roads lead to Rome.

So, with traffic backed up all the way to Rye, what did that mean for Rye to me and me to Rye?

Or me to anywhere, for that matter.

My Bronx semester wasn't starting for a couple of weeks. There wasn't any place I absolutely had to go.

The news stories kept coming; the traffic kept being inexplicably and catastrophically backed-up-to-Rye. The mental imagery was oppressive, and as the days wore on I began to feel like the best course of action was to stay inside my house.

Maybe inside my bedroom.

Possibly forever.

I should probably file a class action suit against the state of New Jersey on behalf of all the people who almost became agoraphobic as a direct result of the Fort Lee lane closings.

the press conference

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

FAFSA, CSS Profile, and I'm going to shoot myself

I have been putting this off for too long, but now it's nearing completion, although we will have to update the forms when the 2013 numbers are known. Some say that it's better to get the applications in early, but when does financial aid know whether someone has been admitted or not? I suppose they just crank the numbers through a formula so they just do it for all applications. Some schools say they are need blind, but what happens when they crank the numbers for those who are admitted and it comes out too high? I read an article that says that this is a problem for many schools. I don't know how that works if their yield is at 50%.

I like how they all assume that the student is filling out these forms. "You" means the student. Right.

All of my son's schools (save one) require the CSS Profile along with FAFSA. When we went to info sessions, they all talked about how little we might have to pay, even if we make pretty good salaries. There is a potential (no loan) benefit if you get into one of the rich schools, but that doesn't mean that your EFC will not require loans. Also, I don't like how families who are savers get hurt more than families who are not. Although FAFSA doesn't see retirement savings, the CSS Profile schools get those numbers. We should have taken trips and cruises instead of saving.

They also ask you how much you are willing to pay each year towards your child's college education. Um, zero? Is this a trap for the gullible? We should have paid more attention to those full ride offers from other universities. What is the future value of $100K not spent?

Any comments from experienced parents to us financial aid "newbies"? The one I learned too late is that some colleges require early financial aid information for Early Action. Fortunately, the one that my son chose was one of the few that had a late EA financial aid deadline. He was deferred so it was moot. Our high school had an open meeting about FAFSA, but said little about the CSS Profile.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Happy New Year!

Chris's friend D. snapped a quick Christmas photo of us in the drizzle this weekend, and I see Andrew has a pretty serious frowny-face. (For passers-by, Andrew & Jimmy - in front - have autism.)

I will do better next year!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The law of universal linearity

Interesting discussion

I was struck by this passage:

In terms of implementing this in practice, I think that college is way too late, and also quite difficult because college math (and STEM) courses tend to be mostly about transmitting massive amounts of boring technical content and technical skills, leaving little to no room for actual ideas or ways of thinking. Nevertheless, I do think it would be an interesting experiment to have students keep something akin to a "vocabulary notebook" where they record the meaning (as opposed to the formal definition) of the various kinds of expressions they run in to. For example, a fraction ab is supposed to mean "a number which when multiplied by b gives a"; it is short and illuminating work to figure out from this (using distributivity of multiplication over addition, which we definitely want numbers to satisfy) that ab+cd=ad+bcbd, that there is no number meant by a0, and that 00 can mean any number). This of course, presupposes that somebody takes the time and makes sure that the language in which these meanings are explained is coherent, so it would be a lot of work to design a course around this method.

I did in fact once successfully disabuse a(n Honors Calculus) student of "the Law of Universal Linearity" using these ideas. The particular instance concerned manipulating the Fibonacci sequence, and the student had made the error of writing something like Fx+Fx=F2x. What I did is explain the stuff above and had the student apply them by analyzing the meaning of the various expressions he had written down was, and then ask whether that equality was justified based on what he knew the expressions meant. That seemed to make an impression on the student, but I personally believe it was an impression made ten years too late...