Basics: LCM and GCF

LCMI've added 2 worksheets to The Basics page--one on finding the greatest common factor (greatest common divisor) and the other on the least common multiple. You should change the teacher name and it would be a good idea to experiment with the random numbers being generated to make sure the level is appropriate for your class.

Here are some stories that caught my eye this past week:

  • The always interesting EAGNews has the provocative article title "2% of Camden, NJ high schoolers ‘proficient’ in math — despite spending $26,000 per student". Read further to find, "EAGnews last year pointed out that despite a 14-to-1 student to teacher ratio, and much higher spending than other districts at $26,000 per student – about $8,000 per student more than the state average – less than half of the Camden’s students graduated high school. That’s likely because much of the spending went to unnecessary expenses that have little to nothing to do with improving academics...“Camden students enjoyed jaunts to various performing arts theaters ($57,587); professional sporting events ($10,112); amusement parks ($20,427); movies theaters, bowling alleys and arcades ($23,759); the Medieval Times dinner theater ($13,668); museums, zoos and aquariums ($120,174).“School officials told the Board of Education that the bowling outings improved student’s ‘hand eye coordination.’ … They told the board that roller skating outings helped students ‘expand muscle coordination, balance and rhythm,’ … (and) trips to amusement parks are meant to improve students’ ‘math and physics skills.’” The needless field trips, however, were dwarfed by the cash administrators spent on themselves or other staff members, including nearly $1 million in legal fees, $394,818 in professional conferences and workshops, $708,817 on consultants, $86,989 on restaurants and catering and $160,666 on drug and alcohol treatment."". Public education puts massive amounts of money under the control of people with no good accountability. What will happen to those who mismanage funds? Almost certainly, nothing.
  • The Qatar Masters Open 2015 is almost over. After 7 rounds Mamedyarov, Carlsen, and Sjugirov are tied for first with 5.5. You can follow the games, with commentary, here.
  • This week marked the 128th birthday of the late, great Ramanujan. IndiaToday has "...some facts on his genius".
  • on the scrooge behavior at an Idaho school. "A cafeteria worker at an Idaho middle school was fired for giving lunch to a 12-year-old student who said she was hungry and had no money for food. The worker said she tried to pay for the lunch, but the school rejected her attempt...the student had told her she had no money for the $1.70 lunch. Bowden then asked her supervisor if she could purchase the meal for the girl. When the offer was denied, Bowden gave out the lunch for free...she was first placed on leave last week, then summarily fired, by the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District for the theft of school district property and inaccurate transactions in her duties". In your own words, figure out how you would describe the problem here (rigidness of gov't rules, bureaucratic incompetence, etc) and ask yourself how such a rotten system is going to produce good educational results. Shameful.
  • If you check the last two posts you'll find the remarkable lengths that the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) is going to in order to keep students from getting a better education by bypassing MPS--even when it costs taxpayers a lot of money to do so. EAGNews has news on a change in policy: "...the MPS board has stubbornly resisted applications for new charter schools – particularly those that do not want to be staffed with MPS-hired union teachers – even though such schools often produce significantly better academic results than regular MPS schools. But the board changed direction last week, officially chartering the new Milwaukee Excellence Charter School, a “no excuses” school that promises to establish and uphold high academic expectations for students, as well as a strict disciplinary policy, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel....Why did the school board suddenly change its mind about the school, after giving it a lukewarm reception last spring?Apparently because the founder of the school, former Teach for America executive and MPS graduate Maurice Thomas, promised to aggressively recruit students away from private voucher schools and independent charter schools and lure them back into MPS.". This story has a lot more chapters in it. How much money will MPS be willing to waste on weakening competition that exposes how badly the schools are run? Since it isn't their money, the answer is going to be "a lot".
