kitchen table math, the sequel: 1/1/12 - 1/8/12

Friday, January 6, 2012

We all want to be 'middle class'

Why we want to be middle class
But whatever its exact size, the middle class is usually considered more deserving – and more threatened – than those at the extremes.
This helps explain why we label the offering of financial aid to families with incomes up to $200,000, a policy of some Ivy League schools and other elite colleges, as help for the "middle class".  It feels good to do so, and since the definition is muddled, it's hard to challenge it.

Definition of middle class is muddled

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

the other answer to all our problems

Fitness in 6 minutes a week:
  • 20 to 30 seconds highest intensity exercise you can stand (running, jumping, etc – not sure about weight-lifting per se)
  • 4 minutes rest
  • repeat 20 to 30 seconds of highest intensity you can stand
  • repeat rest
  • continue for 4 to 6 cycles
  • repeat 3 times a week
Can You Get Fit in Six Minutes a Week?
June 24 2009
Fasting exercise:
  • 3 groups 28-year old men
  • overate by 30% of what they actually needed
  • diet was 50% fat
  • 1 group did no exercise
  • 1 group did rigorous running/cycling exercise 4 mornings a week – two workouts were 90 minutes; two were 60 AFTER eating breakfast & while also drinking sports drinks during exercise
  • 3rd group ate the same & did same exercise BEFORE breakfast – in fasting state
  • no-exercise group gained more than 6 pounds, became insulin resistant, and began storing fat inside muscle
  • vigorous exercise-after-breakfast group gained 3 pounds, also became insulin resistant & began storing fat inside muscle
  • fasting-exercise group gained no weight, did not become insulin resistant, and showed increase in protein related to glucose transport in muscle
  • exercise in fasting state burns fat, not carb
  • probably any level of fasting exercise would be better than nothing
The Benefits of Exercising Before Breakfast
by Gretchen Reynolds
December 15, 2010

I've decided to put these two together. I'm nixing the 90-minute workout in favor of a 10-minute walk/run with the dogs and 4 high-intensity cycles of jump-rope.*

Will let you know how it goes

*Speaking of jump rope, today's jump ropes, the ones with the "precision" ball bearing handles are awful! They spin too fast and too erratically, so much so that my sister calls them "spinny." What happened to the old jump ropes with hollow wood handles & the rope threaded through? Apparently someone's going to have to reinvent them. Fortunately, I discovered today that it is possible to get a very good workout jumping rope without the rope. All you have to do is imagine the rope.

when Harvard had to advertise

Top-drawer universities like Harvard and Columbia advertised for students steadily through August and September right up to opening day and offered entrance exams the weekend before classes resumed to give students every chance of taking and passing them.

Harvard even played down the difficulty of its entrance exam in ads, reprinted above, that it placed in The New York Times in September 1870, noting that of the 210 candidates who took its test the June before, “185 were admitted.”
Remembering When College Was a Buyer’s Bazaar
March 31, 2011

Shep Barbash's new book

Clear Teaching: The Book (pdf file)

I just downloaded my copy!

Monday, January 2, 2012

more on the mental number line

in the Wall Street Journal:
Body posture can influence how we estimate such things as age and size, a study shows.

Thirty-three undergraduates stood on a Wii Balance Board, a videogame-system accessory. Researchers surreptitiously manipulated the subjects' stances, slightly tilting them, though an onscreen measure misled the students into thinking they were evenly balanced.

In each stance, students answered 13 questions, including the height of the Eiffel Tower, the size of the Netherlands and the life expectancy of a parrot. On average, participants gave smaller estimates when they leaned left than when they stood straight or leaned right—stances producing virtually identical results.

"Mental-number-line theory" accounted for the finding, the researchers said. We envision numbers as they appear on a ruler, rising from left to right. Leaning left nudged estimates lower.

"Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller: Posture-Modulated Estimation," Anita Eerland, Tulio M. Guadalupe and Rolf A. Zwaan, Psychological Science (December).
Christopher Shea | Week in Ideas
number line posts

the answer to all our problems

exercise before breakfast:
The experiment lasted for six weeks. At the end, the nonexercising group was, to no one’s surprise, super-sized, having packed on an average of more than six pounds. They had also developed insulin resistance — their muscles were no longer responding well to insulin and weren’t pulling sugar (or, more technically, glucose) out of the bloodstream efficiently — and they had begun storing extra fat within and between their muscle cells. Both insulin resistance and fat-marbled muscles are metabolically unhealthy conditions that can be precursors of diabetes.

