kitchen table math, the sequel: 9/4/11 - 9/11/11

Friday, September 9, 2011

no change in ACT math scores

speaking of rigged...

change in SAT math scores:
Between 1996 and 2005, the average [SAT] mathematics score increased for all racial/ethnic groups. During this time, the score for Asian/Pacific Islander students increased by 22 points, from 558 to 580. Mathematics scores for White, Puerto Rican, and American Indian/Alaska Native students increased between 12 and 16 points, while Black, Mexican American, and Other Hispanic/Latino students experienced smaller increases, between 3 and 9 points. (p. 77)
no change in ACT math scores:
Unlike SAT mathematics scores, ACT mathematics scores have not increased over time. (p. 81)
The majority of students who take the ACT live in the Midwest, Rocky Mountains, Plains, and southern regions of the country (ACT 2005a). The SAT is more prevalent on the east and west coasts and in the Northeast (SAT 2005a).
p. 76
Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Minorities
National Center for Education Statistics
September 2007
Should American parents have their kids take the ACT?


Someone I know spoke last night to an admissions person at a highly selective college.

The admissions person said that highly selective colleges here in the U.S. have been admitting numerous students from China because their resumes are so strong. Spectacular scores, spectacular grades.

Then, when the students arrive at the highly selective colleges, their professors discover that they aren't prepared and can't do the work.

What these colleges are seeing, the admissions counselor said, is "systematic cheating." Those were his words.

Another thing: these highly selective colleges have been led to believe that the Chinese government is paying full fare. But no. The students have a bit of money from the Chinese government, but nothing close to what they need, and their parents can't afford to make up the difference.

So there they are, in America, enrolled in the most selective colleges in this country. They can't do the work, and they can't pay the tuition.
update: no change in ACT math scores


I recently added some links for problems to my previous two posts on algebra review and rational roots. Today I'd like to post about functions.

The appropriateness of when to introduce the function concept varies depending on the views of the individual instructor and the student population one is working with. I value the importance of the function concept and notation, but feel that teaching the function notation and the “vertical line test” without follow-up material relating to curve analysis (max, min etc.), composition and inverse, and transformation of functions is of questionable value particularly in the case of a gen. ed. math course that is to be taken by a broad range of students.

I've found that it is possible to discuss many topics related to the behavior of polynomial, rational, exponential and logarithmic functions without the additional two or three days of material required to introduce the function notation to a gen. ed. student population.

Given time, I like to cover functions by introducing the basic notation, followed by curve analysis in which the concepts of increasing and decreasing behavior, as well as maximum and minimum values are discussed. I then like to address function composition and inverse, the transformation topics (which can be somewhat tricky for students) and finish with a unit on the application of functions to a range of optimization problems common in many Calculus courses. I typically have the students use the TI 83/84 calculators to find the maximum and minimum values that will be found algebraically in a Calculus course.

So, I typically spend four to five weeks covering

1) notation

2) increasing, decreasing, max, min

3) composition, inverse

4) transformations

5) applications/modeling

More after the jump...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Common Core math

Apparently, no one is willing to defend the Common Core math standards for Education Next.

help desk - fables and fairy tales

I'm teaching a freshman composition course based on fables, folk tales, fairy tales, and creation myths, and I need some essays or passages for students to read and possibly use for text reconstruction exercises.

Any ideas?

I've amassed a collection of academic papers, but they won't work for my class.

Here's the kind of thing I'm thinking of:

Why did Aesop use animals instead of humans in fables?

Practicing Medicine Can be Grimm Work by Valerie Gribben


in the Wall Street Journal this morning:
Mr. Schwartz, within a few days of the attacks, was on a train with his family to Florida, where they owned a vacation home. Within a year, they had given up their Manhattan apartment. They had a feeling "possibly that this is the wrong place to be right now with an infant," he said.

His son Calder is 10 now, in the fifth grade in Tampa. The boy has visited New York often, and loves it.

