Saturday, December 11, 2010

Everyone can learn math.

I saw a really cool presentation by a fellow named John Mighton, who is a successful playwright as well as mathematician. He founded the JUMPMath program - a way that you can teach math to everyone. The way he does it is not complicated, but the results are incredible.

Case study: A grade 4 class. Their average and standard deviation on a standardized math test were 66 and 12. Such a high standard deviation essentially meant that the level of math ability spanned 3-4 grade-levels among the students. After doing JUMP for a year, the class took the next year standardized test, and had an average of 98, sd. 1.2 ...and some of the children in the class had previously been classified as learning-disable (in fact, he has taught fractions to kids who, weeks prior, couldn't count by twos on their fingers).

He has consistently repeated these kinds of results with other classes, and is training teachers to use these methods too. Many thoughts come to mind on this topic:
  • Some school boards have actually banned JUMP. One of the main principles of JUMP is that everyone can learn to do math well and understand it. Modern-day schooling supports the idea that some people just "aren't as good" as others in math. The truth is that they just aren't as comfortable with the way it's being taught, or even that very early on they had a bad experience (or bad teacher) and have distrusted math ever since. Anyway, apparently school boards don't like the idea that everyone could succeed.
  • What if everyone succeeded? JUMP can teach the material far faster than our present system manages to not teach the material — at this rate, students could be doing calculus by grade 8.... and loving it. That's the thing — one of the reasons the JUMP philosophy is so successful is that it makes kids enjoy math. Just imagine if students could learn so much more math by the time they reach high school? What about other subjects? Doesn't it seem like all of us have been (and are being) cheated out of an education we could have easily had?
  • What are tests for? Mighton suggests that tests should still be used in math, but that everyone should gets As. The test should be a test not of a student's "ability", but of the success of the education system in teaching the student! After all, JUMP has proven empirically that everyone can learn math well. How then, can we still pretend that failing grades in elementary school represent a failure of the student?

Monday, November 29, 2010

On Reducing Hot-Water Usage

(First post in quite awhile. Wow.)

I did some thinking in the shower this morning. The nozzle is one of those adjustable-by-twisting ones, and it appeared to be stuck in a mode that was more like a fine spray than the jet I prefer. I found as a result that I had to turn the handle to a much hotter setting than I usually do. That is to say, the hot water naturally cools down (in the cold air) before reaching my body, and the increased surface area of the finer spray caused an increased amount of heat loss. Several ideas of how to conserve hot water occurred to me just then:

  • Design a showerhead that emphasizes thick streams of water as opposed to thin ones. This would be the ideal way because it would only involve a change in the device, not in heating policy or insulation.
  • A more drastic idea is to insulate your bathroom better and keep it warmer. What I am as yet unsure of is the cost ratio of heating the air versus the water. I suspect that if the air were kept warmer, it would reduce the cost of the water, but without some kind of testing I can't say for sure.
Yay thoughts!

Monday, April 19, 2010

A song about my idea to fix long-distance relationships...





Check out more of my music at http://mccalum.bandcamp.com.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Different Greetings for Different Meetings

I read recently that the word Hello came into usage with the telephone. That is, it originated as a telephone greeting. That seemed reasonable to me, as it is the most common greeting one hears on the phone. Today, while greeting a friend in instant messaging, I said "Hey", and then it struck me that Hey is the most common greeting for chat. I wondered if other mediums had their own general greetings, then thought about letters: Dear. Emails don't really have one single main greeting - I've found those who grew up writing letters often say "Dear", which sounds absurdly formal to the rest of us.


I thought it was neat how we have certain customs for certain media, and even though they are somewhat unofficial, we stick to them nonetheless.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Smoothie Dispenser

There should be smoothie dispensers. I don't want cola from a pop machine, or chips from one of those snack machines. I want a smoothie.


Picture a machine about the same size as the aforementioned ones. You approach it, select a size and insert your money. You pick 2-5 ingredients (and possibly some supplement powder or something to add too) and—before your very eyes—the machine combines the various fresh (and frozen) fruits and blenderizes them until they are a smoothie. The liquid is poured into a cup which you can then take and enjoy.

How awesome would that be?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Do you eat to live or live to eat?

Some people don't really like food. They eat only because failure to do so would be unhealthy and ultimately dangerous. However, they miss out on the joys that mindful eating can provide.


Other people absolutely love food, almost to the point where it could be said that they basically live only for eating. At any rate, they spend a great deal of time looking forward to their next meal, or snack. Looking forward to things all of the time won't make you happy.

Purpose

Eating only to live, or living only to eat is missing the point of both activities. Food isn't enjoyable when it's just to keep you alive, and life isn't enjoyable when spent in pursuit of something (in this case, food).

What we must do, rather, is eat to eat, and live to live. Both activities certainly contain enough awesomeness that they can be fine on their own. In fact, eating becomes much more pleasurable if you see it not as being a means to an end (nourishment) but as being the end itself. Eat to eat.

And life? How could life be more amazing than when it is lived simply to live. Living for anything other than life is missing the point of life. Life is not, first and foremost, a means to an end, but is that end.

The best way to live life is to live it. I mean, it sounds obvious when said like that, but so often we forget and think something else is more important in life than life itself.