  • Remember the student in SC who was manhandled by a police officer? has a follow up: "Officer Ben Fields, the cop guilty of the assault, was fired from his position, but he has faced no legal consequences as a result of his actions, as any normal person would in the same situation.". With respect to the girl who was assaulted and the girl who filmed the assault, "Both girls face misdemeanor charges of disturbing schools, which could result in a $1,000 fine or 90 days in jail if they are found guilty.". It's a legal system and not a justice system.
  • with an interesting piece on the recruitment of teachers from the Phillipines to teach in Mississippi schools. There are a couple of angles here. First is that Mississippi has a shortage of public school teachers. Like many states, the certification requirements needed to become "qualified" in the eyes of the state are not actually about getting qualified teachers but serve the interests of unions, teaching colleges, and even the state for raising revenue by fees to ensure "standards". Mississippi decides to solve the DOE created problem by hiring teachers from the Phillipines. Are they certified? No. Second angle, "Once the interviews were complete and the school board approved the hires, Avenida began working on the visa process for the employees, who often pay her company a fee of about $10,000 to cover visa fees, transcripts, airfare and housing, among other expenses.". Does this seem like it could be a conflict of interest?!? Third angle, "However, the Mississippi Department of Education’s recent policy change requiring teachers be certified by an American program poses a challenge, according to Avenida.“By changing the licensing requirements where they do not accept teaching coursework, academic coursework from the Philippines … It slows down or doesn’t encourage teachers to come to Mississippi because of that,” she said....Foreign teachers in Mississippi must now obtain an expert citizen’s license, one-year teaching licenses issued by the Mississippi Department of Education to people witcertain business and professional experience. They must then go through a Mississippi teacher certification program to obtain a valid license.". So Mississippi has changed certification rules to allow teachers from the Phillipines to be allowed to teach (rather than US citizens), an education official uses her company to find those noncertified teachers (making money in the process) who are classified as "expert citizens" (what does that mean?!?) and those new recruits will have to spend a chunk of their salary to the state to become "certified". Education is a racket.
  • The stupidity continues, this time at Oberlin. reports, "What's eating students these days? Inauthentic sushi, it seems. Some offended diners at Oberlin College are accusing the dining halls of disrespecting Asian culture by preparing dishes so bad, they practically count as microaggressions....But cultural appropriation in the cafeteria isn't the only thing on the minds of Oberln students. Activists recently released a lengthy list of demands—many of them reminiscent of the demands made by students at dozens of other universities. Perhaps most notable: Oberlin students want blacks-only safe spaces and allowance money for black student leaders.". Can you really solve racism by giving one group extra perks?
  • The New York Times on a trend any teacher will confirm. "It is a pattern repeated in other school districts across the state and country — urban, suburban and rural — where the number of students earning high school diplomas has risen to historic peaks, yet measures of academic readiness for college or jobs are much lower. This has led educators to question the real value of a high school diploma and whether graduation requirements are too easy....But “the goal is not just high school graduation,” Arne Duncan, the departing secretary of education, said in a telephone interview. “The goal is being truly college and career ready.”.The most recent evaluation of 12th graders on a national test of reading and math found that fewer than 40 percent were ready for college level work. College remediation and dropout rates remain stubbornly high,...The first results, from the ACT college admissions tests, showed that only about a quarter of students statewide were ready for either college-level math or reading. Just 6 percent of black students and 15 percent of Hispanic students scored ready for college in math, with only slightly higher rates for reading. In one poor rural district where most of the students are African-American, graduation rates have risen to more than 85 percent, yet not one student scored high enough on the ACT to be deemed ready for college in reading or math."