"I said, 'When you go to college, go to college in New York,'" said Mr. Schwartz. "He said, 'So you can come back with me.' "
Refugees From the City Reflect Anew on Their Decision

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

the rules

from h2g2
Tennis crowds are extremely close to the action so the slightest movement can be off-putting. Of course there will be times you will have to move - too much hospitality is going to play havoc with your bladder control - but do it when it's allowed. For instance, people can move from their seats when the players are changing after every two games, one service game for each player or double partnership. The stewards will be stopping you from returning to your seat once the players are ready to resume play, but before they stop it's up to you to remain in your seat. When the time does come and the second game is over, move swiftly and directly to your nearest exit (they will link up to where you actually want to get eventually), as you only have 90 seconds before play has to resume.

While you are in your seat try not to get too comfortable, especially if you're a snorer and have been queuing or travelling a long time to get in. There's nothing worse than being asked from the umpire's chair to wake up to stop putting the players off.
Etiquette for Tennis Spectators
I'm talking to you, people of Arthur Ashe.

Oh, man.

We spent yesterday at the Open, which in our house means summer is officially over. I love the Open; we've gone every year since we moved here 13 years ago, and it's just about the only New York ritual we have. But it's getting less and less fun. The upper deck is pretty much bedlam these days. Yesterday we had seats on the aisle and next to the stairwell, and Ed and I and an exasperated lady from France appeared to be the only people present who had heard that you're not supposed to traipse in and out of the stadium during play. The lady from France was a stalwart; she took everyone to task and held people at bay.

But they just kept coming, and going.


Routine Builder

A fantastic app: Routine Builder.

I am now watering my plants on schedule, once a week, instead of whenever I remember it, which is about once a month, if I'm lucky.

If my plants are lucky, I should say.

I've just this minute added "Eat An apple" to the daily queue.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Steve H on vocational education

I asked about education and jobs for students who like math but aren't going to major in math, by which I probably mean students who 'like numbers' or 'like arithmetic'...(I don't want to be more specific than that in a post.)

Here is Steve H:
Actually, the vocational path might be best for students who are not so great in math, but want a degree and a technical education. You might get math courses that are more appropriate for your needs.

See New England Institute of Technology. ( It's all about getting an associate or Bachelor's of Science degree. It it very well regarded, but not cheap. They are very focused on specific careers. You can get the degree piece of paper AND be trained for a specific career.

Here are some of the careers they list.

Clinical Medical Assistant
Surgical Tech
Medical Engineering Tech
Interior Design
Physical Therapy Assistant
Construction Management
Multimedia and Web Design
Video and Radio Production
Digital Recording Arts Tech
Automotive High Performance
Automotive Tech
Auto Collision Repair
Electronics Engineering
Mechanical Engineering
Game Development & Simulation Programming

I found the course catalog and can find math prerequisites for courses, but I haven't found a list of math courses for each degree. I did find that the Electronics Engineering Bachelor's Degree requires a course called Calculus II.

"The Bachelor of Science Degree in Electronics Engineering Technology is accredited by the Technology Accreditation Commission of ABET,..."

I don't know whether businesses worry about who accredited your degree. Those who know about the school would never compare this engineering degree with one from the state's university, but will that difference matter in 10 years in an area that doesn't know about the school?
I should have asked what you mean by "like math"? Lots of jobs might need people who can put together spreadsheets and not have a fit with empirical equations. That is probably the best venue for these people. You probably won't find a posted job that asks for a spreadsheet guru, but you might be able have a job where you can evolve into that person.

There is also computer-aided design that is in demand by architects and engineering firms. If you are really good at 3D geometric modeling (e.g SolidWorks or Rhino), you will most likely always be in demand. I don't know if you would call that math.

In general, I would make a distinction between those who want to do math and those who want a job which will take advantage of their ability to handle math-like attention to sequence and details. I've met a number of people without degrees who have an amazing ability to handle technical details, some of which involves math.

help desk - jobs

I have a question.

What kinds of math-related jobs exist for students who like math but aren't going to be math majors in college?

