TCEC Season 8: Komodo dominates!

KomodoWinsLast week I posted that the TCEC Season 8 was essentially over even though  Stockfish had (on paper) a chance to win. Now with 98 games played and only two games left the match is mathematically over as well. The smell of fried Stockfish permeates the air--Komodo has dominated! The current score is 2 wins for Stockfish, 9 wins for Komodo with 87 draws. A lopsided match like this is remarkable. Remember Stockfish handily dispatched Nakamura last year. That match saw two games where Nakamura had computer help and two games where Nakamura had pawn odds plus the white pieces. Even though accounts have him playing for the win instead of taking a draw you still have to come to terms that one of the best players in the world had white plus a pawn advantage and couldn't beat Stockfish. Stockfish is that good.

But as strong as Stockfish is to mere carbon based life forms that's just not good enough against last year's winner Komodo. Komodo showed that Stockfish is far from perfect. Sometimes the difference between their evaluation was glaring; here Komodo evaluates the position as -250 while Stockfish has it at -6.18:

TCEC1Chess For all Ages has a post on the second week of TCEC which mentioned some issues in the evaluation of positions. Specifically it said, citing an earlier post, "What happened in game 22 of the final? Stockfish's evaluation was steeply raising, until at move 62 it evaluated its position as +26.13. Komodo agreed to a degree by evaluating it at +4.22. Then two moves later both evals had dropped to 0.00, and it ended in draw. Rather unusual, I would say.". Rather unusual, indeed.

GM Ben Finegold used the term PMG over 25 years ago to refer to a (theoretical) perfect move generator; as in "How would Kasparov do in a 10 game match against a PMG?".  Komodo's domination of Stockfish shows that although Komodo isn't a PMG (it lost 2 games and there might be an evaluation issue) but it is getting so very, very close. While Stockfish's weaknesses aren't exploited by humans, Komodo's play has been another notch higher; even Stockfish is having trouble beating Komodo. That exceptional play seems to have caught the attention of other people as well. Godel's Lost Letter and P=NP blog notes, "If Komodo could hold at least two draws every ten games against any player, then by the rules of the rating system, no player could be rated more than 366 Elo points above it. Thus a rating estimated near 3250 for it now would translate to an absolute ceiling of about 3600, which is the high end of where various of my chess model’s regression lines cross the {y}-axis at {x = 0} meaning perfect play.". I will be curious how much Komodo's rating changes after this match. PMG might be reality in about 10 years.

Kingscrusher posted videos analyzing two games from the match: Game 1, Game 88.

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

  • In these times, ZeroHege gives a history lesson: "This is likely to be a little tough to swallow for some Americans but The Statue of Liberty - symbolically welcoming the world's tired, poor, and huddled masses - was originally conceived as a Muslim peasant woman.". It goes on to cite Smithsonian magazine, "But the sculptor Frederric Auguste Bartholdi of France, proved unable to sell the idea to the khedive of Egypt,  Ishma’il Pasha. Bartholdi remained determined to erect a colossus on the scale of the one in ancient Rhodes. He sailed to America with drawings of the Muslim woman transformed to the personification of Liberty."
  • Quanta Magazine with the story of how a 50 year old math problem was solved. For those people who don't get why pure math, it's another example of how mathematics which seems to lack practical usefulness can turn out to be very important. "Network sparsification has applications in data compression and efficient computation, but Spielman’s particular problem suggested something different to Kalai. It seemed connected to the famous Kadison-Singer problem, a question about the foundations of quantum physics that had remained unsolved for almost 50 years....As a computer scientist, Spielman knew little of quantum mechanics or the Kadison-Singer problem’s allied mathematical field, called C*-algebras....C*-algebras are an esoteric subject — “the most abstract nonsense that exists in mathematics,” in Casazza’s words. “Nobody outside the area knows much about it.” For the first two decades of the Kadison-Singer problem’s existence, it remained ensconced in this impenetrable realm." But not anymore. The solution of the problem has applications to the Traveling Salesman Problem and "Now, using ideas from the proof of the Kadison-Singer problem, Nima Anari, of the University of California, Berkeley, and Shayan Oveis Gharan, of the University of Washington in Seattle, have shown that this algorithm performs exponentially better than people had realized. The new result is “major, major progress,” Naor said."
  • What's behind the sudden rise in "White Student Unions"? Southern Valley News takes a look: "At least 30 social media profiles of so-called “white student unions” have been set up in the last week, in response to nationwide student protests demanding action to address campus racism. ...It appears that the first of these WSUs was the “Illini White Student Union”, created at the University of Illinois just hours after students gathered for a black solidarity event on campus last Wednesday. Its page has since been taken down by Facebook at the request of campus administrators....Given the rapid speed with which they have emerged, some have questioned whether the groups are really created by students. In a Medium post by the author “Bears for Equity”, it was noted late Sunday that well known white-supremacist and Neo-Nazi blogger Andrew Anglin called for his followers to “[m]ake more of these White Student Union pages on Facebook for various universities. You don’t have to go there. Make one for Dartmouth, Princeton, etc.”".
  • Check out this piece from; it starts out reasonably enough making the analogy between math and cooking. The video goes horribly astray however. It tries to justify "supplementing" the standard algorithms with the Common Core way. The idea is that the new methods give students, according to the video, a better understanding of what they're doing as well as illustrating multiple ways to find the answer.This seems like the reasoning of overzealous math ed majors who lack math understanding forcing a bad idea onto their students. 1. Better understanding how? There's more confusion than before and the other methods really are irrelevant as they go deeper into math. 2. Force feeding multiple methods down their throats takes away time from other math topics, including the standard method which students are weak in. 3. These alternate methods might be appropriate with respect to mental math or remedial math. It has no place on tests of mathematical understanding.
  • The many facets of technology: EAGNews reports on, "Numerous iPads issued to students and staff in Columbia Public Schools are now evidence in criminal investigations, and police are using them to determine who did what, and when...“Each case is different, but for the majority it was sexual exploitation of a child in some form or fashion,” Boone County detective Tracy Perkins told the news site.".
  • Yahoo News has a piece on Massachusetts abandoning Common Core. "The Massachusetts State Board of Education has voted to forego Common Core testing in favor of redesigning its own state exam, an influential move from a national education leader that may hasten the end of a national high-stakes testing era, while challenging education experts to come up with a better alternative.". The Charlotte Observer writes "The Common Core isn’t dead yet, but it will be. The multi-state education collaborative suffered its most profound blow last week, when the Massachusetts Board of Education decided to leave the Common Core and develop its own state tests. ...Now, Massachusetts joins more than 15 states that have left the effort or, like North Carolina, are taking steps to do so. Each departure dilutes the case that Common Core makes – that it helps states measure how well they’re educating children by comparing test results with other states."
  • bcrnews makes some lame excuses for poor PARCC results. "Princeton Elementary School (PES) Superintendent Tim Smith said the PARCC test results for the district were “every bit as bad as we thought they would be,” yet he isn’t worried, seeing as how Illinois State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith recently told administrators not to take the test results too seriously...“An eighth-grader’s taking the PARCC test as if he’s been getting Common Core from pre-kindergarten on, so how in the world that can be considered a useful test is beyond me,” Smith said....“The PARCC scores are so low we just know what we’re seeing is not realistic,” he said, indicating constant monitoring of the students will be a surefire way to pinpoint where they are and are not progressing..". So poor scores aren't can't be trusted as realistic (but believe me, good scores would have been trumpeted as proof of what a good job was being done) and the realistic scores won't be meaningful until the test has been in place for many years. But don't worry, there will be a new test before that happens, see the stories above, or Mr Smith will have moved on by then so he won't have to account for the failure. Where is the accountability? Oh wait...there is none.
  • All those patriotic American who fought and died to defend our freedoms might be surprised to hear "40% Of Millennials Would Censor Offensive Speech". From the ZeroHedge piece, "Of those aged 18-34, 40 percent support censoring offensive speech.
    "We asked whether people believe that citizens should be able to make public statements that are offensive to minority groups, or whether the government should be able to prevent people from saying these things. Four-in-ten Millennials say the government should be able to prevent people publicly making statements that are offensive to minority groups.""
  • Liberty Blitzkrieg has a video of the day for the "crybully" millenials that is an "...excellent lecture ... by Jonathan Haidt, Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business."
  • EAGNews with some input from students who went through a "white privilege" retreat. The University of Vermont hosted some voluntary retreats so white people  could understand "how they have unfairly benefited from “white privilege,”...The program is hosted by the ALANA Student Center, which is composed of “proud people of color.” The message is clearly that it’s bad to be white because society automatically favors you, but a point of pride to be a racial minority. And that approach is somehow supposed to bring people closer together." One student who went to the retreat opined "“Being white means that when you’re just as poor as the next minority who (lives) paycheck to paycheck, you have the added bonus of being told you get to do it while subconsciously being racist. That’s white privilege. All of the blood, sweat, and tears that got me to where I’m at was actually privilege pouring out of me.”".

Problems: discrete math

I had to change the topic of my post this week once I read the article "Math is my religion" on the website. The author, Brian Gentry, is a high school student and self described "math geek" who has been taking college level classes. He writes, "But my interest in math has allowed me to see the holes in our math curriculum. ... Rather than teaching kids integration, we should teach them the math that is most applicable to their life goals.". Two important courses that Mr Gentry thinks are particularly useful are geometry and discrete math. With respect to geometry, he writes "A fundamental piece of our geometry class is proofs, and the logic taught through proof-writing is used not only in math, but also in journalism, history and every other field that requires the construction of a logical argument.".  To which I say, "Amen"! With respect to discrete math, (singling out number theory) he writes "I was taught that I need to cite each theorem I use in my proofs and justify each application, just like a history major has to cite quotes and explain how each quote is relevant. I can say without a doubt that this class, if implemented in a high school curriculum, would be beneficial to everyone who took it. ". And that deserves a "Hallaleujah!". Brian goes on to quote a teacher, Barry Garelick, about the "...decreasing number of proofs in geometry textbooks over the decades. He contends that proofs are integral to geometry...In Garelick’s mind, proof-based courses teach students how to construct logical arguments, which I argue is not only central in mathematics but also in a variety of other fields.". To which I say, "Testify!".

As you can tell, I agree with Mr Gentry but, unfortunately, Brian knows more than the experts who are moving us in the wrong direction. It's not enough to have a good idea in the public school system, you've got to get some "experts" on board to change policy and then the devil is in the details of how they implement it mess it up. You see, Brian has the mathematical knowledge that so many " experts" are missing. He also has a sincere desire to improve the situation--but no real power to do anything. In our centrally planned model with high paid "experts" who don't seem to have either. It's no surprise education flounders decade after decade after decade. When you see well intentioned people get "Zuckered" out of 100 million dollars by experts and when you see in state after state that "experts" have set the bar for mathematical knowledge needed for a math teachers by a a multiple choice test which requires a calculator--at the same time they turn away people with STEM degrees-- you do tend to question motives. They build failure into the system and look for superficial ways to "improve" on some contrived school rating (such as paying for students to take AP exams).

