Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Ratio Programmer needs to review his basic facts

Maybe this is the same guy that programmed the progress bar? From XKCD:

Regression Data and those "Found" pictures

When I teach regression or curve-matching, I like to use real-life stuff for most of the examples. Linear is easy but some of the others can be difficult to find right off the top of my head. Kids have a tougher time.

I think it's counter-productive to let them misfit curves to the real-world. I don't send them off to take random pictures and I won't accept a physically inappropriate curve fit to the image of a cloudbank, like this. Firstly, there isn't a curve there. Second, it's not a cubic. It isn't, won't and never will be.

Continued below the jump:

Regressions on the TI

Kate Nowak was asking about data for Regressions on the TI and I added a few:

Linear: temperature vs. volume of gas in a closed container
10oC, 500 ml; 20oC, 520 ml; 30oC, 531 ml; 40oC, 558 ml;
What I like about this one is extending the line backwards until V=0. The resulting temperature is very close to absolute zero. These are kid-found numbers and yet we get within 10o of the accepted absolute zero. That's definitely cool.

The freestyle skiers and motocross users have a program that allows a video to be converted into stop motion or for two videos to be superimposed, called Dartfish. They use it at the Olympics to show two racers running a course simultaneously. Search Google images for Dartfish and racers and then combine the pictures and a grid. Make sure to tell them to mark the centers of gravity. Or not. Make it interesting with one of Dan's Pictures that doesn't have the complete arc.

Then, here's a set of points. Figure out which regression gives you the highest value of R^2 -- 2nd catalog > Diagnostics ON
x: -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3
y: 3, -8, -7, 0, 7, 8, -3

An additional note for anyone using TI: In all of these, I have them put the equation into the y= list. I let them retype a couple times, then mention that (Stat, Calc, 4) LinReg (VARS, Y-Yars, Y1) Y1 will automatically put the equation into Y1 if it is empty. Use a different Y if Y1 isn't empty. Then you can have the points and the regression showing together. This stunt works with any of the regressions.

I got into the spirit and wanted a total list for future reference so I copied the comments from folks who chimed in. I kept those who provided links or a different thought and trimmed the rest. I did not check the links and did some editing ...

Read more below the jump:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

PeggyU asked what I was going to do on my snow day ... Go for a walk!

Pictures below the jump:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

More Snow - Yippee !

Six inches on the ground at the beginning of evening class. Four more by the end of it. The differential on the van is dragging a trail. [insert joke of your choice here].
We've already gotten the phone call. Aaahhhhh.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Can't resist the Humor

From Not Always Right, a customer service horror stories website:
Those Who Definitely Can’t
(Bookstore | Santa Cruz, CA, USA)
Customer: “Hi, can you tell me about your Educator Appreciation Weekend?
Me: “Sure! Teachers normally get 20% off on things they buy for their classroom.”
Customer: “Okay, so how do I prove that I’m a teacher?”
Me: “Do you have a pay stub from your school?”

Friday, February 19, 2010

I'd think SpecEd would remember to CYA

They were Suspended for Protecting the Kids. What hooey. I especially love this line, "Since the parents had expressed their opinions to us, we thought this was all that was needed" so they refused to administer the test.


Click title to read the rest

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

ChartJunk Redux

You'd think The Business Insider' Chart of the Day could get it right but they have fallen prey to the evils of Chartjunk:
Read more below:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Now you know why it's called Generation Y

Thanks to
Buckhorn Road for reminding me that I had these buried in the academic folder. and to Darren for the link to Buckhorn. Note: that second is sourced Flint (MI) Police Department and comes courtesy of the Detroit Free Press. For some reason, the kids don't think it's appropriate. I merely say, "At some point, the powers that be will decide that your 'funny' and 'no big deal' are not and are, respectively. You're nearly adults and people will expect you to behave as such." Not sure it sticks, but it's fun to say.

National Health Care

Darren, of Right on the Left Coast, has posted about socialized medicine.

I have to disagree.
"Our federal system was created so that the states could serve as "laboratories" for democracy, trying out programs and seeing if they work. Three states have tried government-mandated health care, and three states have failed at it. Anyone who thinks such a program would succeed at the national level is a liberal political ideologue or a fool, but I repeat myself."
Interesting Dichotomy. False one, too.