LaTeX: inserting Sage Code

SageCodeSage and $latex \LaTeX$---a great combination! So a natural question is how to put that Sage code into your latex document.  Now the CTAN documentation, specifically sagetex.pdf, gives (starting on page 9) two verbatim like environments for inserting code that isn't meant to run:

  • sageblock: Any text between \begin{sageblock} and \end{sageblock} will be typeset sageblock into your le, and also written into the .sage file for execution.
  • sageverbatim: The text goes only to your latex document and not into the .sage file.

That's probably good enough for most people but suppose you want the latex document to look like the documentation put out by the outstanding people working on Sage? Well Dr. William Stein has been kind enough to post the source files of one of his papers here. Just download the tar.bz2 file, extract the files, and process the .tex file to see how the Sage wizards roll. Here's the view using Gummi:

SteinPaperNote the Sage prompt and commands in the bottom right hand corner. To create a template from it I've ripped out most of the code and and text and then changed the environment to be an article, rather than an academic paper. The resulting template has been added to the LaTeX page; the output is the first picture at the top of the post.

Here are some stories that caught my eye over the last week:

  • MarketSanity has a South Park song on college safe spaces.
  • Get out your calendar and mark off January 7, 2016. Seattle Times reports "When 6,500 mathematicians converge on Seattle for a convention early next year, a Redmond 11th-grader will be a star of their show. Abishek Hariharan, a 16-year-old junior at Tesla STEM High School, will compete against nine other high-school students in a national contest called “Who Wants to Be a Mathematician.”The event, staged like a game show, has become a highlight of the American Mathematical Society’s annual meeting, which the society claims is the largest gathering of mathematicians on Earth.". 6,500 mathematicians, a game show, lots of money at stake--can you say major PARTY?!?
  • Quick! Which country has more than 70% women for its science and engineering students? Forbes takes a look at Iran, "Ansary and others point out today’s culture of gender equality in families is a result of women entering the workforce during the Iraq-Iran war of the 1980s. It’s not uncommon  for men to tend to children while women in managerial positions, or in roles such as doctors, lawyers or judges work late...."
  • The Big Lie in education is the use of the term "qualified" to replace the term "certified". That gives the impression that there aren't enough qualified people looking to teach even as the state turns away qualified teachers for not meeting their certification requirements--which don't have much to do with being qualified. That's good news for teaching colleges, unions, and even the states which can then make money by getting teachers qualified certified. But how do you keep the illusion that the purpose of all the BS is to get teachers qualified? Eliminate the competition. Last week we saw how charter school teachers were doing a much better job teaching rying to students than private school teachers. The unions were not pleased and are trying to eliminate the threat. This week there's another dirty trick on display; from EAGNews: "St. Marcus is an academically successful private school that serves a mostly low-income, African-American student base. It has been looking for more space for several years, to accommodate hundreds of students on its waiting list." The school is just too big now so they approached "...Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), which has been losing a lot of students in recent years and has approximately two dozen empty schools.St. Marcus has made numerous attempts to purchase two different vacant MPS buildings, but the district has consistently refused to complete a transaction.The reason is that MPS doesn’t want competition for students....The problem for MPS is that it loses a percentage of state money for every student that leaves and enrolls in a voucher or charter school. So MPS officials have been stubborn about selling empty buildings to other schools, particularly those in the voucher program, depriving many students the opportunity to receive better instruction, and forcing Milwaukee taxpayers to maintain several dozen empty buildings.". Rather than make money by selling the shuttered building and help a charter school, the MPS decided to waste taxpayer money to keep St. Marcus from getting bigger. MPS tried selling the school buildings to someone else and rather than make 1 million dollars, they lost $500,000 dollars. Apparently teaching quality isn't the only problem at MPS. "The Malcolm X building, which has been vacant since 2007, remains so today. Taxpayers have forked out more than $200,000 on maintenance for the unused structure since 2012, according to the report. In 2014, tSt. Marcus officials tried to purchase the vacant Lee school building from MPS for its appraised value of $1.4 million, according to the report, but negotiations ended when Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett demanded that St. Marcus pay an extra $1.3 million as a “school choice tax.”". The good news is that St Marcus has found a place to grow their school. When you don't really care about spending other people's money and there's no accountability for being incompetent and/or vindictive a lot of resources get squandered: $500,000 of taxpayer money lost on the building sale, $200,000 a year spent to maintain vacant buildings, and a fair offer of $1.4 million for a building turned down. That's millions of education dollars squandered just to stick it it to the competition. Think anyone will lose a job for this "performance"?