What kinds of math-related jobs are taught in vocational schools? (I'm thinking of the schools Steve H has mentioned.)

Speaking of technology and stagnant scores

from 1997:
In 1922 Thomas Edison predicted that "the motion picture is destined to revolutionize our educational system and ... in a few years it will supplant largely, if not entirely, the use of textbooks." Twenty-three years later, in 1945, William Levenson, the director of the Cleveland public schools' radio station, claimed that "the time may come when a portable radio receiver will be as common in the classroom as is the blackboard." Forty years after that the noted psychologist B. F. Skinner, referring to the first days of his "teaching machines," in the late 1950s and early 1960s, wrote, "I was soon saying that, with the help of teaching machines and programmed instruction, students could learn twice as much in the same time and with the same effort as in a standard classroom." Ten years after Skinner's recollections were published, President Bill Clinton campaigned for "a bridge to the twenty-first century ... where computers are as much a part of the classroom as blackboards." Clinton was not alone in his enthusiasm for a program estimated to cost somewhere between $40 billion and $100 billion over the next five years. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, talking about computers to the Republican National Committee early this year, said, "We could do so much to make education available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, that people could literally have a whole different attitude toward learning."
The Computer Delusion
by Todd Oppenheimer
J U L Y 1 9 9 7
the founder, chairman, and CEO of Netflix has a really bad idea
speaking of technology and stagnant scores
oh brave new world!
codswallop, part 2

Oh brave new world!

photo: Jim Wilson/The New York Time
CHANDLER, Ariz. — Amy Furman, a seventh-grade English teacher here, roams among 31 students sitting at their desks or in clumps on the floor. They’re studying Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” — but not in any traditional way.

In this technology-centric classroom, students are bent over laptops, some blogging or building Facebook pages from the perspective of Shakespeare’s characters. One student compiles a song list from the Internet, picking a tune by the rapper Kanye West to express the emotions of Shakespeare’s lovelorn Silvius.

The class, and the Kyrene School District as a whole, offer what some see as a utopian vision of education’s future. Classrooms are decked out with laptops, big interactive screens and software that drills students on every basic subject. Under a ballot initiative approved in 2005, the district has invested roughly $33 million in such technologies.

The digital push here aims to go far beyond gadgets to transform the very nature of the classroom, turning the teacher into a guide instead of a lecturer, wandering among students who learn at their own pace on Internet-connected devices.

“This is such a dynamic class,” Ms. Furman says of her 21st-century classroom. “I really hope it works.”

Hope and enthusiasm are soaring here. But not test scores.

Since 2005, scores in reading and math have stagnated in Kyrene, even as statewide scores have risen.
In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores
Published: September 3, 2011
Spend first, find out the stuff you bought doesn't work later!

My district, one year after the crash (or was it two? time flies--) bought SmartBoards for every single classroom in the district still remaining SmartBoard-free after the first go-round of SmartBoard acquisition.

The reason?

SmartBoard equity.

Seriously. Those were the actual words our administrators and then-school board members used. SmartBoard equity.

There were kids in classrooms with SmartBoards, and there were other kids in other classrooms without SmartBoards. Not fair!

Hence: SmartBoard equity. Taxpayers had to buy SmartBoards for all the classrooms so all the kids could have SmartBoards all the time.

We've got high school kids who can't do long division (I tutored one such student this summer), but no worries. Our district has achieved SmartBoard equity, and that's what counts.


I realize I've told the SmartBoard equity story before.

I will probably tell it again, because I can't get over it. Where tales of SmartBoard equity are concerned, once is not enough.

High-Tech Heretic: Reflections of a Computer Contrarian
High-Tech Heretic: Reflections of a Computer Contrarian

Oversold and Underused: Computers in the Classroom
Oversold and Underused: Computers in the Classroom

the founder, chairman, and CEO of Netflix has a really bad idea
speaking of technology and stagnant scores
oh brave new world!
codswallop, part 2