What I learned from studying math

Alex Korchinski writes about what he learned by majoring in applied math — other than math.

Korchinski earned his degree, then moved away from math, he concludes. “Six years into my career, I can say that being comfortable with numbers and data has been useful, but what has proved invaluable are the qualities that math imbued in me —patience, attention to detail, humility and persistence.”

You would think that every college graduate would have those skills. 

In a famous study, classrooms of American and Japanese first graders were given an impossible math problem. The American students gave up after less than 30 seconds, while the Japanese students persisted for an hour before the proctors stopped them to confess that the problem was unsolvable. (How cruel!). The grand difference came down to Asian cultures prioritizing practice and persistence in education, along with embracing that struggle is a large part of the learning process. In the Western world, the idea of inherent intelligence is pushed and prized, which undercuts the importance of educational struggle. . . . Give an American kid a math problem, and chances are they’ll squirm, whine, complain and hit you with that tired refrain: “When am I ever going to use this in the real world?”

Answering that question directly is a mistake. When are you going to need to factor a polynomial in the “real world”? Maybe never, kid. Especially not with that attitude.

But when are you going to face a problem that requires focusing for more than 30 seconds? All the goddamn time.

FBI ‘Grossly Inflated’ Statistics on Investigations Stymied by Encrypted Smartphones

Big surprise. 

The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation provided Congress with “grossly inflated” statistics on the number of electronic devices it has been been unable to access due to encryption, reports The Washington Post

Last year, the FBI claimed to have been locked out of close to 7,800 devices that were connected to crimes, but the actual number of devices that were inaccessible is smaller, closer in scope to between 1,000 and 2,000. The FBI discovered an error in the method used for counting encrypted smartphones last month, and has not yet completed a full internal audit to determine the correct number. 


Lawsuit seeks for Idaho schools to repay student fees

Free. You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means. 

A class-action lawsuit is seeking for Idaho public schools to repay the fees that many districts have charged students for classes, supplies and activities. 

The lawsuit filed earlier this month in federal court claims the fees amount to “a form of coercion to pay for essential and normal elements of a free public education,” the Idaho Statesman reported Monday. 

The suit focuses on the supply costs and other fees related to specific classes. Among the claims, the suit states that fees affect students in what courses they select and students face pressure from their peers if they cannot afford the fees. 

The suit lists its plaintiffs as students and parents at two school districts in eastern Idaho as well as “all similarly situated patrons and students” at 115 school districts and about 50 charter schools in the state. 

The lawsuit seeks the repayment of all fees that the school districts have collected since October 2012. The suit estimated that districts charge about $20 million in fees each year. 

In addition to recovering the fees, the suit seeks to end the practice in the state, attorney Robert Huntley said. The suit also aims to spur lawmakers into better funding the schools, he said. 

“Every candidate for the Legislature, every legislator, every governor, every governor candidate says they support education,” Huntley said. “But not one of them comes forward with the means to properly fund schools.” 

The Boise School District has made an effort to stop charging class fees, and it does not charge students who participate in sports, spokesman Dan Hollar said. The Boise district also has more funding options available than what most other districts have, he said.


‘Baby, may I change your diaper?’

And what do you do with a fussy baby who can only say “no” and who doesn’t want his diaper changed? 

An Aussie sex education expert says parents should ask for permission to change a child’s diaper, reports Kashmira Gander on Newsweek.

“We work with parents from birth” on how to create a “culture of consent,” said Deanne Carson, who works for Body Safe Australia.

She acknowledges that babies can’t talk.

“I’m going to change your nappy now, is that OK?” Of course a baby’s not going to respond “yes mum, that’s awesome I’d love to have my nappy changed.”

“But if you leave a space and wait for body language and wait to make eye contact then you’re letting that child know that their response matters,” she said.

Body Safety Australia tries to prevent sexual abuse by teaching children “about consent and respecting boundaries,” reports Gander.

‘Baby, may I change your diaper?’

Are test scores irrelevant?

NewImageA grade on a test doesn’t show how smart kids are. But it does show how well they’re prepared to succeed in high school and beyond.

Students defended their Providence, Rhode Island middle school in a panel discussion sponsored by Generation Citizen, reports the Providence Journal.

Roger Williams Middle School is better than its reputation, students said. “They described a school where the adults care, where students feel safe and where their passions, whether it’s theater or sports, are allowed to flourish.”

“While the students rightly made the claim that test scores shouldn’t define a school, they seemed to imply that the scores don’t matter,” writes Erika Sanzi on Good School Hunting. Tweets by local educators and advocates endorsed this view.

Here’s the problem at Roger Williams Middle School, writes Sanzi.  Only 7 percent are at grade level in reading, 3 percent in math.

What kind of future awaits students who cannot read on level and cannot do basic math? For starters, students who don’t read at grade level by 3rd grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school.

Are test scores irrelevant?

Don’t Tell Anyone, But We Just Had Two Years Of Record-Breaking Global Cooling

Not reported in the news because it goes against the narrative. 

I like the last two sentences: 

News outlets should decide what gets covered based on its news value, not on whether it pushes an agenda. Otherwise, they’re doing the public a disservice and putting their own already shaky credibility at greater risk.


Inconvenient Science: NASA data show that global temperatures dropped sharply over the past two years. Not that you’d know it, since that wasn’t deemed news. Does that make NASA a global warming denier?

Writing in Real Clear Markets, Aaron Brown looked at the official NASA global temperature data and noticed something surprising. From February 2016 to February 2018, “global average temperatures dropped by 0.56 degrees Celsius.” That, he notes, is the biggest two-year drop in the past century.

“The 2016-2018 Big Chill,” he writes, “was composed of two Little Chills, the biggest five month drop ever (February to June 2016) and the fourth biggest (February to June 2017). A similar event from February to June 2018 would bring global average temperatures below the 1980s average.”

Isn’t this just the sort of man-bites-dog story that the mainstream media always says is newsworthy?

In this case, it didn’t warrant any news coverage.

In fact, in the three weeks since Real Clear Markets ran Brown’s story, no other news outlet picked up on it. They did, however, find time to report on such things as tourism’s impact on climate change, how global warming will generate more hurricanes this year, and threaten fish habitats, and make islands uninhabitable. They wrote about a UN official saying that “our window of time for addressing climate change is closing very quickly.”

Reporters even found time to cover a group that says they want to carve President Trump’s face into a glacier to prove climate change “is happening.”

In other words, the mainstream news covered stories that repeated what climate change advocates have been saying ad nauseam for decades.

Princeton Physicist Dr. Will Happer: ‘Doubling or tripling CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere will be a major benefit to life on Earth’

NewImageHe thinks that increasing the amount of plant food in the atmosphere (CO2) will green the planet. 

He should tell that to green house owners. 

Oh, wait…

Via The Washington Post. Excerpt:

Princeton physics professor William Happer pushed back against the term “denier.” Happer is one of the scientists I mentioned in my story as among those researchers who reject the notion that climate change is all that severe — and who was working with Pruitt’s EPA on the “red team-blue team” exercise.

When reached by email, Happer said the term “denier” is “designed to cast me and others like me as a Nazi apologist.”

“Any honest scientist should be a skeptic, most of all, a skeptic of his (or her) own scientific work, and the work of others,” Happer wrote to me. “If you insist on categorizing me as anything other than an honest scientist (and somewhat immodestly, a very good one),” he added, “you might call me a scientist who is persuaded that doubling or tripling CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere will be a major benefit to life on Earth.”