  • on Emory University students trying to get end-of-semester course evaluations to allow them to indicate "...whether their professors had committed “microaggressions” against them." According to a statement by students, "We demand that the faculty evaluations that each student is required to complete for each of their professors include at least two open-ended questions such as: “Has this professor made any microaggressions towards you on account of your race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, language, and/or other identity?” and “Do you think that this professor fits into the vision of Emory University being a community of care for individuals of all racial, gender, ability, and class identities?” These questions on the faculty evaluations would help to ensure that there are repercussions or sanctions for racist actions performed by professors. We demand that these questions be added to the faculty evaluations by the end of this semester, Fall 2015."
  • You might not think that Godel's Incompleteness Theorem has much to do with physics. But you'd be very, very wrong. reports, "Cubitt and his collaborators focused on calculating the ‘spectral gap’: the gap between the lowest energy level that electrons can occupy in a material, and the next one up....The team started with a theoretical model of a material: an infinite 2D crystal lattice of atoms....Cubitt and his colleagues showed that for an infinite lattice, it is impossible to know whether the computation ends, so that the question of whether the gap exists remains undecidable....But the undecidability ‘at infinity’ means that even if the spectral gap is known for a certain finite-size lattice, it could change  abruptly... And because it is “provably impossible” to predict when — or if — it will do so, Cubitt says, it will be difficult to draw general conclusions from experiments or simulations....Cubitt says that the team ultimately wants to study a related problem in particle physics called the Yang–Mills mass-gap problem, which the Clay Mathematics Institute in Peterborough, New Hampshire, has named one of its Millennium Prize Problems. The institute is offering $1 million to anyone who is able to solve it."
  • It's over! on the guilty verdict for Philip Chism, "Chism, 16, was convicted of one count of first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Because he’s a juvenile, the judge will have to consider parole after 15 or 25 years. Chism was also found guilty of one count of aggravated rape and one count of armed robbery. Each of those counts carry the possibility of up to life in prison, though he will also be eligible for parole because of his age."
  • EAGNews on the poor performance of Illinois students, "A recent report shows nearly half of Illinois students enrolling in community college must pay for remedial classes to catch up on lessons they should have learned in high school....Our state literally cannot afford to invest additional time and money for students to acquire the skills and knowledge they should have received during their preK-12 journey,” Smith said.". How do you turn around the miserable performance of Illinois public schools when there is no accountability for failing schools? Answer: You don't.
  • Book smarts but no common sense?: on how eager Yale students sign a petition to get rid of freedom of speech. "In the video, filmmaker and satirist Ami Horowitz is the guy getting students to sign his petition, and reportedly a solid majority was all for it. Even more sad, not a single one of them seems to realize the irony of signing a petition to do away with a freedom that includes the right to petition!...Sure, it's Fox News and sure, it's edited, but as someone who has done plenty of man-on-the-street interviews myself including this one about giving up freedom, it really is horrifying to realize not only are these people serious, but for every single one you see in this video, there are many, many more out there who agree with them and would sign that petition in a heartbeat. Yeah. In summation, it's barf-inducing. Watch at your own risk."
  • The Atlantic has an article on the effects of education on young children, "The researchers also reported more time spent with workbooks and worksheets, and less time devoted to music and art. Kindergarten is indeed the new first grade, the authors concluded glumly. In turn, children who would once have used the kindergarten year as a gentle transition into school are in some cases being held back before they’ve had a chance to start. A study out of Mississippi found that in some counties, more than 10 percent of kindergartners weren’t allowed to advance to first grade....A child who’s supposed to read by the end of kindergarten had better be getting ready in preschool. As a result, expectations that may arguably have been reasonable for 5- and 6-year-olds, such as being able to sit at a desk and complete a task using pencil and paper, are now directed at even younger children, who lack the motor skills and attention span to be successful...A major evaluation of Tennessee’s publicly funded preschool system, published in September, found that although children who had attended preschool initially exhibited more “school readiness” skills when they entered kindergarten than did their non-preschool-attending peers, by the time they were in first grade their attitudes toward school were deteriorating. And by second grade they performed worse on tests measuring literacy, language, and math skills."
  • Detroit Free Press with stunning news: "Detailed results from Michigan's tough new standardized exam paint a worrisome picture for many schools in Detroit and will likely boost state efforts to fix what many see as a broken educational system in the city. Just one fourth-grader in schools run by the Education Achievement Authority — a state district created to turn around the worst-performing schools in the state — passed the math portion of the examaccording to results released this morning. Overall, only 1.2% of the students in the district passed in math and 5.6% passed in English language arts. In some grades and subjects, not one student passed." If they can get 2 people to pass next year they'll have a 100% improvement record to "brag" about.