The fact is I've never talked to anyone with a graduate degree in math who thinks ripping proofs out of the curriculum is a good idea but that's where the current mathematical curriculum has taken us. The proofs that "us old folks" associate with geometry are gone and/or watered down. Is that because proofs don't prepare students for higher level math?  Of course not---but if students can't master proofs and much of the proof content is replaced and what remains is watered down test scores might rise.

There is no reason, based on math, to remove proofs--proofs are the essence of mathematics--and getting students some foundation in proofs would help better prepare them for college. So today's curriculum prepares a student for math less than before in that key area. Clearly the educational central planners have no clue when it comes to math. But even if they did many teachers have no idea what that discrete math means and that presents a huge obstacle to implementing Mr Gentry's excellent idea: remember one third of the high school math teachers don't have a degree in mathematics so there's going to be far less who have taken and are qualified to teach discrete mathematics. And finding these people is at odds with the various Bull**** certification requirements that create an artificial teacher shortage in various states.  Take a look at the story below on California and Common Core to see the complete lack of planning and the resulting fiasco. Whose accountable for the mess? Nobody. Who pays the price? The kids. It's difficult for me to imagine anything more than centrally planned failure of implementation.

With that in mind I've posted an example of a discrete math problem which is more understandable/natural than "Two parallel lines are cut by a transversal...". The problem is posted on the Problems page. There are n \geq 2 people are at a party. Prove that there are two people who know the same number of people." Of course, there's a little explanation needed: Two people either both know each other or they don't. That is, it's impossible for A to know B but for B not to know A. Also assume that a people don't "know themselves". A very surprising result that can be proven using mathematical thinking/logic. It uses the Pigeonhole Principle and of course, you can relate it to graph theory, too.

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

  • One of my favorite nontechnical math books is  "The Man Who Knew Infinity". A movie based on the book is finally out. IFLScience talks about Ramanujan and has a clip from the upcoming movie.
  • The TCEC Season 8 Superinal is about 60% done and Komodo leads Stockfish with 4 wins, 1 loss, and 65 draws. With so many games to play Stockfish has a mathematical chance to win but given the consistent nature of computer play; i.e., computers don't blunder or get tired/overconfident, this match is essentially over. Nevertheless, you can keep following the match here.
  • Kevin Knudson with an excellent article on Forbes: "I then casually mentioned that if you take the harmonic series and throw out the terms whose denominators contain a 9 then the resulting series converges...And, there’s nothing special about 9; you can toss out terms containing any particular digit. In fact, you can pick any finite string of digits, toss out the terms containing those, and the result converges. With that set-up, let’s talk about what all this means and how we can prove it..". Read the article to find out the details. If you teach AP Calculus, you really should take a look.
  • Student protests are happening at college campuses all over the country. The Chronicle of Higher Education mentions a bunch here. The Washington Post has an in depth piece on Yale and the student demands, "The students also are asking Salovey to remove Nicholas and Erika Christakis from their positions at the helm of Silliman College, one of Yale’s 12 undergraduate residential communities. The pair became the subject of students’ ire when Erika Christakis, the associate master and an early childhood educator, sent an e-mail to students encouraging them to view offensive Halloween costumes as a matter of free speech and free expression."
  • ZeroHedge looks into the demands from students at the Amherst College. There is a long list of demands but take a look at demand number five: " President Martin must issue a statement to the Amherst College community at large that states we do not tolerate the actions of student(s) who posted the “All Lives Matter” posters, and the “Free Speech” posters that stated that “in memoriam of the true victim of the Missouri Protests: Free Speech.” Also let the student body know that it was racially insensitive to the students of color on our college campus and beyond who are victim to racial harassment and death threats; alert them that Student Affairs may require them to go through the Disciplinary Process if a formal complaint is filed, and that they will be required to attend extensive training for racial and cultural competency." Did you get that? People who posted a flyer on how free speech is dead (picture posted) need to be disciplined and re-educated --- along with those who post "All Lives Matter"---if these intolerant zealots get their way.
  • NYDailyNews posts a disturbing and "chilling" video in the case of the student on trial for killing his math teacher.
  • has an all too typical  story of Common Core implementation problems. "During the five years since California adopted the Common Core State Standards for mathematics and English language arts, the search for high-quality textbooks and curriculum materials has been a sticking point, in some cases a major one, in effectively and speedily implementing the new standards....The root of the problem, argued Phil Daro, a principal author of the Common Core math standards, is that “districts tried to switch to the Common Core before there were any books aligned with them.”That, however, was not the fault of districts. The state adopted the Common Core in 2010, but the State Board of Education only  approved a recommended list of K-8 math textbooks and materials in January 2014 – and only did so two weeks ago for K-8 materials in English language arts. But focus on the fact that even though Common Core was known to be coming years in advance and that it is 5 years after it is adopted and they still don't have quality curriculum materials. How bad is the state DOE when teachers still don't have "the basics" under control after 5 years, especially when they had years of planning before Common Core was implemented? California's plight is going on in many states and it's a big reason why the educational system doesn't improve much. But with a new election around the corner don't be surprised if another educational model takes its place. Then more years to transition to implement another bad system. More money to spend designing tests,etc. Wash, rinse, repeat.
  • has a Walter E. Williams piece "Education Disaster" which looks at the latest Nation's Report Card, "When it comes to reading and math skills, just 34 percent and 33 percent, respectively, of U.S. eighth-grade students tested proficient or above — that is, performed at grade level or above. Recent test scores show poor achievement levels in other academic areas. Only 18 percent of eighth-graders are proficient in U.S. history. It’s 27 percent in geography and 23 percent in civics. The story is not much better when it comes to high schoolers. According to 2010 and 2013 NAEP test scores, only 38 percent of 12th-graders were proficient in reading. It was 26 percent in math, 12 percent in history, 20 percent in geography and 24 percent in civics." So failure is the norm. Moreover, Williams writes "Richard Vedder, emeritus professor of economics at Ohio University, argues that there has been a shocking decline in college academic standards. Grade inflation is rampant. A seminal study, “Academically Adrift,” by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, argues that very little improvement in critical reasoning skills occurs in college. Adult literacy is falling among college graduates. Large proportions of college graduates do not know simple facts, such as the half-century in which the Civil War occurred. Vedder says that at the college level, ideological conformity is increasingly valued over free expression and empirical inquiry."
  • EAGNews on the teacher arrested for running his own brothel, "McCrimmon was arrested when authorities shut down his Memphis nightclub, Walt’s Place, over the weekend. Undercover officers allegedly made eight separate prostitution transactions there, including deals organized by McCrimmon himself, before they raided the Parkway Village establishment Saturday, according to The Commercial Appeal. Police allege the club charged patrons a $20 “membership fee” for events that featured strippers and other activities, but did not have a compensated dance permit. Walt’s Place also served booze without a liquor license and provided a VIP room for $50 sex sessions, police said....McCrimmon has since resigned from his teaching position, My Fox Memphis reports.". Perhaps he'll be moving to another state? Be on the lookout...
  • I was shocked to see someone claimed to have solved the Riemann Zeta Hypothesis. Whose that? From where? What the? A quick search made it clear someone was full of BS. With no "reputable" site proclaiming the amazing story I had to wait to see how it played out. Now Quartz has an article explaining how he "fooled" the British media:  "Leading British media, including the BBC and the Daily Telegraph, ran the story of Enoch winning the award, but a little digging suggests they might have jumped the gun.". Very little digging, in fact. The article continues, "Enoch has an page where the “proof” of the solution to the Riemann Hypothesis has been uploaded—but that has also come in for criticism, as the proof is believed to have been plagiarized.". So bottom line is it doesn't take much to fool the press---and the Riemann Zeta Hypothesis is still open. The Aperiodical gets more in depth on the deception of what did and did not happen. Hey, at least he's not running a brothel.
  • EAGNews with reporting the lengthy and somewhat outrageous demands, including "A mandatory class for everyone, including staff and administrators, about the “historical racial violence of this University and town …”...Housing and bathrooms that are not segregated by gender.". LewRockwell hosts a smackdown piece by Fred Reed directed at bad universities like what we see at UNC: "In all likelihood you will waste these four years of your time and mine in this institution...during which you will take absurd courses of your own devising, courses having nothing to do with the purposes of education, of which you know nothing....When you graduate, a terrible shock awaits you. You will find that employers have no interest in your wearisome righteousness. They will not pay you for Victims’ Studies or  contemplation of grievances. They will not care about the high GPAs you got through grade inflation or sleeping with the professor. They will expect you to do your job, if there is a job for you to do."
  • With intolerance and free speech under assault at the universities, has a video clip from the documentary "Can We Take a Joke". I haven't seen the movie, but I'm guessing the answer is no."

Basics: Simplify Like Terms

SimplifyLikeTermsI've added another worksheet to The Basics page; this one is on "Simplfying Like Terms". In this process of trying to solve a problem in the last worksheet (where Sage turn multiplication into *) I did a search on how to fix the problem and found the answer on this website: latex() the expression. So with that problem solved, I've revised the previous Worksheet on evaluating expressions so that it prints without * for multiplication. If you had downloaded the earlier version you should get the updated version to replace it.

Here are some stories that caught my eye over the past week.