First, our states were not created to be laboratories, they were autonomous states banding together for a common goal. Federalism was at a minimum because they had no intention of giving up rights they perceived to be held by the States. Over the years, that has changed as the Nation decided that local practices were in need of improvement. Civil rights vs slavery, national defense, highways, Rural Electrification ... there are many reasons for national control, some better, some worse.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

NBC sucks

Don't you just love how NBC bitched about how it's losing money on these Olympics when it screws up the coverage so badly? I'm trying to watch the men's moguls - NBC is showing the qualifications right now - instead of the LIVE finals round. All around the world, people are watching it live in their countries - but not Americans. No, we get to watch Bob Costas blather on, see one run down the course from 8 hours ago, then 5minutes of commercials, then two runs, then more stupid-assed commentators, then figure-skating.

The ADHD nation and its ADHD networks.

Thanks a boatload. I hope NBC goes bankrupt over this.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Google logo - cheeky humor.

I wonder what exactly makes up the "oo" part of the Google name?

Moon over Vancouver.

And you thought teenagers' excuses were bad, part 2

from NYTimes, via SlashDot:
Helene Hegemann's first book ... what's interesting now is that she has been caught plagiarizing many passages in the book. Amazingly, she has not denied it, but instead claims there is nothing wrong with it. She claims that she is part of a new generation that has grown up with mixing and sampling in all media, including music and art, and this is legitimate in modern culture. 
Bullshit. "Sampling?" Please.

And you thought teenagers' excuses were bad, part 1

The backstory: a Rutland, Vermont police officer is being charged with viewing child porn on his office computer.  Court papers have been redacting his name until now, but that's over.  The recently-viewed list and other evidence is pretty damning.  He's basically toast but, for some reason, he thought that this excuse might get him off the hook:
Schauwecker admitted to accessing pornographic sites although he told investigators that he went to the sites to research the quality of cameras used by the porn producers.
Um, yeah. And the "multiple racks of pornographic dvds" found in your locker? 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

It's not a factory.

Schools matter quotes a letter to the editor of the NYTimes:
"The Times notes that No Child Left Behind was unpopular "partly because it requires schools to administer far more standardized tests …". ("Experts Say a Rewrite of Nation’s Main Education Law Will Be Hard This Year," January 28). Education Secretary Duncan has announced that the Race to the Top national standards plan will include national tests linked to the standards, which means far more testing than we had with NCLB."
Okay. Let's stop here and discuss this for a second. NCLB was not vilified because it required testing, but because it mandated changes to the schools based on those tests, changes that would not fix the issue that those tests were thought to identify but didn't.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010


I read this on another blog's comments: "My school had meetings this week to brainstorm ideas for ways to incentivize our sophomores to care about the CAHSEE."

Um, maybe they could start by eliminating words like "incentivize"?

I'm for testing - sort of.

Schools matter quotes a letter to the editor of the NYTimes:
"All educators understand the necessity of assessment, but it is our obligation to do the minimum amount of testing necessary, and no more. Every minute spent testing that is not necessary bleeds time from learning, and every dollar spent on testing that is not necessary is stolen from investments that really need to be made in schools. Any new education law should result in less testing, not more. - Stephen Krashen"

Apologies to Stephen but state-wide testing, done right, doesn't bleed anything or "steal money" from anything, really. Using loaded words does get you published but it doesn't make your argument any better.

If I had my druthers, I'd have testing that would happen mid-course and end of course. These would be called Midterm Exam and Final Exam. The exams would not be written by the teacher but by a group made up from the district. Exams should at least be department-wide. Scoring would be be done by the teacher, but with other teachers being able to review the materials. Multiple choice is half. Clearly defined scoring for the student-constructed response section. All teachers aware of the curriculum and of the topics on the exam.

That's it. Two tests. Every grade at the same time.
No assemblies. No illnesses. No field trips. No sports dismissals. No bullying seminars. No peer mediations. No suspensions. No doctor's appointments. No guidance appointments. No excuses.

If you want a nationwide test, that would take place at the same time for every student tested and would count somehow. Like the SAT.

Now that I think about it, giving everyone an SAT in October of their senior year would be cheaper and more accurate than the silly state-written things I've seen so far.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What's a failing school?