The Basics: Solving Linear Inequalities

SolveInequalities1Two additions to the website. First is a worksheet on Solving Inequalities which is on the Basics page. Second, I've added a link to a BBC Horizons show on Fermat's Last Theorem. You can find it on the Resources page.

Here are some stories that caught my this week:

  • It seems like the crybullies are in season: TPM Livewire reports "Some students at Lebanon Valley College, a private liberal arts institution in Pennsylvania, have demanded administrators rename the campus' Lynch Memorial Hall because of the "racial connotations" associated with the term "lynching,"...The building was named after Dr. Clyde A. Lynch, the college's 11th president who served during the Great Depression and WWII.". Perhaps they should sue people to legally change their names. The Rebel interviews college students about opposing free speech and microaggressions. Is saying "God bless you" to someone who has sneezed a microaggression? Tune in to find out!
  • Breitbart on student protests at "...73 schools all want the following:1) WE DEMAND at the minimum, Black students and Black faculty to be reflected by the national percentage of Black folk in the country2) WE DEMAND free tuition for Black and indigenous students3) WE DEMAND a divestment from prisons and an investment in communities". Free tuition but just for black and indigenous--sounds like a bit much, don't you think?
  • The Yale Daily News reports Erika Christakis "...whose Halloween email to students sparked conversations about race and discrimination on campus, will no longer teach at Yale." and her husband will take a sabbatical this spring.
  • CTpost with one of those posts that really bother me. If you come here a lot you'll have heard me talk about how departments of education create artificial shortages of certified teachers which they then broadcast as a shortage of qualified teachers even while they prevent qualified people from teaching because of their extra certification requirements that don't have anything to do with real quality (for example here ). Teacher shortages are becoming even more common nowadays and as the article says, "Learning algebra and geometry is hard enough. Try doing it without a teacher. At least 200 freshmen and sophomores at Harding High School have spent the semester doing just that, with their classes staffed with a string of substitute teachers that a number of students say have not taught them a lick of math....Another student, Jadiel Torres, 15, went to the city school board this week, saying he had had enough. ...“I’m mad,” Torres told the board. And worried. How will not knowing geometry impact him next year when he takes Algebra II? Will it hurt his chances to get into a good college?...Torres said his fourth period geometry class has been a wasted 50 minutes, spent on his phone or listening to music. Math books sit uncracked in a stack in the room. He said the class was essentially being graded on attendance....Harding already suffers from some of the lowest math test scores on state standardized tests. Only 2.7 percent of Harding juniors were deemed to be at grade level on the Smarter Balanced Test given last spring.". Absolutely shameful. Students who go to school ready and willing to learn and can't. These students will be unable to stay at grade level as a direct consequence of the school's failure. They'll pass the course for this year based on attendance and then will be totally unprepared for next year. Those in education should take a good look at how they keep the educational system broken.
  • The 2015 London Chess Classic has finished--sort of. Magnus staged a 2.5 out of his final 3 games to catch Giri and MVL. That means playoffs and given the tiebreaks it favors Carlsen, who will play the winner of Giri-MVL. Much more chess is coming after a short break. You can follow the games here. Interview with Kasparov coming up shortly.