The men who ate breakfast before exercising gained weight, too, although only about half as much as the control group. Like those sedentary big eaters, however, they had become more insulin-resistant and were storing a greater amount of fat in their muscles.

Only the group that exercised before breakfast gained almost no weight and showed no signs of insulin resistance. They also burned the fat they were taking in more efficiently. “Our current data,” the study’s authors wrote, “indicate that exercise training in the fasted state is more effective than exercise in the carbohydrate-fed state to stimulate glucose tolerance despite a hypercaloric high-fat diet.”
Phys Ed: The Benefits of Exercising Before Breakfast
December 15, 2010, 12:01 AM
This year's New Year's Resolution.

query for palisadesk and other teachers and parents

As some of you know, I've been teaching freshman composition at a local college. I'm interested in hearing more about this category of readers:
The last group [of children experiencing the fourth-grade slump], which Jeannette Chall discusses in some detail, are students whose language skills generally are weak and who thus cannot make the jump from reading simple, literal text to more complex material, even when they decode well. While vocabulary is often mentioned as the key factor, I have not found this to be the case. Language comprehension generally – understanding of complex syntax, subordinate clauses, connecting words, subjunctive, pronoun referents, temporal sequence, idiomatic expressions – the list goes on. There are some good DI programs for developing the needed language skills, but this kind of “Fourth Grade Slump” requires a more long-term approach.
Worth revisting: Arthur Whimbey's zoonoses test.

palisadesk on phonics and multi-syllabic words

A propos of the “Fourth Grade Slump,” it can occur for several, quite different, reasons. Kids who have learned to read with solid synthetic phonics can still experience difficulty when they have to decode multisyllable words.... Even in the famous Clackmannanshire study (pdf file) (where all the students were taught a systematic phonics approach similar to Jolly Phonics), a number of students had to be specifically taught how to read multisyllable words in Year Four. They developed a program called “Phonics Revisted” to deal with this. It included, IIRC, learning to segment multisyllable words, some morphemic strategies, and emphasis on less common correspondences. Unfortunately the Clackmannanshire report doesn't provide many details.

However, the Clackmannanshire study only replicates what has been found on this side of the pond as well. Many students who are good decoders, because they have learned (or intuited) basic phonics skills, come to a screeching halt at mutisyllable words especially, as in examples by Allison and Chemprof, scientific terminology. These skills can be systematically taught, of course.
continue reading
and see:
K9sasha on Sopris West REWARDS
palisadesk on Orton-Gillingham compared to DI and Sopris West REWARDS

bidding war

Robert H. Frank writing in the Times:
WHY do many middle-class families now struggle to get by on two paychecks, whereas most got by on just one back in the 1950s and ’60s?

The answer, according to “The Two-Income Trap,” by Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi, is that many second paychecks today go toward financing a largely fruitless bidding war for homes in good school districts.

Parents naturally want to send their kids to good schools. But quality is relative. Because the best schools tend to be those serving expensive neighborhoods, parents must outbid 50 percent of other parents with the same goal just to send their children to a school of average quality.

How hard is that? I constructed a measure I call the toil index. It tracks the number of hours a median earner must work each month to earn the implicit rent for the median-priced house.

From 1950 to 1970, when incomes were growing at about the same rate for families up and down the income ladder, the toil index actually declined slightly. But since 1970 — a period during which income inequality has grown — the toil index has risen sharply.


From a postwar low of 41 hours a month in 1970, it rose to more than 100 hours in 2005.
December 31, 2011
Frank cites other factors, too (housing bubble, credit bubble). It would be interesting to see an estimate of how much the bidding war for suburban schools has contributed to the increase in Frank's toil index.

I remember, a few years ago, reading an estimate of what would happen to home prices in Westchester County if the state adopted a voucher system. A large drop, as I recall. Very large.

When I was a child, my dad, a farmer in central Illinois, was able to support a wife and four children. He didn't buy health insurance because he figured he'd come out ahead paying doctors out of pocket, and he was right. He put four children through college without loans.

Why are things different today?

Why has the cost of houses, health care, and public schools risen at above-inflation rates for decades?

That's what I'd like to know.