  • Okay, I HAVE to start with a real honest to goodness mathematical breakthrough. László Babai, a mathematician and computer scientist at the University of Chicago  appears to have proven a very important result. has the details, "In the "graph isomorphism problem," the challenge is to determine whether two graphs are really the same or not. Babai has found a new algorithm to solve that problem, as he announced today....For the previous best method, invented in 1983 by Eugene Luks, a mathematician and computer scientist at the University of Oregon in Eugene, the number of steps grows almost exponentially with the number of nodes in the networks to be compared. In Babai's algorithm, the number of steps grows only slightly faster than polynomial time.... If it holds up, the new algorithm simply proves that the tough cases that stymie the current algorithms can also be solved efficiently, "
  • A MUST READ article. In an earlier post I mentioned the problems Kentucky was having with Common Core. The Federalist looks into the details. Some key passages, "In connection with federal Race to the Top grant applications in 2010 and No Child Left Behind waivers in 2011, states had to demonstrate that their institutions of higher education (IHEs) would “exempt from remedial courses and place into credit-bearing college courses” students who attained a certain score on Common Core-aligned assessments.". So the "Common Core is just a bunch of standards" trope that has become the first line of defense is shown to be false again. Back to the article, "So what happens when those unprepared students matriculate at a college that has already agreed to place them in courses that count towards graduation, without remediation? Exactly what is now happening in Kentucky... students who formerly would have gone through remediation are now to be thrown into credit-bearing courses. But since such students obviously won’t be ready for real college work, the courses will be designated “co-requisite”—meaning lagging students will receive extra help of some sort so they can catch up...By and large, professors weren’t consulted before their colleges and universities signed onto the Common Core scheme. They are only now beginning to understand that Common Core will result in hordes of unprepared students showing up in their freshman classes, and that the professors will be expected to relax or suspend course quality to hide the problem...Common Core’s promise of “college readiness” means nothing if the definition is set not by colleges themselves but rather by the standards-writers.".
  • The TCEC Superfinal is nearing the halfway mark. It's 3 wins for Komodo versus 1 win for Stockfish. There are 36 drawn games. You can follow the matches here.
  • A connection between quantum physics and \pi isn't as irrational as it sounds. has the incredible details, "In 1655 the English mathematician John Wallis published a book in which he derived a formula for pi as the product of an infinite series of ratios. Now researchers from the University of Rochester, in a surprise discovery, have found the same formula in quantum mechanical calculations of the energy levels of a hydrogen atom.". Continue with Science20: "Friedmann did not set out to look for \pi nor for the Wallis formula. The discovery began in a quantum mechanics course taught by Carl Hagen, a professor of physics at the University of Rochester and one of the six physicists who predicted the existence of the Higgs boson. While the quantum calculations developed by Danish physicist Niels Bohr in the early 20th century give accurate values for the energy states of hydrogen, Hagen wanted his students to use an alternate method--called the variational principle--to approximate the value for the ground state of the hydrogen atom...Addressing the centuries-long gap between the 17th century Wallis formula, the 20th century quantum theory, and the decades that passed from that time to now, Doug Ravenel, a professor of mathematics at the University of Rochester, points out that Friedmann and Hagen used long-established concepts of their fields to arrive at their result, so even mathematicians and physicists who lived many decades ago would have been able to appreciate it."This is a beautiful connection between pi and quantum mechanics that could have been found 80 years ago, but was not discovered until now," said Ravenel, congratulating the two authors."
  • Inside Sources has the article I want to quote in one place, "Two multistate testing groups — the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) — received $360 million in taxpayer funds to create Common Core-compliant tests. But there are growing concerns over the program, such as the cost and classroom time consumed by state tests.". It's difficult to imagine that a committee couldn't come up with appropriate test questions in the years that led up to Common Core being implemented without spending one tenth the amount. Open source the problems, cut the costs, and spend the money on the kids, not on the corporations.
  • That hysterical, profanity laden tirade by the Yale student in my last post is just one example of the nonsense going on in public and private education. ZeroHedge has a response by a UNC-Wilmington law professor that's gone viral. Here are some excerpts, "Let’s get something straight right now. You have no right to be unoffended. You have a right to be offended with regularity. It is the price you pay for living in a free society. If you don’t understand that you are confused and dangerously so. In part, I blame your high school teachers for failing to teach you basic civics before you got your diploma. Most of you went to the public high schools, which are a disaster. Don’t tell me that offended you. I went to a public high school....Unbelievably, a student once complained to the Department chairwoman that my mention of God and a Creator was a violation of Separation of Church and State. Let me be as clear as I possibly can: If any of you actually think that my decision to paraphrase the Declaration of Independence in the course syllabus is unconstitutional then you suffer from severe intellectual hernia. Indeed, it takes hard work to become stupid enough to think the Declaration of Independence is unconstitutional. If you agree with the student who made that complaint then you are probably just an anti-religious zealot...".
  • with an article that says "According to statistics released by the U.S. Department of Education and published by NBC News, in the 2011-2012 school year, teachers called the cops on students a total of 31,961 times in the state of California alone, leading to 6,341 arrests. With 175 8-hour school days, that means a cop is called every 2.6 minutes. At one California school district, in particular, East Side Union High School District in San Jose, police were called on students 1,745 times during the 2011-2012 school year. This one school called the police on students more than 10 times a day."
  • The University of Kansas gives in to the PC extremists. Infowars notes "
    A governing body made up of students at the University of Kansas has voted to eliminate their use of gender specific pronouns, stating the terms pose “microaggressions” towards people who don’t fit traditional gender roles....The student government’s move to eliminate gender nouns comes after the National Science Foundation spent $125,000 at KU last year studying how adjectives could be perceived as racist or sexist."
  • The University of Missouri has had the spotlight turn on it. ZeroHedge has a piece that says, "For months, black student groups have complained of racial slurs and other slights on the overwhelmingly white (79% white and 8% black) flagship campus of the Missouri's four-college system. Today, amid a campus in open revolt and at least 30 black football players announcing that they would not play until the president was gone, AP reports that Mizzou President Tim Wolfe has resigned effective immediately urging students and faculty "to heal and start talking again to make the changes necessary." Protestors demanded that Wolfe "acknowledge his white male privilege," that he is immediately removed, and that the school adopt a mandatory racial-awareness program and hire more black faculty and staff.". So much is going on there that I have no idea about, but what has gotten my attention is the behavior of faculty in student demonstrations. The Daily Mail has captured a lot of the stupidity. "The civil rights protests at the University of Missouri took an unexpected turn on Monday, when a media teacher was caught on camera harassing journalists trying to cover the national story....Melissa Click, an assistant media professor at the university, is seen coming up to Mark Schierbecker, another photographer recording the exchange, to cover his camera and demand that he leave....She then comes back to the photographer and starts yelling in his face: 'You need to get out. You need to get out'. When he explains that 'this is public property' and he can stay there because 'it's owned by the university' Click takes on a mocking tone.'That's a really good one. I'm with the communications faculty and I really get that argument - but you need to go. You need to go!' Click says.'Who wants to help me get this reporter out of here?' she yells out. 'I need some muscle over here.'...Her aggression towards journalists is perhaps strange since just two days earlier she publicly reached out to the media on Facebook to cover the story." The website indicates she wasn't the only faculty involved: "Janna Basler, Mizzou's director of Greek life and leadership, tells Tai that he needs to "back off" and "go." She brushes against him, and Tai asks if she's employed by the Office of Greek Life. Basler responds, "My name is 1950." She also tells Tai that he is "impinging on what [its members] need right now, which is to be alone," that report states."As the students behind Basler begin to push forward, she makes physical contact with Tai, prompting him to object, to which she responds, "I don't have a choice." The students seem to decide that since he's not going to move, they're going to move forward as a human chain, physically pushing him back with their bodies. A student adds, "It's our right to walk forward."". But there is a consequence for adults who act like kids: TheManeater reports, "Multiple petitions have been created calling for the removal of two MU employees after a video surfaced documenting an incident on Monday, Nov. 9 in which they demanded that journalists leave the Concerned Student 1950 campsite. Assistant Director of Greek Life and Leadership Janna Basler and Assistant Professor of Mass Media Melissa Click can be seen in the video shouting at MU student and former Maneater staffer Tim Tai and other journalists."
  • New York Magazine looks at the Missouri situation from the PC angle: "The student protest at the University of Missouri began as a response to a serious problem — outbursts of vile racism on campus — and quickly devolved into an expression of a renewed left-wing hostility to freedom of expression...It is also undeniably true that outbursts of political correctness disproportionately take place in campus settings. In recent weeks, UCLA, Wesleyan, and Yale have seen left-wing student activism aimed at shutting down the expression of contrary viewpoints....As far as the students are concerned, they represent the cause of anti-racism, a fact that renders the need for debate irrelevant....People on the left need to stop evading the question of political correctness — by laughing it off as college goofs, or interrogating the motives of p.c. critics, or ignoring it — and make a decision on whether they agree with it.". Well said. Forbes has noted "Melissa Click has become of symbol of what many parents dread when they send their children off to college. From her bullying of students to her doctoral thesis on the whiteness of Martha Stewart and her classes in “visual literacy,” she crystallizes the view that tuition dollars are spent on nonsense, and sometimes worse....That an assistant professor of “mass media” in the department of communication was unaware of the instantaneous power of YouTube and social media is another reason for parents to wonder about the wisdom of spending their money on Click.". ZeroHedge posts when Melissa Click resigned.  Huffington Post looks at her apology, line by line, and calls it Bull****. Fox2Now reports that "...Janna Basler has been relieved from her duties as director of Greek Life & Leadership, pending a university investigation into her actions."
  • EAGNews on how "...the Buffalo school district spent $5,045,586 on the union’s insurance “cosmetic surgery rider” from July 2014 to June 2015....Just look at what the district has spent over the past four years on cosmetic procedures for teacher union members:* July 2014-June 2015: $5,045,586
    * July 2013-June 2014: $5,439,218
    * July 2012-June 2013: $5,221,293
    * July 2011-June 2012: $4,966,179That’s $20,672,276 that has been diverted out of the classroom for expenditures that have nothing to do with educating children."
  •  BoingBoing ask "What would happen if you mixed a math education tutoring site with a late night 900 number?". Click on the link do the reading and watch the video to find out. You'd be very naughty to watch the video at school; wait until you get home. But if you click on the link at the bottom you'll get to BostInno which says "Joking aside, Solve X 4 U is a legitimate homework help business. According to the startup’s website, they can help with problems pertaining to a wide range of difficult STEM subject areas, including statistics, accounting, economics and chemistry. Depending on how many customers they’re servicing, Solve X 4 U will come to your aid within about 24 hours, so plan your homework assignments accordingly."

TCEC Superfinal: Season 8


The best chess players in the world are battling it out and the puny humans aren't invited: TCEC Season 8 has begun: The 100 game match pits Stockfish (winner 2 years ago) with Komodo (last year's winner). Recall that Stockfish beat GM Nakamura in a 4 game match in August 2014: the first 2 games Nakamura had the assistance of computer program Rybka and in the final 2 games he was white with pawn odds. Stockfish won the match with 2 wins and 2 draws. A article mentions (towards the end) how Stockfish forced through g4 to win the game after 75 moves of preparation. Whose da fish now, mankind? 

Let's not forget that Stockfish is the underdog of this match as Komodo won this same tournament last year versus Stockfish. And  its rating was a cool 3304 as ExtremeTech explains in talking about last year's match. The Wall Street Journal reported, "Pentala Harikrishna, one of the top 50 players in the world, estimates that Mr. Carlsen might lose a 20-game match by 19-1. Of course, Mr. Carlsen has little to gain from exposing himself to such a drubbing, but he has acknowledged that the top engines are simply too strong for him.". You can practically hear the computers saying "chicken"---was that you, Watson? As the WSJ article points out: there were 130,000 online spectators for the last TCEC match and "Today, smartphones play better than IBM’s supercomputer did then. And the editors of awarded their “Craziest Game of the Year” prize—an award for aesthetic merit—to an early-round TCEC game between Stockfish and another engine.".

Komodo has drawn "first silicon" by wining game 1, "Komodo started with brilliancy right from game 1. In a slightly better position...Komodo outplayed Stockfish. The eval of Komodo jumped to +1,57 at move 26. b3 , just a move before Stockfish realized the coming trouble.".