  • That cynical use of power to keep education from improving is on display again at EAGNews: "More and more Milwaukee parents are choosing to send their children to schools that are not staffed by teachers employed by Milwaukee Public Schools. In other words, more parents are choosing schools that are not staffed by union teachers.......A recent study conducted by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) determined that students attending Wisconsin charter schools “are exhibiting greater growth on average in those core areas (reading and math) than students at traditional public schools,” according to WILL study determined that Wisconsin’s independent and non-instrumentality charter schools, which are mostly found in Milwaukee, perform better academically than instrumentality charters. In other words, the freedom to hire non-union teachers, and avoid cumbersome rules like having to lay off or transfer teachers based largely on seniority, helps charters meet their academic goals....Perhaps more parents would have stuck with MPS schools over the years if district authorities had demonstrated more flexibility. But they have stubbornly refused to allow many of their charter schools to have more freedom in hiring practices, particularly when it comes to hiring non-union teachers, according to various media reports....Of course some groups continue to oppose the very existence of charter and voucher schools in Milwaukee. The most vocal among them is the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association, the district’s teachers union. But as notes about the MTEA, “It, of course, has an obvious economic interest in supporting only MPS schools which are staffed by union members.”That’s because the union depends on revenue from dues paid by teachers. The more schools with union teachers, the more money the union makes.". There is no evidence that being a certified teacher makes you better. Results of private schools performance and cases like the one above show the opposite is true. But as you can see, the certification of teachers affects unions. Teaching colleges also wouldn't like people becoming teachers without being trained and approved by them.
  • And that same abuse of power is on display in Minnesota where EAGNews tells us, "Administrators and teachers at St. Paul Public Schools have their own ideas about what to do regarding the lack of student discipline, which has led to an alarming spike in violence and unruly behavior, and culminated in the assault of two teachers in the last week. The teachers union wants the district to provide millions of dollars for teacher/parent committees in each building, to spend as they wish on potential remedies to the problem....“The union has asked for a dedicated staff member and $100,000 for each campus’ ‘school climate improvement team’ to implement whatever restorative practices they see fit,” the news story said.“Silva said that plan would cost $11 million. She said she would rather set up a committee of teachers and administrators to come up with solutions for the entire district.”.
  • TruthOut has the best coverage on the Greenpeace sting which " how fossil fuel companies can secretly pay academics at leading American universities to write research that sows doubt about climate science and promotes the companies' commercial interests....Professor Frank Clemente, a sociologist from Penn State university, was asked if he could produce a report "to counter damaging research linking coal to premature deaths (in particular the World Health Organization's figure that 3.7 million people die per year from fossil fuel pollution)".He said that this was within his skill set; that he could be quoted using his university job title; and that it would cost around $15,000 for an 8-10 page paper. He also explained that he charged $6,000 for writing a newspaper op-ed....Professor Happer, who is a physicist rather than a climatologist, told Greenpeace reporters that he would be willing to produce research promoting the benefits of carbon dioxide for $250 per hour....Both Penn State and Princeton University declined to comment.". You have to wonder if there is more fallout to come-selling themselves out makes the universities look bad; for them to not do anything looks even worse.
  • Some people think being good at chess is enough to build your street cred but at Sputnik news we find that the real warriors are going for the "ice chess challenge" in February 2016. Start practicing!
  • on how a high school student Dominick Rowan has "...helped to find a Jupiter-like planet and has calculated that this type of planet is relatively rare, occurring in three percent of stars overall. Their research is has been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal.". Great job Dominick!
  • CTAN has two new packages you should be aware of: Metropolis beamer theme to give your presentation a new look and an ellipse package for drawing ellipses.

