Blog Archives

On replacing calculus with statistics

Russ Roberts had this to say about the proposal to replacing the calculus requirement with statistics for students. Statistics is in many ways much more useful for most students than calculus. The problem is, to teach it well is extraordinarily

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Posted in Statistics

Least understood bit of basic math

Logarithms may be the least understood topic in basic math. In my experience, if an otherwise math-savvy person is missing something elementary, it’s usually logarithms. For example, I have had conversations with people with advanced technical degrees where I’ve had

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Bottom-up exposition

I wish more authors followed this philosophy: The approach I have taken here is to try to move always from the particular to the general, following through the steps of the abstraction process until the abstract concept emerges naturally. …

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Posted in Math

Differentiating bananas and co-bananas

I saw a tweet this morning from Patrick Honner pointing to a blog post asking how you might teach derivatives of sines and cosines differently. One thing I think deserves more emphasis is that “co” in cosine etc. stands for

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Dual polyhedra for kids

Here are a dodecahedron (left) and icosahedron (right) made from Zometool pieces. These figures are duals of each other:  If you put a vertex in the middle of each face of one of the shapes, and connect all the new

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How long will there be computer science departments?

The first computer scientists resided in math departments. When universities began to form computer science departments, there was some discussion over how long computer science departments would exist. Some thought that after a few years, computer science departments would have

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Posted in Clinical trials

How long can you think about a problem?

The main difficulty I’ve seen in tutoring math is that many students panic if they don’t see what to do within five seconds of reading a problem, maybe two seconds for some. A good high school math student may be

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Posted in Creativity, Math

Crayons to Computers

I saw a daycare named “Crayons to Computers” recently. I assume the implication is that crayons are basic and computers are advanced. Programming a computer is more advanced than writing with crayons, but surely their clients don’t learn to program

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Easiest and hardest classes to teach

I’ve taught a variety of math classes, and statistics has been the hardest to teach. The thing I find most challenging is coming up with homework problems. Most exercises are either blatantly artificial or extremely tedious. It’s hard to find

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Posted in Math, Statistics

It's not what you cover

Walter Lewin on teaching physics: What counts, I found, is not what you cover but what you uncover. Covering subjects in a class can be a boring exercise, and students feel it. Uncovering the laws of physics and making them

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Posted in Science

What do colleges sell?

Universities are starting to give away their content online, while they still charge tens of thousands of dollars a year to attend. Just what are they selling? Credentials, accountability, and feedback. Some people are asking why go to college when

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Educational monoculture

I ran across the term “educational monoculture” this weekend. What a great phrase! Rather than write a long post, I’ll restrain myself and simply say that I’d like to hear more people talk about “educational monoculture.” Related post: Don’t standardize

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Cartoon guide to the uninteresting

If you’re not interested in a subject, do cartoons make it more palatable? My guess is that cartoons may help keep your attention if you’re moderately interested in a subject. If you’re fascinated by something, cartoons get in the way.

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Posted in Science, Uncategorized

When are we ever going to use this?

“When are we ever going to use this?” What a great question! This is a teachable moment. Too bad most teachers blow it. Instead of seizing the opportunity, they reprimand the student for asking. At least that was my experience.

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Useful education

“Of course, education has always aimed to be useful. The question has been, and continues to be, useful to what end?” — Richard Gamble

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