Follow the match live here (the screenshot shows all the extra analysis) or on ChessBomb (link on the sidebar). Note that the Stockfish analysis on Chessbomb is significantly worse than what you'll get from the TCEC site.

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

  • It was George Boole's 200th birthday this week.  Scientific American has an article on him here and Google put together a doodle for him. Information Week has the article and link to the doodle.
  • The Wall Street Journal has a piece on the "financial woes" of Common Core: "The total cost of implementing Common Core is difficult to determine because the country’s education spending is fragmented among thousands of districts. The Wall Street Journal looked at spending by states and large school districts and found that more than $7 billion had been spent or committed in connection with the new standards....Much more money would be needed to implement Common Core consistently. Some teachers haven’t been trained, and some schools lack resources to buy materials. Some states haven’t met the goal of offering the test to all students online instead of on paper with No. 2 pencils.....Some states, including South Carolina, Indiana and Florida, have either amended or replaced Common Core standards. Others, including Tennessee, Missouri, LouisianaNew Jersey and North Carolina, are in the process of changing or reviewing them. A total of 21 states have withdrawn from two groups formed to develop common tests, making it difficult to compare results. The issue has become so politicized that some backers have stopped using the name."
  • CBS news has the latest in the Boston student accused of murdering his math teacher: "A judge has ruled that the Massachusetts teenager charged with killing his math teacher is competent to stand trial".
  • If you've been reading this blog you've seen lots of examples of PC stupidity making the rounds in schools and colleges. While it's one thing to hear Jerry Seinfeld or Jay Leno talk about the problem nothing quite drives the point home as much as the infantile behavior caught on video at Yale University. Start with Yale News which talking about preparation for Halloween, "The council’s email asked students to be thoughtful about the cultural implications of their Halloween costumes, citing blackface and turbans as examples of details that could offend or belittle others."  That brought an e-mail response from Silliman College Associate Master Erika Christakis. Big mistake: "In Christakis’ email, she defended students’ rights to wear potentially offensive costumes as an expression of free speech, arguing that the ability to tolerate affront is one of the hallmarks of a free and open society....In response, more than 740 undergraduates, graduate students, alumni, faculty and even students from other universities have signed on to an open letter telling Christakis that her “offensive” email invalidates the voices of minority students on campus. ". So with that background, take a look at the video posted at the Daily Caller. Be aware of the frequent use of the "F-bomb" by the student shouting abuse at Nicholas Christakis. THAT behavior is just fine for the student, though, because the Christakis' wanted the students to be able to dress up for Halloween. Four years of a Yale education isn't worth much when this type of intolerance is allowed to flourish. How will these students transform the job world and society when they get out of school?
  • Signs of the Times with the all too typical bureaucratic knuckle heads bungling things up, "Less than two years after being named Alabama's Teacher of the Year, Ann Marie Corgill resigned her post this week, citing her frustration with bureaucracy. After Corgill was moved from teaching second grade to fifth, she was told she wasn't qualified to teach fifth-graders. In January, Corgill was named one of four finalists for the National Teacher of the Year award. She is a 21-year teaching veteran whose story — and candid resignation letter — has made waves in the education community and beyond. After running into a "wall of bureaucracy," Corgill said in a statement to, "When the news came that I was not considered highly qualified, my frustration boiled over."...Corgill wrote that she holds certificates in early childhood education, both of them with "highly qualified" status. She added that despite her National Board Certification as a middle childhood educator — which certifies her to teach children up to the age of 12 — the administrators had determined that she must apply for a new Alabama certificate.". As in my case and others, it seems more about the state government getting revenue by forcing teachers into training courses. Rather than focus on qualification requirements they focus on certification requirements. The end result is a great teacher has left because she's been abused by the people "guarding" education. Educational officials running the system really need to look in the mirror at how they contribute to the mess that we're in.... Don't hold your breath.
  • Washington Post has Common Core (PARCC) questions to look at. Annoyingly, "In language arts, parents and teachers will need to do extra research, in many cases, in order to fully understand what is being asked. Many questions are based on literary passages that PARCC has withheld due to copyright issues.". Millions of dollars given to companies to make up test, in some cases with questionable content, and then the questions can't be distributed. Things would be a lot better for education if the questions used in these national tests were open source.
  • Say it ain't so! Michael Krieger on "God’s Work – How Goldman Sachs Scammed a Utah Program Meant to Help Preschool Children". The article says "Just when you think “Too Big to Fail and Jail” Wall Street can’t stoop any lower, they go ahead and exceed expectations. The following story is so base, so disgusting, and so completely void of any semblance of ethics, it could only have been achieved by the Vampire Squid itself.The scheme revolves around a crony practice that is increasingly being embraced within our Banana Republic economy: Public-Private Partnerships." . The article quotes from the NY Times, "Yet since the Utah results were disclosed, questions have emerged about whether the program achieved the success that was claimed.Nine early-education experts who reviewed the program for The New York Times quickly identified a number of irregularities in how the program’s success was measured, which seem to have led Goldman and the state to significantly overstate the effect that the investment had achieved in helping young children avoid special education." And then back to Michael Krieger, "This is a new low. Even for Goldman. Talk about creative accounting…you take a five year old, pretend he’s mentally challenged and then earn hundreds of thousands of dollars for “curing” the poor soul. All the while patting yourself on the back and gloating about it to the clueless public. I suppose this is the sort of “miracle” Lloyd Blankfein was referring to when he claimed to be doing God’s work.".
  • The Atlantic has, as usual, another good article on the growing business of Educational Technology. "Every few months, a new study claims that gadgets in the classroom don’t improve learning—but that hasn’t stopped the educational technology market’s steady upward climb. The ed-tech market totaled $8.38 billion in the 2012-13 academic year, the most recent year the Education Technology Industry Network has such information available. That number is up from $7.9 billion the year before, and up 11.7 percent from 2009, when the network began compiling these annual reports...The testing and assessment market, which raked in $2.5 billion during the reported year, was the single largest category of any segment. The assessment market increased so quickly because of the growth of test-friendly Common Core standards a few years back when this data was being collected, Billings explained.". Education is a big business which is getting bigger.
  • American Spectator looks at "Why Common Core is Cracking Up". From the article, "Technology and testing corporations stand to be the big winners. The president of the College Board — the nation’s premier gatekeeper of admissions to higher education — is David Coleman, who is Common Core’s chief designer and first advocate....Keep in mind, education standards are for the most part wishful thinking. The assumption that quality standards will lead to higher student achievement is faith, not fact. Tom Loveless, a former Harvard policy professor at the Brookings Institution, says Common Core is “built on a shaky theory” and perceives no correlation between high standards and student achievement.".
  • The Orange County Register with a piece on a "Cal State Fullerton stands by its reprimand of a math instructor who assigned less expensive, alternative textbooks instead of a book written by math department leadership..." Keep following the money trail, "Brought to light by the Register, Bourget’s hotly debated case centered on “Differential Equations and Linear Algebra,” a textbook written by...the chair and vice chair of CSUF’s math department. For more than two decades, it’s been used as the common text, in some form, to teach Introduction to Linear Algebra and Differential Equations... A new copy of the book costs $180 at the campus bookstore. Bourget wanted to use two other texts instead, which together cost $76....Bourget has long argued there is no written evidence showing that the Good-Annin textbook was officially adopted as the singular text for Math 250B prior to 2014 ... or that the math department had a documented process in place for considering alternative textbooks.The faculty panel agreed.“The lack of a policy or mechanism for considering textbook change, coupled with the fact that the department leadership authored the text, created a situation wherein making a change was likely quite difficult,” wrote Carol Lundberg, chair of the faculty panel that reviewed the reprimand.". But the letter of reprimand stands and, I presume, the students will need to pay an extra $100 for their books.
  • EAGnews on " A white former professor at the historically black Harris-Stowe State University won a nearly $5 million verdict after the court agreed she was fired because of her race....the lawsuit pointed out that...Smith dismissed Wilkins in 2010, citing state budget cuts, but then hired black professors at an increased cost....Wilkins claimed the university systematically purged other white professors from the school during the same time, and deleted emails to cover it up. In one email that was recovered, a black professor at the school spoke out against Smith’s blatant discrimination against white employees. That professor, however, was threatened with her job for highlighting the problem. “I am floored to know that we have an interim leader that has voiced her prejudice so openly to me and others,” the email read. “This flagrant prejudice should not be tolerated or accepted.”"
  • ABC13 gives the latest on a widening sexting scandal in Colorado: "An unspecified number of Canon City High School students have been suspended over the exchange of hundreds of explicit photos of students as young as eighth-graders....An unspecified number of Canon City High School students have been suspended over the exchange of hundreds of explicit photos of students as young as eighth-graders...The possession of explicit photos of minors is a felony in Colorado, which, like many states, has not updated laws intended to fight adult exploitation of children for the smartphone age."

The Basics: Evaluating Expressions


I've added a worksheet to The Basics page. This is programmed using \LaTeX and the sagetex package so that every time you run \LaTeX on the file it creates another randomized worksheet. You should get a free Sagemath Cloud account to run it (that link is on the sidebar as well). I used a "quick and dirty" approach by generating the same type of problem over and over using a for loop. The problems were built into the Sagetex Test Template created some time back and posted on the Handouts page and you'll need to change the teacher name to avoid any questions about who "Ima Putz" is. The extra wrinkle in the worksheet is the creation of answers. It's done on the fly as the problem is being created. The string outputP holds the typesetting of the Problems and the string outputA holds the typesetting of the Answers. Each time a problem is created, outputP is modified and then outputA has the answer appended to it. In this way you've got an answer key which should be correct if I didn't make any mistakes.

Here are some stories which caught my eye over the past week.