Odds and Ends: Basics and Graphics

SolvingEqns1I've added another worksheet to The Basics page; this is a collection of solving equations with one variable--often called 2-step equations. As it runs using sagetex you'll need it installed on locally on your computer or, even easier, open a free Sagemath Cloud account. The link for Sagemath Cloud is on the the sidebar. I've also added two plots to the Graphics page: the first plot is a exponential (growth) versus its logarithmic inverse to see the reflection around y=x (also plotted). The second plot has a exponential (decay) plotted against its logarithmic inverse.

Here are some stories that caught my attention over the last week:

  • The London Chess Classic 2015 has begun and though you won't find Komodo or Stockfish you can find some pretty good carbon based talent including (human) World Champion Magnus Carlsen, Anand, Caruana, Nakamura, Topolov, Grischuk, Adams, MVL, Giri, and Aronian. You can find the games streaming here along with GM commentary.
  • Some follow up on TCEC: Chessdom reports "Komodo also proved dominant in earlier stages of the competition. It won Stage 1a, then easily cruised through Stage 2. In Stage 3 it gave the first warning to its main opponent by winning with a two points difference.With this Season’s victory, Komodo successfully defended its title from TCEC Season 7 and together with the victory from TCEC Season 5 Komodo  is now triple champion of TCEC. That makes it the engine with most titles in Top Chess Engine Championship, together with Houdini which won Seasons 1,2, and 4. Stockfish is the only other engine that has a title from the competition.".
  • has a piece by GM Robert Hess explaining how he played Komodo in a 4 game match shortly before the TCEC matches began., "My two starting positions were as follows: White with an exchange up and my rook on b1 while Komodo's rook on a8 was removed, and White with pawns on e4 and d4 and Black missing the f7 pawn. In all games, I had 45 minutes+25 seconds increment per move, while Komodo had 45 minutes with 15 second increment. I was given greater increment because I was providing commentary while playing, thus ensuring I would be making slower moves." The result was 4 draws.
  • Dr Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University has had enough of the cry-bullies that have taken over numerous universities and he earned a lot of attention and respect by posting a letter to the school website "This is Not a Day Care. It's a University". TribLive has more of the details, "Mr. Piper is the president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University. He became incensed when a student confronted him after a chapel service to complain that he felt “victimized” by a sermon about not showing love. “In his mind,” Piper wrote in a scathing blog post, “the speaker was wrong for making him, and his peers, feel uncomfortable.” “Our culture has actually taught our kids to be this self-absorbed and narcissistic,” Piper continued. “Any time their feelings are hurt, they are victims. Anyone who dares challenge them and, thus, makes them ‘feel bad' about themselves is a ‘hater,' a ‘bigot,' an ‘oppressor,' and a ‘victimizer.'”And Piper was far from done.". Well done Mr Piper! Other admins take note, please.
  • The Daily Caller reports, "District of Columbia officials released results from a recent citywide elementary school exam Monday, and the scores are abysmal. Less than a quarter of students met expectations in either math or English. Among all eighth grade students who took the test, just 3 percent met expectations in math, while 8 percent of seventh graders met the math expectations, according to Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test results."
  • Google crosses some red lines: RT reports,"The Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission in which they allege that Google has been violating the privacy of students as young as seven years old by mining their data.The EFF’s Tuesday complaint said that Google can track every search term, site, and video students view using a feature that is enabled by default on the Chromebooks that are sold to schools. The data collection is allegedly not used for advertising purposes, but rather to “to improve Google products.”The complaint alleges that the monitoring is in violation of a Student Privacy Pledge that Google signed in 2014, which the EFF said is legally enforceable under the Federal Trade Commission Act."
  • You might remember how, decades ago, corporations got themselves into schools by selling a lot of junk food in vending machines which was followed over time by a rise in child obesity and diabetes. Now CNBC has an in depth piece on corporations in the classroom and Google is winning, "Google, Microsoft and Apple have been competing for years in the very lucrative education technology market. For the first time, Google has taken a huge lead over its rivals.Chromebooks now make up more than half of all devices in U.S. classrooms, up from less than 1 percent in 2012,...Google's major advantage when it comes to wooing cash-strapped school districts — which are expected to purchase more than 11 million devices next year in the U.S. alone — is Chromebook's extremely competitive price...."They set up what's called a blended classroom, so they would have the teacher with only about seven students, but then seven other students would be learning from Khan Academy, seven others would be doing a group project and seven students would be assessing their skills to try to figure out where they are at that point in time."". Note the classroom reference to kids learning from a Khan Academy video  of an uncertified person who isn't a teacher. A little bit ironic given some of the ferocious criticism directed his way.
