Monday, January 14, 2013

MoAR: political/legal pathologies, advice from unexpected sources, a confusing statement, and educational initial conditions..

as inspired by its current internet usage, MoAR is my new acronym for Monday Article Roundup.

also: last time i said that i'd stick to at most 5 articles .. and already i've gone back on my word. however, there are only four main themes which loosely tie these bits of news together. besides, if you're reading this on a monday, then you probably wouldn't mind some sources of procrastination, right? (-;

what kind of person would you identify as:
charming, focused, fearless, and highly active?

i've occasionally wondered whether psychopaths would make good mathematicians. apart from a certain amount of ruthlessness, this kind of goal-driven behavior tends to do well in academia.
Mental toughness and fearlessness often go hand in hand. Of course, to many of us lesser mortals, fearlessness may seem quite foreign. But Leslie explains the rationale behind this state—and how he maintains it. “The thing about fear, or the way I understand fear, I suppose—because, to be honest, I don't think I've ever really felt it—is that most of the time it's completely unwarranted anyway. What is it they say? Ninety-nine percent of the things people worry about never happen. So what's the point?

~ from "Wisdom from Psychopaths?" @sciam_mind
ok .. so maybe they'd make good statisticians instead. (-;

pathologies of a less academic nature

when teaching that "introduction to proofs" class, two years ago, i did my best to give short, clear examples and/or non-examples whenever possible, like how T9 fail is an example of the pigeοnhole principle or showing them Russell's paradox to indicate that not everything can be a set.

short is a key word here, though.

it wouldn't do to spend more than half a class on one, if only because there was always too much material to cover [1] and taking that much more time for one part of one lesson just wouldn't fit the logistics of the course.

thus, good counter-examples and pathologies can be tricky to construct .. but here, oddly enough, are some real world examples .. and i mean real world ..!
By Frieman's estimation, if corporations are indeed persons as was first established in the 1886 Supreme Court case Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad Co., and he offered evidence that a corporation was traveling inside his vehicle - riding shotgun, of course - then two people were in his car.

Enter the platinum coin. There’s a legal loophole allowing the Treasury to mint platinum coins in any denomination the secretary chooses. Yes, it was intended to allow commemorative collector’s items — but that’s not what the letter of the law says. And by minting a $1 trillion coin, then depositing it at the Fed, the Treasury could acquire enough cash to sidestep the debt ceiling ..

-- ✂ -- --

Lawmakers are still positioning themselves for a debt ceiling fight in a few months, but one Republican congressman wants to snuff out a particular idea immediately: the U.S. Treasury minting $1 trillion platinum coins to avert a debt ceiling showdown. Rep. Greg Waldεn (R-Ore.) has introduced a bill to specifically ban President Baracκ Οbama from minting the coins.

But Watson couldn't distinguish between polite language and profanity -- which the Urban Dictionary is full of. Watson picked up some bad habits from reading Wikipedia as well. In tests it even used the word "bullshιt" in an answer to a researcher's query.

um, which way? (insufficient data)

i was rather confused at this quote because (A) usually i don't see explicit calculus terminology in the news and (B) in which way is the concavity changing?
"It's pretty clear that pricing power of colleges has reached an inflection point," said John Nelson, a managing director at Moody's who oversaw the survey team.
sure, colleges have been able to raise tuition with impunity, for as long as i can remember .. but monotonic behavior only uses the first derivative, not the second.

i take it that the quoted director means a decrease in the second derivative; given the "dire warning" mentality of the times, i don't think he means that tuition is increasing at a now-increasing rate .. unless he's a real cynic at heart! q-:

in the classroom: boys ≤ girls?

i had to re-read this article, if only to make sure i wasn't interpreting its conclusions with too much of my own biases. (this is probably futile, of course, but issues of gender are hard to keep objective.)

also, keep in mind that this article focuses on elementary school education (where children's ages typically range from 5-11).
"The skill that matters the most in regards to how teachers graded their students is what we refer to as ‘approaches toward learning,'" said Christopher Cornwell, head of economics in the UGA Terry College of Business and one of the study's authors. "You can think of ‘approaches to learning' as a rough measure of what a child's attitude toward school is: It includes six items that rate the child's attentiveness, task persistence, eagerness to learn, learning independence, flexibility[,] and organization. I think that anybody who's a parent of boys and girls can tell you that girls are more of all of that."

-- ✂ -- --

The data show, for the first time, that gender disparities in teacher grades start early and uniformly favor girls. In every subject area, boys are represented in grade distributions below where their test scores would predict.

the elementary school curriculum and routine has probably changed a lot since i was a kid. for one thing, i don't remember having very many tests other than spelling quizzes and short math quizzes, and those were hardly standardised.

standardised test scores are easy to compare, which means that all of statistics can be cast upon them. (that's why the tests are standardised, after all.) however, to what extent is the data time-dependent? if their presence in elementary school education is new, say in the last 5 years, then can we really guarantee that these statistical findings are as valid as we think?

it'd be different if the testing data and the implemented grading policies
were kept over a longer period, like 30 years. the article doesn't say.

our values change over time, too. sitting still and paying attention in class has always been viewed as a favorable trait in students; however, those traits are hard to cultivate when students aren't given much (if any) time for recess.

i don't know. i don't think anyone knows the answers .. at least, the kinds of answers that parents and educators and policy-makers want. the one unambiguous opinion i have, though, is that i'm tired of seeing simple 1-D correlations. the world is a complicated place with a lot of complicated features to it, so why would any one phenomenon depend on only one parameter?

[1] now that i think about it, i should have asked my TA at the time to present them during problem sessions. on the other hand, it wasn't clear to me that he was actually doing what i already asked him to do, anyway ..

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