  • Who hasn't seen the video of the school officer "choking and slamming" a student who wouldn't hand in her cell phone after she was caught using it in class? Sputnik News has the original report here, followed by a report here on how the officer has a history of problems. The officer was fired, according to the latest report.
  • An article you have to read to believe. What happens if a private school does a terrible job educating students? They have to fix the problem or go out of business. After all, who will pay to get a miserable education? It has to be better or students will go to the "free" public school. The public school system is different--it lacks that accountability. The teachers aren't going to lose their jobs for poor performance and the students are stuck in the local public school. A typical public school will focus on getting all students to meet minimum standards. In an attempt to get some of the poorer students more proficient (it helps the school's score) material gets dumbed down. But in many cases the worst students are not interested in making an effort to improve and performance at all levels suffers. The lower bar means students need to do less to pass and so many do less--a negative cycle that's hard to break. If administration is poor then you've got the next story. Daily Caller reports, "Officials in at public school district about 50 miles north of San Francisco have found a new and exciting way to coddle kids. Under a new policy, students will be able to earn passing grades with scores of just 20 percent...Also, a school district-wide rule forces teachers to give every student a score of 50 percent even if they don’t complete a scintilla of homework or make an effort to mark down an answer on a test or quiz." While the article quotes some teachers who hate the system, there are education professionals some people who disagree, "Excited school district officials have also praised the generous grading system. The officials say students who are academically terrible won’t become demoralized as long as teachers are forced to hand out passing grades. And students who somehow manage a 19 percent or lower will remain encouraged.". From my own experience, students who "manage" a 19 percent do it effortlessly. That is, they put no effort into the course and their parents aren't there to keep them on track. They aren't demoralized; they just don't care. I think vocational educational is the only possible way of getting those students on track. Lowering the bar is a recipe for failure. Why do education professionals some people try to implement such an obviously stupid idea? It seems more about making the admin look good than about improving student performance. Yet in a public school this type of incompetence doesn't get fixed.
  • US News and World Report has a report on all the testing. "The drop in proficiency, which is a first-time occurrence in math since the test was first administered in 1990, comes after a series of years in which the country experienced gains in math and reading on NAEP. "
  • with a piece on Dr. Wendy Bradshaw. Although she " far from retirement age and she has PhD in education, she's leaving her profession because of standardized testing, which she explained in a Facebook post which has been shared more than 44,000 times since it was posted on Oct. 23.". The letter is an indictment of the current system and although she never mentions Common Core by name, it sounds like she doesn't like it. You decide, "Like many other teachers across the nation, I have become more and more disturbed by the misguided reforms taking place which are robbing my students of a developmentally appropriate education. Developmentally appropriate practice is the bedrock upon which early childhood education best practices are based, and has decades of empirical support behind it. However, the new reforms not only disregard this research, they are actively forcing teachers to engage in practices which are not only ineffective but actively harmful to child development and the learning process. I am absolutely willing to back up these statements with literature from the research base, but I doubt it will be asked for."
  • Science Daily with some educational research from Sweden, ""Most digital learning tools used in schools are unsatisfactory and only test the knowledge the pupils already have"..."However, digital learning tools can provide great educational benefits, as long as they do not become books on a screen, but use their digital advantages. This involves providing good feedback, showing that there are different ways of thinking to reach a goal, and presenting consequences that that cannot be demonstrated in a book," says Björn Sjödén."
  • A nice article in Quartz on Singapore teaching "productive failure" in math: "Students who are presented with unfamiliar concepts, asked to work through them, and then taught the solution significantly outperform those who are taught through formal instruction and problem-solving. The approach is both utterly intuitive—we learn from mistakes—and completely counter-intuitive: letting kids flail around with unfamiliar math concepts seems both inefficient and potentially damaging to their confidence..On procedural knowledge, or applying the formula, there was no difference between productive failure and direct instruction. But on conceptual understanding—understanding what it means and possessing the ability to adapt the information—the productive failure students dramatically outperform their direct instruction peers.."
  • The Baltimore Sun on Maryland's PARCC performance, "The first results of testing on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers tests — introduced as part of sweeping educational changes begun several years ago — showed only 31 percent of students met the standard for Algebra I and 40 percent of students met the standard for 10th-grade English....Only a quarter of African-Americans, 7 percent of special education students and 23 percent of students who qualify for subsidized lunches met the benchmark in English. The worst performance was by students learning to speak English, many of them immigrants. Only 2.3 percent of those students were proficient."
  • The Atlantic with a nice article on the new changes to the SAT: "The college-admissions test is being restructured as an extension of the controversial public-school reading and writing standards.". With respect to the math section "The math test will consist of nearly 60 questions split between two sections, one that allows a calculator and one that doesn’t." but this passage sounds bad "“The current SAT asks questions where the material is remarkably simple, but students have to figure out what exactly they are asking for,”". What's wrong with harder math and more straightforward question?
  • NJ PARCC results were mentioned last post. But Newsworks reports there is a twist: "The proficiency rate for PARCC’s geometry test was only 24 percent. In Algebra II, the proficiency rate was 23 percent.....Under state law, students must pass the state’s exit exam to graduate. But under an improvised system put together by the administration for the first three years of the new testing, 12th-graders will have other options....When asked whether the state even has the capacity to handle an appeals process that may include tens of thousands of students, state Education Commissioner David Hespe said the necessary resources will be found: “We’re a big department; we’ll deploy whatever we need.”". Sounds like a big mess.
  • The Obama administration has changed its stance on testing in schools. Vox has this story "After seven years of trying to hold schools and teachers to higher standards — and testing to make sure they meet them — Obama said he's taken it too far. "When I look back on the great teachers who shaped my life, what I remember isn't the way they prepared me to take a standardized test," Obama said, saying he's concerned about "too much testing, and from teachers who feel so much pressure to teach to a test that it takes the joy out of teaching and learning."Beginning immediately, the Education Department is going to start directing states and districts to spend less time testing and to give fewer tests.". More details here, "They've promised to give grants to states to review the tests they're giving and determine which ones to cut. They plan to provide specific instructions on how states can use other federal money to study and cut tests..Most importantly, they're also backing down, at least slightly, on linking test scores to teachers' evaluations. ."


Common Core Questions

So many stories this week including this excellent piece by Joanna Weiss in the Boston Globe. The piece is entitled "PARCC, panic and the perils of the new math", just in case the story gets moved later and the link breaks. Take a look at the article and the actual problem taken from a 5th grade PARCC exam. Ms. Weiss chronicles her reaction, "Stage one: Panic. “Area model what-huh?” Stage two: Frustration. Can’t a poor kid just do long division and be done? Stage three: Extrapolation. Is this the Common Core? The future of education? To the barricades!". As she goes on to say about "new math": "It’s part of a broader philosophy that the Common Core embraces: that kids should know not just the standard algorithms, but the concepts behind them. It’s not just whether you can do long division; it’s do you get long division? Can you explain it in words?".  The author asks the most important question, "So PARCC raises a different philosophical question: What should a test be testing? If you understand what division does, how much more do you need to know? ". The Common Core critic in the article points to the fact that straightforward questions make things more fair. Ms Weiss asks "...Jeff Nellhaus, PARCC’s chief of assessment, why it was on the test." and is told that it isn't boring, makes the kids think, and gets them engaged. How many of you agree with those assertions? The author says, "Well, yes, but so does a classic word problem, the kind that doesn’t require a whole new vocabulary. I’m all for encouraging students to think rather than simply regurgitate formulas. But the developers of PARCC need to be careful, and not just because a new-math zinger can scuttle political support for a test that’s largely quite good.". I was left to wonder why about who is in charge of determining what problems reflect the Common Core standard. As we know with books, the standards don't seem to be set by teachers.

Ms. Weiss makes a great point to the expert's rather lame justification. Now remember how Common Core started out, "The Common Core was designed to elevate teaching and learning.". It would toughen up the testing and some "soccer moms" might be upset to find their kids weren't quite so smart and "Duncan has repeatedly said the new Core-aligned standardized tests — being designed by two multistate consortia with some $350 million in federal money — would be light years ahead of the current tests.". We're now years out from those remarks and kinks in the system should be ironed out; those sorts of problems have fueled the backlash against Common Core and has put the supporters on the defensive. You can usually find a recent article of people complaining about Common Core problems--problems that are being attributed to Common Core and as this Washington Post piece notes, "Defenders of the standards have had considerable success convincing the public that those who reject them do so because they oppose education reform, are poorly informed, are under union thumbs, or don’t want to face the fact that their kids aren’t as smart as they thought they were.".

So now think about these questions, some mentioned in the article:

  1. Why is this question on a test? Traditional word problems work just fine for higher order thinking and I doubt many (if any) felt "engaged" by the problem.
  2. Does getting the question wrong indicate problems in the student's understanding of math? It doesn't seem to fairly assess a student's math knowledge. So why are education professionals holding it up as worthy test question?
  3. Should Common Core tests be used to judge teacher performance when some of the  garbage content is not "basic"?
  4. Might teachers waste valuable class time prepping for these types of "engaging" questions rather than concentrating on the basics?
  5. Who is driving the content based on the standards, teachers or corporations? And how much is the content shaped/influenced by teachers who are actively teaching?

Some blame teachers for 4 ways to subtract, area models, and other mathematical junk because Common Core is just a set of standards to guide the teacher--the teacher decides what is taught and how it is taught. But note that a teacher who teaches who exercises their judgement and avoids the area model in favor of the traditional "old school" methods will have students dropping test points even if  they understand how to do division; and if teacher performance is tied to that then the teacher will need to spend valuable time covering that garbage. PARCC's chief of assessment has said that the question is designed to measure a Common Core standard. This is a big part of the problem--Common Core should be measuring basics but the standards, as interpreted by an "expert" fly in the face of common sense. This sort Common Core test seems ridiculous . So the crazy math problems are part of Common Core and much of the ire should be directed at those companies creating the content (textbooks/resources/tests) getting branded as Common Core.

If we want to make this system work why not consider a database of questions broken down by grade level and difficulty level? So, making up some numbers for an example: suppose each grade has 500 problems with 100 problems at each of 5 levels of difficulty. The problems have been assembled by teachers and approved to go into the national database. A student would know the types of problems that would occur on the exam. A computer test would make up a test of 50 problems drawn from the 500 problems--randomized (both problems and numbers in the problem) for each student so that cheating is more difficult. The number of problems from each difficulty level would be decided ahead of time. The problems making up each level would be tweaked each year to retire some problems and introduce others. The problems in the database would be widely disseminated through PDFs and/or websites that let students access the content (create a random test/download x problems with difficulty y, etc). Knowing the potential problems they could encounter lets

  1. better students work ahead
  2. students out of school for extended periods of time keep working on content they need
  3. ESL (English-as-a-second-language) learners to study the word problems so that vocabulary/ grammar/ idioms that might prevent them from understanding the question are understood before the test.

In essence, look to create a transparent testing process and then insist on accountability. Now that's a touchy subject best left for each state to decide. With respect to students it could mean a very poor grade would impact their course (no A or forced to repeat the course) and potentially even the ability to graduate. But accountability needs to be there for teachers, too whether it affects their pay raise, ability to teach a specific class, or in extreme cases getting their license renewed.

Here are some stories that caught my eye over the past week.