  • The NY Times takes a look at the quandry of NY education officials, "...If the percentage of students passing the Algebra I exam falls to 63 percent from 72 percent, and the passing grade is scheduled to increase by 9 points in coming years, should the test be made easier?...This fall, they established a committee to study the results on the new exams to determine, among other things, whether the bar for passing, which students would have to meet starting in 2022, had been set too high. (They had originally said the class of 2017 would need the higher scores to pass, but last year decided to push that back)....The city’s Education Department is “in a panic about this,” said Uri Treisman, a professor of mathematics at the University of Texas who has advised the department on plans to improve math instruction in middle and high school.Among the ideas the city is considering: having fifth graders take math with a specialized instructor instead of one teacher for all subjects; teaming up with local universities to get more sixth- and seventh-grade math teachers certified in math instruction; creating summer programs for middle- and high-school students who are struggling in math; and training middle-school and algebra teachers in how to address students’ “math anxiety.”". Quick recap: Common Core would toughen standards and show the soccer moms their children weren't quite as good as they thought. Objective achieved and now, with a higher bar, educators look like they are doing an even worse job and parents and students are not happy. So lets make the test easier. Here's one reason, of many, why education fails. Also take note the "...committee to study the results on the new exams to determine...whether the bar for passing...had been set too high". Given that officials are panicked about the results you have to wonder how independent the committee will be. If the level is determined to be set incorrectly will the company that designed the faulty test be held accountable? Will more money be required to create a test that gives the proper results? Stay tuned!
  • The DailyStatesman has a topic that I think is a winning idea, "The Hour of Code is a world-wide initiative during the Dec. 7-13 Computer Science Education Week, aimed at introducing millions of new learners to computer science....The Hour of Code involves the use of a self-guided tutorial which allows students to learn at their own pace and skill level. The tutorials expose the students to fundamental computing concepts on a level playing field and is intended to inspire today's youth to build technology..."They don't realize it, but when they're learning this and writing in functions, they're basically writing in x-y t-charts, applying algebra skills and again, applying critical thinking skills in the process."They're challenged in this process," Bolin says. "It's not for everyone, but you never know. You see kids with their interest peaked once they get into it."As evidence, Bolin says that a group of students he taught last year were so interested in advancing their coding skills, they continued the process at home. The group went on to compete at the National Jr. Beta competition and placed second in the nation."". Some schools are taking an interesting and innovative approach to education.
  • If you follow chess you know there is always a debate about whether the current chess players are better than great players from the past and, if so, by how much. The issue of chess ratings muddies the water because of chess ratings inflation. It makes some fans think the current crop of players is always best because their ratings are higher. But something unusual has happened:LiveChess12-5-15Notice that of the top 4 players in the world, three are in their forties. This really shouldn't be happening. Has something like this ever happened before?? I  think all of those players (Topolov, Kramnik, and Anand) would admit their "best chess days" (in terms of chess strength and not rating) are behind them. Is the current generation of 20 somethings really better than the last generation of players? It certainly doesn't show from the current rating list. And when you consider that much of the improvements in modern chess players are tied to them growing up with chess engines to spar with and help them get better, it's difficult to believe that the current generation is better. It seems clear that Topolov, Anand, and Kramnik would have been even more fearsome had they grown up  with the chess playing software that we now take for granted. So the question becomes, "Is this evidence that chess is dying as the current generation is not replacing the last one even on the basis of today's inflated ratings?". Chess rating inflation seems to be covering the decline in chess players. What do you think?