Monthly Archives: September 2008

Too Good for Words

Me, My Bike, and Lenin

Me, My Bike, and Lenin

Just Hangin'

Just Hangin

Lock-ins, Haircuts, 10Ks, and Bowling

These past two days have been busy!  Friday night I stayed at school until about 1:00 AM to help with a lock-in for the older students.  It was a great success.  On Saturday, I went to church, had lunch with QSI friends, and then bought a razor.  I gave myself a haircut.  Since my haircut, I have been told I looked like a prisoner, a neo-Nazi, and a hooligan.  Oh well.

Today I ran in my first 10K and got a time under 50 minutes.  I thought I was going to die at the end, but I did finish.  I ran with a Kazakh girl most of the race.  We worked together to improve our times.  When I was tired, she encouraged me, and vice versa when she was tired. I think we finished with about the same time.  The sad thing is that she was running in old Converse shoes, while I had my Asics gels.

After running, I quickly changed and went bowling.  Our team ended up winning by two pins!  Scores are made up of five bowlers over three games.  It was very close.  We won the first game, and then lost the second and third games, but still won.  The other team took the loss well.  The worst part of the match for me was the first two games – my scores were 97 and 99.  But my last score was a 160. I am glad that I could contribute meaningfully to our victory.

It just doesn’t work

In my classes, I emphasize skills.  I try and develop empowered thinking, where students are asked to solve problems, engage in metacognitive thought, to think flexibly, and to apply learning to real-life situations.  I strive to bring my teaching in line with current research-based practices.  In that regard, I am supportive of The Partnership for 21st Century Skills.  I really appreciate their graphic organizer that visually demonstrates the importance of skills in relation to content knowledge.

Why do these skills matter?  Here is photographic evidence as an answer to the question.  This design, made to hold flower boxes, works mediocre at best when there are flower boxes setting in the wrought iron frames. But when the boxes are removed, these pieces of wrought iron become more like weapons than anything.  The design just doesn’t work.  21st Century Skills?  I say no.  It just doesn’t work.

Have a Good Idea?

Project 10100

Google is sponsoring an “contest,” in part to celebrate its 10th year in business.  It is looking for good ideas in the following categories:

  • Community: How can we help connect people, build communities and protect unique cultures?
  • Opportunity: How can we help people better provide for themselves and their families?
  • Energy: How can we help move the world toward safe, clean, inexpensive energy?
  • Environment: How can we help promote a cleaner and more sustainable global ecosystem?
  • Health: How can we help individuals lead longer, healthier lives?
  • Education: How can we help more people get more access to better education?
  • Shelter: How can we help ensure that everyone has a safe place to live?
  • Everything else: Sometimes the best ideas don’t fit into any category at all.

If an idea is chosen by Google, it will be funded for implementation.

Here are the criteria for judging:

  • Reach: How many people would this idea affect?
  • Depth: How deeply are people impacted? How urgent is the need?
  • Attainability: Can this idea be implemented within a year or two?
  • Efficiency: How simple and cost-effective is your idea?
  • Longevity: How long will the idea’s impact last?

The deadline for submission of ideas is October 20.  There is a submission form.  Complete information on the program can be found here.  Videos (no more than 30 seconds), can be submitted to supplement the application.

More on The Teaching Company

The Teaching Company

Free Audio Download

In a previous entry, I touted The Teaching Company as a company that is putting out high quality products, which, if watched carefully, will sometimes have great sales.  Another marketing idea that they sometimes employ is providing free sample lectures on interesting topics.

Today I received an email from The Teaching Company letting me know that there is a free download entitled The Search for What Killed the Dinosaurs. These lectures are well worth a listen.

Success Orientations

Success Orientations Poster

I asked my students to create posters outlining, among other things, QSI’s success orientations.  These are the qualities that QSI expects its graduating students to attain.  They are certainly aspirational.  If the personal growth that I am seeing in A. and other classmates is any indication, attainment is  quite likely. By the way, it was A. who did such an exceptional job on the poster pictured here.

Today, for example, J. personally thanked and hugged the Director for all of his hard work.  Another student has thanked me a couple of times following lessons.  I am increasingly impressed with what I see happening.  More to come.

Mathematics and Politics

My father has filled me in on an excellent source of information regarding the US Presidential election – Five ThirtyEight.com.  Here is some information from the FAQ section of the site:

What is the mission of this website? Most broadly, to accumulate and analyze polling and political data in way that is informed, accurate and attractive. Most narrowly, to give you the best possible objective assessment of the likely outcome of upcoming elections.

How is this site different from other compilations of polls like Real Clear Politics? There are several principal ways that the FiveThityEight methodology differs from other poll compilations:

Firstly, we assign each poll a weighting based on that pollster’s historical track record, the poll’s sample size, and the recentness of the poll. More reliable polls are weighted more heavily in our averages.

Secondly, we include a regression estimate based on the demographics in each state among our ‘polls’, which helps to account for outlier polls and to keep the polling in its proper context.

Thirdly, we use an inferential process to compute a rolling trendline that allows us to adjust results in states that have not been polled recently and make them ‘current’.

Fourthly, we simulate the election 10,000 times for each site update in order to provide a probabilistic assessment of electoral outcomes based on a historical analysis of polling data since 1952. The simulation further accounts for the fact that similar states are likely to move together, e.g. future polling movement in states like Michigan and Ohio, or North and South Carolina, is likely to be in the same direction.

I regret the degree to which divisive political talk has replaced substantive discussion of important issues.  I can say that I appreciate the calm thoroughness of this website.  Perhaps there is a place for the calm reserve of mathematics in a field of endeavor that is so full of emotional turmoil.  With its track record of success Five ThirtyEight.com is worth watching.