  • So many test results have come out. Jim Clark of the Sierra Sun has an excellent column explaining Common Core results and the "games" states play: "Common Core charters two assessment consortiums: the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College Careers (“PARCC”) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (“SBAC”). States can take their choice.PARCC administered tests last spring in 10 states. The consortium’s mushy scoring system evaluates “expectations”; students score “below,” “nearly meets” or “meets/exceeds.”As reported in the New York Times, Ohio reported two thirds of its students are proficient in math and English; Massachusetts, a traditionally strong performer, reported only about half its students are proficient; and Illinois reported only one third proficient. What happened? (Enter, center stage, politically correct politicians) Ohio, California and North Carolina regarded “nearly meets and “meets/exceeds” as proficient. Massachusetts and Illinois only counted “meets or exceeds” as proficient.""
  • Washington state has released preliminary data, according to Connecticut News Blogs, "Only 29 percent of Washington High School students passed the SBAC math test. Put another way, more than 50,000 Juniors failed to pass this unreliable and unfair SBAC test.". New Jersey also has some splainin to do. According to, "A majority of students across New Jersey in all grade levels failed to meet expectations in math, and no more than 52 percent of them in any grade level met them in English.". NJTV reports, "Education Commissioner David Hespe says statewide percentages for PARCC math results are the most troublesome. More than half of the students tested failed to meet expectations or grade level. “For example, one third of our students – not yet on track – in geometry and that really causes some concern because that is unusual,” said Hespe.". Meanwhile, The Town Talk says "About 30 to 40 percent of Louisiana students showed a “mastery” command of English and math skills, according to state data.". Over at MyFoxBoston we learn, "The figures show 60 percent of students who took PARCC in grades three through eight met expectations in the English Language portion of the test, and 52 percent met expectations in math.". Now that's disturbing: Massachusetts is typically one of the best states in the US for education. But take a look at the mind shattering number from Fresno, California. From the Fresno Bee, "Only 2 percent of Fresno Unified students are considered college ready...Fresno Unified officials say the alarmingly low number is skewed because this is the first year the Common Core standards are a factor, but even before then Fresno Unified lagged far behind the state average....In 2011 ...Fresno Unified had 11 percent ready for college English and only 4 percent ready for math...Trustee Carol Mills said the number doesn’t correlate with other factors the district uses to determine if a student is “college ready.” For example: nearly 50 percent of Fresno Unified graduates completed A-G requirements –basic high school courses students need to pass before college....The Data Dashboard also yielded other alarming statistics, including the fact that 58 percent of students had a D or an F on their report card last school year. There also are wide achievement gaps among minority students....Graduation rates, however, have increased in recent years, with nearly 82 percent of students graduating on time.". Unbelievable.
  • If you read enough of those reports you see all sorts of attempts to make the numbers look better (see Jim Clark) or to minimize their importance. So how do you make the pile smell even better? The Bluegrass Institute has the answer with two pieces to look at, because the second is not so clear when you read it. The first piece explains, " some years during the past decade, more than 40 percent of Kentucky’s high-school graduates needed non-credit remedial course in one or more areas of English, math or reading. So, what’s happening? Dreamers in the bureaucracy are lowering the rim by getting rid of remedial classes.They wistfully think all will be well if these students, who are well behind, get placed in so-called “accelerated courses” – credit-bearing classes that promise to catch them up with their better-prepared peers. It’s a fanciful expectation that Robert King, president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, even admitted on Oct. 6 to the state Board of Education that professors in the university system are unhappy about.". So the officials entrusted to educate the students are attempting to lower the rim to make high school easier. The second piece explains the backlash from the local college system, "These department heads really took King to the woodshed for his obviously impractical ideas. A few quotes from the letter make it obvious that the math troops are really unhappy....“Adoption of the default placement model described in the Guiding Principles would indicate to the K-12 community that the postsecondary system no longer adheres to even these minimal standards for college readiness, let alone the more rigorous standards of the KCAS.”...“The impact of the co‐requisite model as a statewide standard will be particularly destructive in mathematics because students will no longer be held accountable by the postsecondary system for learning any algebra, not even the most basic algebra universally regarded as essential for college readiness in mathematics.”.....In closing, I must point out that critics of the Common Core State Standards predicted a dumbing down of college standards as an inevitable consequence of the adoption of what former Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday repeatedly admitted (such as here) were only “minimum” standards. After all, standards that omit high school trigonometry and pre-calculus are not going to get many kids ready for real college work. But, if the new college standard won’t even require high school mastery of algebra, we have a real problem.Clearly, the answer isn’t to dumb down the standards in Kentucky’s colleges. The real fix is to improve the quality of what comes out of Kentucky’s high schools." Thank goodness some people in Kentucky are not letting education officials destroy their state's education system. That would be a sad irony.
  • Signs of the Times with a fascinating look at the illegal overthrow of Hawaii. The article has a two part video on the issue as well. I would venture to say the vast majority of Americans are unfamiliar with the history of Hawaii.
  • Contra Costa Times on how UC Berkely aroused the ire of its students by not letting one of its adjunct teachers (and highest rated teacher) continue teaching. Sad.
  • Signs of the Times again with the following story, "A Gillett, Wisconsin, high school school teacher went to the hospital after a group of students filled his soda with cleaning solution, police say. On Oct. 20, the Gillett Secondary School teacher noticed a strange smell coming from his bottle after he had left it unattended, Fox 11 News reports....While the teacher had no symptoms, he decided to admit himself to the hospital as a precaution....It was later discovered that two teenagers, a 16-year-old boy and a 17-year-old girl, had put the solution into the teacher's drink. They reportedly told the police that they poured a small amount of the cleaning solution into the teacher's soda as a prank....The school district is still working to determine the correct disciplinary action". 
  • University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has, according to Infowars, determined, "...using the term “politically correct” as a pejorative is a politically incorrect “microaggression”. A campaign entitled Just Words which seeks to “raise awareness of microaggressions and their impact” asserts that the terms “politically correct” and “PC” have “become a way to deflect, [and say] that people are being too ‘sensitive’ and police language.”. They have some conclusions on other words, too.
  • on "...administrators at a school district outside Boise, Idaho voted earlier this year to purchase four rifles, 2,000 rounds of ammunition, and to train some staff to shoot".
  • An article I just discovered in Psychology Today, which was written last month, talks about declining student resilience: "Students are increasingly seeking help for, and apparently having emotional crises over, problems of everyday life. Recent examples mentioned .... two students who had sought counseling because they had seen a mouse in their off-campus apartment. The latter two also called the police, who kindly arrived and set a mousetrap for them....Faculty at the meetings noted that students’ emotional fragility has become a serious problem when it comes to grading. Some said they had grown afraid to give low grades for poor performance, because of the subsequent emotional crises they would have to deal with in their offices. Many students, they said, now view a C, or sometimes even a B, as failure, and they interpret such “failure” as the end of the world. Faculty also noted an increased tendency for students to blame them (the faculty) for low grades—they weren’t explicit enough in telling the students just what the test would cover or just what would distinguish a good paper from a bad one. They described an increased tendency to see a poor grade as reason to complain rather than as reason to study more, or more effectively."

PEMDAS: notes


As I mentioned last post, I've been interacting with some middle school students. PEMDAS has been an important topic. I've put together some brief notes, shown above, that could form the basis of a lesson: warm up problems (which could then be the basis of discussion), teaching points, and then some more difficult problems involving PEMDAS, The solutions are at the end. The level of difficulty is more towards high school school students or an "honors" course at the middle school level. I've created a new  page called The Basics where you can download the PDF. I will post other introductory material there as needed. The Basics link is located on the sidebar, too.

Here are some stories that caught my eye this week:

  • Zero Hedge has commentary on a provocative piece in the The Economist magazine: "MICHAEL WANG, a young Californian, came second in his class of 1,002 students; his ACT score was 36, the maximum possible; he sang at Barack Obama’s inauguration; he got third place in a national piano contest; he was in the top 150 of a national maths competition; he was in several national debating-competition finals. But when it came to his university application he faced a serious disappointment for the first time in his glittering career. He was rejected by six of the seven Ivy League colleges to which he applied.". The article has the nice quote from, "...Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts on this subject: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discrimination on the basis of race.”". So true; but as private institutions they can do what they want. They are, however, undermining the prestige of their school. The loss of confidence in quality, combined with the cost of a US college education doesn't bode well for the future of US college education.
  • Payson Roundup wants to know why math scores of Arizona students have "plunged". According to the article, "Arizona students are worse in math than students in 33 other states according to data provided by the Nations Report Card. Arizona is not the only state that is struggling with proficiency in mathematics; the entire United States has poor mathematic proficiency scores. The National Assessment of Educational Process found that 7 out of 10 students in the U.S. scored at or above basic level in mathematics in 2013."
  • Huffington Post's Peter Greene delivers a verbal smack-down to a nonsensical Politico article. Nice job Mr. Greene!
  • The Atlantic has a piece on "The Anti-Free Speech Movement at UCLA". From the beginning of the article, "A half-century ago, student activists at the University of California clashed with administrators during the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, a series of events that would greatly expand free-speech rights of people at public colleges and universities.Today, activists at UCLA are demanding that administrators punish some of their fellow students for expressive behavior that is clearly protected by the First Amendment.". The article dishes out some blame, too: " The San Francisco Chronicle put it this way: “Regent Dick Blum said his wife, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., ‘is prepared to be critical of this university’ unless UC not only tackles anti-Jewish bigotry but also makes clear that perpetrators will be punished.” The lawyer Ken White wrote that “Blum threatened that his wife … would interfere and make trouble if the Regents didn’t commit to punish people for prohibited speech.”"
  • Listverse has "10 Things You Probably Didn't Know about Albert Einstein". What do you know about the Einstein refrigerator?
  • California has banned schools from using "Redskins" as a team name or mascot beginning Jan 1, 2017. "The new law will affect four California high schools in Merced, Calaveras, Tulare and Madera counties.". Does this mean they condone the "fighting Irish"? Perhaps that's the next lawsuit. Curiously enough, Governor Jerry Brown "...vetoed a separate measure that would have barred public properties from being named after individuals associated with the Confederacy."
  • Edsource has an article on poor California test scores, "In fact, only one-third of California students in grades 3-8 and grade 11 met the math standard – compared to 44 percent of students who met the standard in English language arts.". Did you get that? Failure is "the norm". Always remember that the test scores would be lower if it weren't for the many students who get a tutor to help them learn. And take a look at all the it's-no-big-deal talk and Common Core challenges talk. With respect to Common Core: "“Los Angeles started implementing Common Core three years ago,” Dorado said. “It takes time and a tremendous amount of work. In LAUSD, we’re talking 500 elementary schools alone.”Another challenge has been the shortage and quality of curriculum materials aligned with the standards. “Many teachers are in the implementation phase,” said the California Mathematics Council’s Vierra. “Many districts are still getting around to buying the curriculum (materials they need).”“A lot of teachers are cobbling together old materials with lessons they find online and material the district is providing,” she said. “Much of the math curriculum is still very fragmented.”". That's similar to my experience--despite knowing years in advance what was coming the school systems are still behind the curve years after Common Core was "implemented".

"Teachers" and "Education"

It was supposed to be easy-- moving to another state--but as I feared, it wasn't. I had spoken to someone from the state's Department of Education (DOE) and was told there would be no problem in teaching as an experienced teacher. But there was a problem. As it stands now I'm classified as a "rookie" teacher--which will require an additional 220+ hours of training and classes at a local community college in order to teach in the public school system. That would mean hundreds of hours training while working as a full time teacher plus thousands of dollars to take courses on things like time management, Common Core, and other topics that might be helpful to someone who has never taught in a public school before--but not for someone with 8 years of experience teaching high school math.