These truths I hold to be self-evident:
1. You can't fix a failing school by converting it into a charter school, replacing its administration with a new administration that had been fired from another failing school, or by testing until the kids go bat-crack crazy. (h/t to Ritchie for that expression!)

2. You can't measure a school based on tests that aren't taken seriously.

3. You can't reliably identify a failing school by testing because the criteria were so poorly defined in the first place and because the Law is looking from the wrong perspective.

4. The educational experience of a small fraction of one ethnic group doesn't represent the experience of all of the students in that school any more than my abilities as a teacher can be "averaged" with those of the loser next door and the PhD on the other side.


Monday, February 8, 2010

What's my line? Level 2 certified.

I like this:
Parents of Mississippi public school students now can go online to see whether their children's instructors are licensed in the subject area they teach. The website shows the type of degree an educator has attained, the subject or subjects the person is certified to teach, when the license will expire and whether or not the license is valid.

I'm sure that some people will be upset, but I think this kind of thing is a good way to allow parents to choose the teachers their kids have. Of course, all those Master's Degrees will go up in number, attained with fluff courses and bullshit credits, but at least things are more out in the open.

Maybe the days of an English major in the math classroom are over. I don't know about the Coach in the social studies room, though.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A million points of extra credit

Here’s a classic idea from 360:
Suppose you teach a course and you want to have 3 exams each worth 20% of your grade, homework worth 10%, and a final worth 30%. One way to do this is to set the midterms at 100 points each, the final at 150 points, and homework scaled to 50 points for a total of 500 points in the class.

So far so good, right? The problem with this is that if you offer extra credit you have to be careful not to give too much — you wouldn’t award 10 points for being the first to speak in class, right? (OK, you might, but that would be pretty generous.) So if you want to be able to offer smaller amounts but not have them sound small, you need to have a larger total number of points.

How large? How about 1 trillion points! That ties in nicely to the scale of the national debt, which you can tie together with mathematical literacy and/or an interdisciplinary math/political science activity. Tests are now worth 200 billion points. The final is 300 billion. And now, if a student gives a good answer in class you can off the cuff award them one million points of extra credit! The student feels good — who doesn’t like to receive a cool million points in extra credit? — and you don’t even have to bother remembering to enter it in your gradebook. On the other hand, if there are little errors on an exam that you want to point out but don’t necessarily want to penalize (forgetting to write parenthesis, for example, so that 2·(3x+5) is written as 2 · 3x+5 ) you could take off 50 million points. That’s enough to get anyone’s attention.

I think in some of our classes this would be intimidating, so it’s probably not the best scheme in general. But in other classes, especially the upper level ones, I think our majors would see this as amusing and, perhaps, a help in internalizing the scale of some of these numbers.

Like I said, tempting.
If only gradequick allowed for it.

Make the Super Bowl a National Holiday

Something we can all support is an acknowledgment of the current reality?
When you think about the Super Bowl--it's hard not to, this week--you have to wonder whether maybe it's time that we formally recognized it for what it is: a national holiday. Switch the game to Monday (Americans have become conditioned to watching football on Monday night) and make it a three-day weekend. Congress could pass the usual proclamations, the Postal Service could design a commemorative stamp, and the president could issue a pronouncement about what this day means to the American spirit.
I'm getting chills just thinking about it ... but maybe that's just the weather.

Colleges makes kids Liberal apparently.

The Chronicle quotes a study that college makes students more liberal but not smarter about civics.

I have so many questions, starting with basic methodology, below the fold:

Saturday, February 6, 2010

One more teacher-bash. Defended.

Joanne Jacobs blogs "Waiting for Superman, a movie bemoaning the U.S. education system, has won the audience award for best U.S. documentary at the Sundance Film Festival." Stewart Nusbaumer on Huffington Post is quoted saying many things, few of them particularly insightful.
"The movie “demystifies” the education system. We have tried throwing a ton of money at the problem, created a litany of newfangled reforms, even passed new laws, but nothing has worked. Our schools remain dismal."
Meh. Maybe they failed because the reformers aren't teachers? That they were clueless as to what makes a good education? a good teacher? But then he has this:
"What Waiting for Superman drives home is to improve our education system requires improving our teachers. Requires demanding our teachers get deep in the trenches, be allowed to be flexible and innovative, persist, and to be held accountable. This the teacher unions and the Democratic Party will not accept, even for the sake of our children."
Darren replies. On his blog, he only links to his own comment. I think it deserves repeating. ;-)
Below the break


Once again, the call is made for schools to do what the parents do not (or cannot).

