Monday, November 6, 2017

Quiz on Finding Intercepts at Automatic-Algebra

We added a new quiz to the Automatic-Algebra site recently: a speed drill in finding intercepts for linear equations written in standard form. This supports speed-graphing lines written in this same defining format, or as usually presented for systems of linear equations (and, of course, is a commonly assessed skill on basic algebra exams). Please check it out and send any feedback that you might have!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Bill Gates Tries Again

Announced last week: Bill Gates will pouring another $1.7 billion into various education initiatives in the next few years. He has previously spent over $5 billion on various initiatives which he admits hasn't shown much in the way of results. This time:
He said most of the new money — about 60 percent — will be used to develop new curriculums and “networks of schools” that work together to identify local problems and solutions, using data to drive “continuous improvement.” He said that over the next several years, about 30 such networks would be supported, though he didn’t  describe exactly what they are. The first grants will go to high-needs schools and districts in six to eight states, which went unnamed.
Sounds a heck of a lot like Achieving the Dream (the network for community colleges).

More at Washington Post.

Monday, October 2, 2017

NY Times on Coding Boot Camp Closures

Recently several large coding boot camp institutes closed their doors, suggest that we may have a bursting bubble in that sector. Among them are (1) Dev Bootcamp, bought by Kaplan, with 6 schools, and (2) The Iron Yard, backed by Apollo Education (Phoenix University), at 15 campuses.

This article asserts that the average course lasts 14 weeks and costs $11,400. Some courses last 26 weeks and cost $26,000. The sector is apparently transitioning such that about half of the registrants are individuals paying on their own, and half are companies paying for employees to up-skill.

Among the difficulties are that the boot camp model only works with intense, face-to-face interactions, and therefore has difficulty scaling to modern profitability levels (contrast this with the MOOC model which seeks to cheaply automate learning for hundreds of thousands, but has failed catastrophically at trying to create success for low-skilled and remedial students). While the Flatiron School in New York has an online offering, it costs $1,500 per month, and personal instructors online throughout the day (the article includes a story of the vice president making a phone call to one panicked student).
“Online boot camp is an oxymoron,” said Mr. Craig of University Ventures. “No one has figured out how to do that yet.”

New York Times.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Thesis Defense Horror Stories

A rich assortment of STEM thesis defense horror stories of the format, "Famous professor X disproved this guy's thesis at his defense in thirty seconds". An example:
A case I know of first-hand: A doctoral student in engineering developed some powerful pattern matching theorems based on various transformations including one that was introduced in a major conference paper. At the student's defense one of the examiners pointed out an example showing that the transformation doesn't have one of the key claimed properties. The student sat silent for a minute and then simply said that his thesis is wrong. The examiners were shocked and assured him that the situation couldn't be that bad. It turned out that it was that bad and the student did not complete his doctorate. Fortunately his advisor helped him land a good job in which he has established a successful career.

Computational Complexity

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Difference Between Humantities and Mathematics

Consider the charts of Polish national high-school exit exams below.

From Imgur. Discussion on Reddit.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Matt Might on How to Get Tenure

Matt Might, faculty at U. Alabama (and several other institutions), writes on how to get tenure, or more generally, how to approach an academic career with a sense of inspiration. Key takeaway:
Life is too precious and too fleeting to waste my time on bullshit like tenure. I didn’t become a professor to get tenure. I became a professor to make the world better through science. From this day forward, I will spend my time on problems and solutions that will matter. I will make a difference.
Matt Might.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Katherine Johnson on Double-Checking

A very short clip of an interview with Katherine Johnson -- subject of the book and movie Hidden Figures -- who had her 99th birthday last week. Here she talks about John Glenn demanding, before his first spaceflight, that she double-check by hand the trajectory calculations from the digital computer in use at the time.

I feel like this might be an excellent starting point for a classroom discussion on, "Why would anyone ever want to double-check a computer calculation? How could it be wrong? Was John Glenn totally insane?" Granted that I become more and more convinced that the topic of sanity/double-checking may be the most fundamental sense-making theme that runs through all the classes we teach at a community college.