From talking to others, it seems this state has numerous "victims" who have been forced to pay fees and go through supplemental courses to meet state "standards". Same cr@p, different state--education is a business--a poorly run, inefficient, bureaucratically bloated, corrupt business. While I appeal the decision, another nightmare to talk about some other time, I've been learning about the local schools and looking into teaching jobs overseas in case the appeal is unfavorable. Given how messed up my dealings have been with the DOE, I'm not optimistic about winning the appeal. Recently I've heard about local teachers and schools using Khan Academy in the classroom as a substitute for teaching. Students watch online videos and take online test/quizzes. I'm not sure exactly what the teacher does but I've heard that one teacher likes that she can track the performance of the class and see what problems are causing the student difficulty. I've been reluctant to believe some of the details I've heard but after reading a Gary North article, "How Salman Khan Has Smashed 3,000 Years of Classroom Education Mythology", it seems that what I'm hearing about may not be as unusual as I thought. The article is well worth reading though I strongly disagree with this type of "education" and "teacher" that Gary North is talking about.

From the article, "According to its website, the Khan Academy now has 26 million registered students. Registered. Not just dropping in to see videos, but actually registering....Think about what this means for the educational establishment. They have claimed for over a century that a teacher must have specialized training in order to become an effective teacher. He must spend years in specialized classes in state-accredited universities in order to be sufficiently competent to teach a roomful of 30 students at a time. But Khan is teaching 26 million students at a time...He has turned the entire teaching establishment into the equivalent of teachers' aides..". He also says, in referring to Salman Khan: "That student is being taught by someone who never went through this screening process of state licensure and certification." And then describes  the public school system as " teacher and one low-paid teacher's assistant doing little more than taking roll". Two major points stood out to me. First, is that the teacher certification process is nonsense. And to that I heartily agree--I've had a front row seat to that freak show. Teacher certification as is implemented by the states is an impediment to "fixing" education. The second point that gets made is that teachers don't teach much and, even further (where I disagree) that they don't need to ("He has proven that by paying somebody nothing, that person can become the primary teacher..If the students can speak English, he becomes the primary teacher"). If Gary North's experience with the local education system is similar to what I'm seeing here then I understand why he says what he does. But I want to inject another perspective:

  1. Salman Khan is not a teacher: What you see with Salman Khan is mastery of subject and (usually) a decent explanation. But that's just one part of teaching. Teachers deal with, in some cases, difficult students, helicopter parents, discipline issues, special education students. They have to keep the students on task, set the pace, assess the performance--slowing down when the class has a problem and finding other ways to present the material to help out the students. You don't get that from a video. Salman Khan can be seen by many as a teacher because he, unlike many "qualified" teachers, is actually competent in the what he's teaching. About one third of public school math teachers don't having a degree in math and the math "standards" of middle schools is poor.
  2.  Khan Academy is not education: One student I've met liked Khan Academy because his solution to the problem wasn't graded, just the answer. Like other online tests you're graded as right or wrong. Why would a certified teacher think it's acceptable to not show your work in math? The student may be making a mistake (e.g. thinking -2^3 = (-2)^3) and getting the correct answer. Without work that error gets repeated and repeated. But it's commonplace for middle school teachers to not require the work. Said student did well on one quiz because the random creation of problems resulted in his quiz not having lots of negative numbers, where his knowledge was shaky.
  3. Teachers who abdicate their role in the classroom for videos and Khan Academy aren't teachers, they're "teachers" earning a nice salary for sitting in a class and performing administrative duties--low level administrators who cheapen the profession. Unfortunately it's becoming more commonplace. Khan Academy and it's videos are valuable resources that can provide supplemental instruction. Making that the class and calling it education; this "Education for the Masses" is not education--it's "education". Instead of encouraging this educational malpractice, real teaching professionals should be fighting it. Show that you can be replaced by a video and you eventually will be.

Teachers like to claim "teaching is a profession". It can be and it should be BUT it isn't under the current system. Worse, those in the system don't seem view it as a problem so it will never be fixed. Talk to anyone outside the system and they have some horror story about an unqualified teacher, yet that teacher gets certified to teach and then the system makes it very difficult to get rid of them even after it becomes crystal clear they are in the wrong profession. At the same time the system is actively keeping other qualified people from teaching. That's NOT a teaching profession--that's a teaching racket, and until educators really weed out bad teachers it's ironic to call them professionals. Moreover, despite claims of using "best practice" to guide policy there is no evidence that certified teachers of the public school system are better than the private school teacher. Anecdotal data shows the opposite, and that's why millions of people work hard to save hundreds of thousands of dollars to send their children to private school rather than accept such poor quality education.

The fact that teachers and education professionals don't work to fix the inequities  makes the "teaching is a profession" self serving rhetoric. As designed the certification process helps protect vested power structures in education. For example, teaching colleges--why spend time or money going to a teaching college if people can become teachers without spending that time or money. So they make the issue of getting certified to be based on other peripheral factors. Unions and teachers like it, too. Certification hurdles prevent an over supply of teachers (especially when the economy turns down) from pushing down wages. It makes teachers more valuable because it's more difficult to find a "qualified" replacement. Many adjuncts at community colleges work for slave wages, for example, because although they're qualified to teach that grade 13 student they aren't certified to teach them at grade 12---and with thousands of dollars and years of "training" obstacles they can't easily get into the public school system. Of course, if they did, they'd find themselves  relegated to teaching low level courses while the less qualified senior teacher takes the grade 12 courses. It's a perquisite of seniority--smaller class sizes, less special ed students, more diligent students, and less discipline problems. That teacher isn't teaching that class based on merit or standards and it's not "all about the kids" whatever they tell you.

Many certified teachers are not competent in their subject but the state certifies them as competent. This "certification of quality" is anything but. My 3 math degrees are irrelevant in determining whether I'm competent to teach math in a public school. In order to be certified the state you need to pass a multiple choice math test which requires the use of a calculator. Any normal person would consider degrees in mathematics as real proof of math competency but the DOEs, which are supposed to safeguard the standards, don't. Instead they establish their own much weaker standard and use that. It's a "smoking gun", if you will, that demonstrates real standards aren't driving policy, it's something else. Can you understand why this might weaken education? Why it isn't good for the kids? Is it any wonder our country performs so poorly on national and international testing? Is it any wonder that education shows no signs of improvement decade after decade?

It's certainly no wonder why parents spend a fortune getting their kids out of the "typical" high school. Many have graduated from good schools themselves and they know the difference between teachers and "teachers" and education and "education". I think it's wrong for Gary North or "educators" to view the resources of Khan Academy as an education (any more than a textbook should be considered an education). But given what passes for normal in public schools, I can understand the confusion. Good schools know these are anything but standards. "Educators" accepting and promoting them are anything but. Find another job, please! Until "certified" becomes synonymous with "qualified" and problem teachers are shown the door teaching is a profession is a lie. To make teaching a profession the certification process should be more about qualifications.

  1. Make sure every teacher passes a background check.
  2. A college degree. And make sure subject teachers have mastery of the subject. A BA or higher in a subject from an accredited institution demonstrates mastery. For areas with teacher shortages, passing PRAXIS/CBEST/... subject tests would help get that teacher into the classroom but it should be lower pay as they aren't truly qualified. This gives an incentive for them to get the appropriate education. Perhaps when teachers are let go through reduction in force those teachers would go before those with true qualifications.
  3. Teachers with unsatisfactory performance should have a window of opportunity to improve. For major/severe violations, immediate expulsion.
  4. Eliminate the silly certification requirements that have nothing to do with teaching. My problem was that my teacher training didn't have student teaching. They conveniently decided not to count the 8 years of full time teaching--three in a public high school with frequent teacher evaluations.

The third issue is the ultimate sticking point. It is difficult and expensive to get rid of unsatisfactory teachers. How can the system improve when it protects incompetence? If teaching is to be a profession, you can't shelter the incompetent--there's nothing professional about that and those poor teachers overshadow the true, hardworking, dedicated teachers who are out there. Teacher tenure should be abolished. Professions care about standards and quality--the current education system pays lip service to them.

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

  • The Chicago Tribune has  an article "Former Chicago Public Schools chief to plead guilty to bribery scheme". You'll get some insight into why I  feel the huge sums of money in public education go more towards bloated administration, corruption and other issues that don't towards educating students. From the article, "The secret bonus was just one part of a massive scheme outlined in a criminal indictment Thursday charging Byrd-Bennett, 66, with steering no-bid contracts worth more than $23 million to SUPES in return for promises of up to $2.3 million in kickbacks, other perks and a job.....The contract at the heart of the indictment involved a training program for principals and other midlevel administrators that greatly expanded a pilot program from 2011. A CPS committee set up to evaluate no-bid contracts initially balked at awarding SUPES a noncompetitive deal but less than a month later approved the plan. A short time later, in October 2012, the board awarded the first $2 million contract to SUPES, records show....Much of the indictment centers on emails sent between Solomon and Byrd-Bennett that seem to make no effort to conceal the alleged kickback scheme. In one message, which she finished with a smiley-face emoticon, Byrd-Bennett implied she needed cash because she had "tuition to pay and casinos to visit," according to the charges."
  • Signs of the Times reports "Four students have been plotting to "shoot and kill as many people as possible" at their high school in Tuolumne, California, according to authorities. Police arrested the suspects just a day after a mass shooting at an Oregon college left nine people dead. The arrests of the students from Summerville High School, in Tuolumne, California, were made Friday after the investigators discovered a "detailed" plan of a school-shooting massacre. All suspects were apprehended at their homes on suspicion of conspiracy to commit an assault with deadly weapons."
  • Scientific American with a good article on Shinichi Mochizuki and the status of the ABC Conjecture. "To complete the proof, Mochizuki had invented a new branch of his discipline, one that is astonishingly abstract even by the standards of pure maths. “Looking at it, you feel a bit like you might be reading a paper from the future, or from outer space,” number theorist Jordan Ellenberg, of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, wrote on his blog a few days after the paper appeared. Three years on, Mochizuki's proof remains in mathematical limbo—neither debunked nor accepted by the wider community. Mochizuki has estimated that it would take an expert in arithmetic geometry some 500 hours to understand his work, and a maths graduate student about ten years. So far, only four mathematicians say that they have been able to read the entire proof."
  • The American Enterprise Institute has an article summed up by the title "New data on 2015 SAT test confirm 40+ year pattern — high school boys outperform girls on the SAT math test". Some key stats to take away from the article: 1. "more young women (903,719) than men (794,802) took the SAT test in 2015" 2. "more high school boys than girls achieved perfect scores of 800 on the 2015 math test (11,098 boys vs. 5,570 girls), perfect scores of 800 on the critical reading test (5,160 boys vs. 4,746 girls), and combined perfect scores of 1600 on those two tests (1,325 boys vs. 721 girls)" 3.  "the percentage of maleswho earned perfect scores of 800 points (1.4%) to the percentage of females with perfect scores (0.62%), which produces an adjusted male-female ratio of 2.26-to-1 (vs. the 1.99 unadjusted ratio) for students who had perfect 800-point scores." The conclusion is well worth reading for several points that it makes. Women are doing academically than men, they are better represented in AP courses. "By all objective measures then, girls have essentially all of the necessary ingredients that should result in greater representation in STEM fields like engineering and computer science except perhaps for one: a huge, statistically significant and persistent 30-point gender gap (and a 10 percentile gender gap) on the SAT math test in favor of boys that has persisted for more than 40 years." And finally, "Given the significant and persistent gender differences in SAT math test scores that have persisted over many generations, the scientific data about gender differences in math performance would seem to present a serious challenge to Professor Hyde’s (and others) frequent claims that there are no gender differences in math performance.". A very interesting look at the data.
  • Signs of the Times with another piece, "A female high school student awaits a disciplinary hearing and could face expulsion for wearing a Halloween costume to school that prompted officials to lock down the building Wednesday. An unnamed female student was spotted in the hallway at Pueblo County High School early yesterday morning wearing a gas mask and trench coat...The teen was hauled to the office where she was interrogated by the police, who also placed the school on lockdown for about an hour. The Pueblo County Sheriff's Office SWAT team, which was training near the school, also responded in full camouflage gear and a large armored vehicle to sweep the building for anything dangerous or suspicious."
  • Kajarkin has won the World Cup of chess. Huffington Post has the details.
  • Magnus Carlsen will defend his chess titles in Berlin, according to Chessbase.
  • Signs of the Times again with an article plus local news video on "An Ohio court has upheld the suspension of a 12-year-old black boy for staring at a white girl at school in what he called a "staring contest," Fox 19 is reporting.The unidentified student was suspended from a private Catholic school, St. Gabriel Consolidated, in September of last year after school officials say he "intimidated" his classmate. According to the boy, he and the girl were engaged in a staring contest and that she was giggling the whole time. "
  • with an update on the jury selection for the student who is being tried for killing his math teacher. I covered this some time ago here.