Expulsion from school for something that happened off campus, out of the school's jurisdiction and out of the school's control? Should we expel students who take a summer vacation to Florida and smoke pot on the beach? Or one who steals money from the till at their part-time job? Or one who cyber-bullies over accounts the school did not set up, can't supervise and doesn't control?

Bullying is a problem. The new laws against it aren't a solution that makes sense or that can be applied fairly by schools (by fairly, I mean in ways that don't simply get the school sued every time). Does the school do something if the bullied person is at a different school? Are we just reacting because of a pretty girl who committed suicide - because someone said mean things about her nude photos sent to several teenage boys?

The urge to "Do Something" is strong. The limits on what a school can do are also strong.

The school cannot subpoena anything or anyone and they have no ability under the law to coerce students into revealing anything. They cannot pry into personal matters or demand that you reveal the contents of your computer. They cannot eliminate cellphones, never mind require that boys and girls stop sexting. They cannot stop them dating the "wrong" boys, or getting tattoos that proclaim themselves tramps or sluts or pimps or hos, or stop them from driving too fast, or texting behind the wheel or updating their Facebook page with "I'm a prostitute for him." The kids have rights.

If the new laws were to make it possible to defend the rights of the victims, it'd be great, but I'm not holding my breath. Schools can only react to a "crime" or an offense already committed in the school (or on a school-sponsored trip). The current law is very clear on this. They cannot require that people with histories be removed from their schools to forestall future crimes.

Furthermore, bullying is rarely out in the open where teachers can see it. Only the aftermath is visible to the teachers and even then is often obscured by rage or clothing. Expecting that teachers will be the policemen and investigate off-campus crime is laughable. Do you want me poking around in your kid's life out of school just on the off-chance that I might find an issue? You'd scream and rightfully so.

"Few cases are prosecuted because they are extraordinarily difficult to prosecute," an article says.

When it gets reported, then what? Give them a "detention"? How about a "suspension," which for those in question amounts to a vacation from school. Can you prove it? Do you have actual evidence or just hearsay? Is it a crime to call someone a slut or is it something the kid should shrug off? How about for the twentieth time today? Did he get tripped and punched where someone believable could see it clearly? How much jostling is bullying - or is it horseplay among friends - and who decides? (We've already gone too far this way - a friends punch to the shoulder landed him out for a week).

If the school expels the kid, it's still not over. He goes to another school but he still knows everyone. If the other school won't take him - no wait, they can't refuse - the law says that you have to provide a Free and Appropriate Public Education. Or you contract out to the reform school-type thing - $50k a year for the alternative - and the kid keeps bullying from there. There's still a Facebook. Now, how do we deal with it?

Making a bully get a job is usually the best way to smarten him up - because the adults there won't tolerate it. (Military is just better and quicker at this step.) That's all fine, but will anyone accept a school determining this?

You cannot stop bullying because that is the nature of people in a closed society, which is what teenagers essentially are. I don't want to sound defeatist, but don't expect any law to change fundamentally obnoxious people or save everyone from the bullies.

We still need parents to help their kid get past bullying and be enough of a presence and caregiver that they don't resort to suicide or murder.

Like Arne and Danny and Pat and Rahm ...

I'm not sure I'm in this discussion.

"Trust me, after taxes, a million dollars is not a lot of money."
-- RNC chairman Michael Steele
Screw you, Michael. You and the elephant you rose in on.

"What if a Democrat said this? You pick on Republicans much more than ..."
Shut up. If it's stupid, it's stupid.

Danny Glover: "The earthquake in Haiti was caused by global warming."
Pat Robertson: "The earthquake was caused by a pact with the Devil."
Arne Duncan: "Total devastation from a hurricane is the best thing to happen to New Orleans"
Rahm Emmanuel: "That's f***king retarded."

Yes, Rahm. Yes, it is.