Resource: Cheating and other topics

They're cute, they're funny and with millions of views per video that's definitely not just my opinion. sWooZie videos each have millions of views and they could, potentially, be a useful resource for your class. I'm thinking in terms of cheating in the classroom, though other topics such as procrastination or bullying might be useful. There are 3 videos that deal with cheating in high school. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 as well as videos on cheating in middle school and college as well; the video on cheating in middle school has over 13 million views(!) Since the videos run about 5 minutes long they could provide a good way to lead into your topic or initiate a class discussion.

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

  • Newsday has an article "Cuomo throws Common Core under the bus". From the article, "...Cuomo is ostensibly siding with parents, saying Common Core is "not working" and pledging to review the standards, tests and curricula" and the following statistic gets thrown in. "Every year, half of New York's two-year college students must take remedial courses. Many of them will leave without a degree, or any credential. ". The Hechinger Report looks deeper into the reversal of New York's strong support of Common Core. This sentence caught my eye, "Dissatisfied that 96 percent of teachers were still getting good ratings – despite the fact that only about 35 percent of students were passing the new, harder Common Core tests – Cuomo got the legislature to agree to make it harder for teachers to be rated effective and harder for teachers without effective ratings to get tenure."
  • Accuracy in Academia talks about the high cost of Common Core, "During the past half-decade, the 26 states aligned with the Common Core has dropped to 7 but the price tag keeps increasing.“The Pioneer Institute estimates that the 7-year cost of Common Core is $16 billion,” Silicon Valley engineer Ze’ev Wurman said at the same Press Club event where Wood spoke....“In California, which has a line-item in the budget for it, the three year cost has been $5.2 billion. The original estimate in California was $1.6 billion.”" .
  • reports on a high school shooting in South Dakota "The principal of a South Dakota high school was wounded by a gunshot Wednesday morning. Authorities say that a student is suspected to be the perpetrator, and is in custody."
  • Ars Technica has an article "Los Angeles schools reach $6.4 million settlement with Apple, Lenovo" which ends an old fight, "Last year, LAUSD halted the $1.3 billion project to give every student in the massive district an iPad loaded with Pearson’s educational material. The about-face was announced after the Los Angeles Times reported that there had been improprieties in the bidding process for the contract with the school district."
  • Education Secretary Arnie Duncan is stepping down and Slate says "But as the opposition to Duncan’s policies has become more populist, and less overtly political in some communities, the changing nature of the push-back has aggravated existing tensions among Democrats over education policy, and endangered some of Duncan’s favored reforms".
  • tells us "Gov. Bobby Jindal has agreed to spend $830,000 in public funds on his two failed legal cases fighting the Common Core academic standards in state and federal court....It's possible Jindal's fight over Common Core will end up costing the state even more than $830,000 over time. Legal fees in a separate Common Core lawsuit filed by legislators were not included in the initial estimate." Money to implement Common Core + money to repeal Common Core = lots of wasted money + less money for students.

Handouts: Integral Table


I've added a Table of Integrals, a PDF and the tex file that created it, to the Handouts page. This will let you customize the integrals to the ones most appropriate for your class.

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

  • Remember the big decline in SAT scores I posted not that long ago? The American Enterprise Institute has reported that a more comprehensive breakdown has been completed, "But the story was incomplete, because the College Board had embargoed the breakdown of scores by ethnicity until a few days ago. Now they can be published. Here are the 10-year changes in test scores by ethnicity:" Check out the chart of performance, in words, "The new text should point out that the white change was small, just an aggregate of 6 points. That black scores fell by an aggregate 14 points is troubling because their scores in 2006 were already lower than those of any other ethnic group. That the scores of Latinos and American Indians fell by 26 and 28 points is even more troubling. But how about those Asians! Their aggregate mean score rose by 54 points.". So it looks like the news isn't all bad. Whose the courageous soul who wants to explain the differences in perforamnace?
  • I mentioned here that one third of high school math teachers didn't have a degree in mathematics. That was based on 2007-2008 data. reports that with more updated data (2011-2012), "Almost half of high school students are learning history from a teacher without a degree in the subject.". A link on the page sends you to Humanities Indicators website which has data on other subjects, including math. There is a nice chart to help you make sense of the data. Math is roughly the same.
  • ScienceNews reports that Terry Tao has solved an old outstanding math problem that had a $500 bounty from the late Paul Erdos. The site only gives nonmembers the first few paragraphs of the article. has the details and RJ Lipton's blog has more of the mathematics behind the story.
  • The Boston Globe reports "State education officials withheld MCAS math results from Boston’s English High School as they released statewide scores Thursday, citing irregularities that require examination....The score suppression came as a surprise to Boston school officials, who learned of it a short time before the state provided MCAS data to media outlets. Boston Superintendent Tommy Chang said the state did not tell him why the scores were withheld,...". Scores withheld for no reason? I hope that poor scores aren't the explanation.
  • The Daily Caller reports, "The state of New York looks to be the next state with plans to re-brand the Common Core by calling it something else but otherwise making virtually no substantive curriculum changes." I wonder how much tax money that will cost.
  • Business Insider does a follow up to the 100 million contribution to Newark schools made by Mark Zucherberg some 5 years ago, "One of the major miscommunications about how his money would be spent had to do with teacher contracts. Zuckerberg wanted to be able to create more flexibility in teacher contracts to reward high-performing teachers and be able to fire teachers with poor records of student achievement. But those types of protections are determined by New Jersey State law, and Zuckerberg couldn't simply come in and change the rules without going through the state legislature to make the changes......Zuckerberg envisioned the teacher contract reform to be a centerpiece of the reform and had intended for half of his $100 million donation to go to working on that cause.But instead, the opposite occurred. Chris Cerf, the New Jersey commissioner of education at the time, worked with the legislature and was able to negotiate some new accountability measures in teacher contracts. But the teachers' union only agreed upon those measures if the seniority protections remained intact.". I was recently pointed to a more thorough examination that I had missed by the NYTimes given here.  It's a veritable case study in how the layers of educational bureaucracy eat up most of the money--a fundamental reason (plus lack of accountability) that is the albatross around the neck of public education: "Their five-year plan gets off to a rocky start. Initial funds go to a bevy of consultants, most of them white, most of them well connected, some of whom are getting paid $1,000 a day...Moreover, it quickly becomes apparent that this is a top-down effort, with politicians and the well-to-do setting the agenda. When Booker sets up a local foundation to handle Zuckerberg’s gift, the seats on the board go only to donors of at least $5 million.....And Zuckerberg, a newcomer to philanthropy, seems frustrated by the inability to negotiate a union contract that would quickly raise the salaries of promising young teachers and pay substantial merit bonuses for high performers.....What ultimately derails this grand experiment is the unwillingness of the reformers to include parents and teachers in shaping the reforms.". Another piece from the NY Times says,"Almost half of Zuckerberg’s grant was spent (or committed) to help gain new labor contracts; out of the $200 million in his money and the matching grant, a full $21 million went to buying out unwanted teachers and other staff members, for instance. Yet Zuckerberg didn’t realize until too late that New Jersey state law — not teacher contracts — imposed the seniority system he was trying to get rid of....The district schools get $19,650 per pupil, but only $9,604 trickles down to the schools. Money that the charter school is spending on extra support is being soaked up by the bloated bureaucracy in the public school system. It is a devastating fact.".  Some excellent articles by the NY TImes. Mark Zuckerberg got an expensive lesson in how those managing the education of public school are enriching themselves first at the expense of the kids they oversee. It's difficult to reform public education  with such a huge structural obstacle to real change.
  • OregonLive informs us test scores are"Sky-high in writing, ultra low in math". And notice "Oregon and other states are mapping passing scores on their old exams to those new tests; Washington is the only other state that has completed the process.". That's a fancy way of saying that to compensate for more difficult tests, you lower passing scores--then schools can talk about tougher standards, even if they lower their performance. "Policymakers said they would determine which Smarter Balanced scores were equivalent to passing marks on the old state graduation exams and use those. Oregon's new graduation requirement in math is merely to score the lowest possible "Level 2" Smarter Balanced score, a basic skills level that is far from the "college-ready" performance standard agreed to by experts in 17 states, the state board decided.". The Bulletin explains, "What the board was doing was setting the closest match between Oregon’s old tests and the new exams. According to Oregon’s rules, the state can’t just bump up the standards for graduation without giving students some time to prepare. The rules say students have to be told by the end of eighth grade if they can expect to face tougher standards. That makes sense on some levels. But think about what it means. It means Oregon has not aimed at a high school diploma that means college ready in math or reading.". So when do newer standards come into effect?
  • The Seattle teachers' strike is over and NYC Educator is impressed by how well Seattle teachers gained.