Skeptical students

by L

Climate Science Meets a Stubborn Obstacle: Students

Teachers among us, have you dealt with students who didn’t believe what you taught them? How did you cope?

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176 thoughts on “Skeptical students

  1. When I was in high school (public, not religious), we had a science teacher who refused to teach anything other than creationism. That’s all he believed. It made many of the students mad, but we didn’t run out of the classroom and refuse to go back. We just answered the test the way he wanted us to do so and rolled our eyes. Kids these days. :)

  2. I watched the Bill Nye and Ken Ham debate. One of my takeaways was when Bill Nye said that in science, we use evidence to change, revise what is the current “truth” in science. For example, at one time our best evidence was that the rest of the solar system revolved around the earth, but then we gathered more evidence and found out the earth revolves around the sun, but then we gathered more evidence and found out our whole galaxy moves.

    I don’t think climate change is any different. We know at certain periods that the earth was warmer and cooler than it is now. Hypotheses of certain activities affecting climate change in certain ways currently appear to be correct. They are at this moment in history, our best “truth”.

    Climate change and evolution – in the way humans think and react – are similar. Evolution – we have hard evidence that evolution occurs. Some people accept only the microevolution that they can see, such as antibiotic resistance, but do not believe in macroevolution. Climate change – We have small scale experiments that green house gases do warm the environment, but again while people will accept that, they will not accept it on a larger scale.

    About resistance to knowledge – I think it is important for students to understand that some things are not about whether they agree or disagree, it is what is the current state of knowledge, which is what they will be tested on and what future classes will be based on. If this area is their passion, then it should be their area of study and they can accumulate more evidence to change the current truth.

  3. I suggested A Troublesome Inheritance by Nicholas Wade to an acquaintance who is the next principal of a small Christian high school/middle school, because I think Christians don’t necessarily do a good job of educating kids about the creation/evolution controversy.

    As a conservative, I could see both sides of the article. The teacher is teaching mainstream science, but without a history of science perspective, it’s hard to discuss how science changes over time. A history of science perspective might allow for uncertainty about politically controversial topics like global warming or, as was the concern in the 1970’s, global cooling. I am curious how typical the girl profiled is- she reminds me of myself, but most people wanted to write what they were supposed to in school, not assess evidence. My son had a minor issue on science standards elementary school, when they wanted him to write that there were 3 states of matter (solid, liquid and gas) and he wrote that there are 4 states of matter, solid, liquid, gas and plasma.

  4. At Wellston, where most students live below the poverty line

    When things are not going well, I’m fascinated my man’s reluctance to examine how his beliefs and actions are contributing to the problem.

  5. At what point do we stop giving crackpot ideas airtime though? I will not watch Megyn Kelly’s interview of Alex Jones, who denies the Sandy Hook shootings occurred, for example. I don’t think he should get airtime. I also quickly change the subject when my FIL starts talking weird conspiracy theories about the moon landings.

  6. “About resistance to knowledge – I think it is important for students to understand that some things are not about whether they agree or disagree, it is what is the current state of knowledge, which is what they will be tested on and what future classes will be based on. If this area is their passion, then it should be their area of study and they can accumulate more evidence to change the current truth.”

    This, exactly. I think the way to manage stuff like this — speaking from my own vast personal experience of “none whatsoever” — is to approach everything with a little humility and focus on teaching the method instead of the result. E.g., here are facts/data that we know at this time; here are the theories that we have developed to interpret those facts; here is the current state of scientific knowledge. I also think this meshes very nicely with the “history of science” approach — this is what we knew in the 1970s, and so this is how we drew this conclusion; now we also know XYZ, and so that leads us to this other conclusion; here are the holes in the data and things that we are still not sure about — discuss (really, I don’t know how you can teach a HS science class *without* getting into how the current operative theory developed over time — I mean, we did Galileo in HS physics). I also think asking the kids direct questions in this context along the lines of “what kind of additional data do you think would further support/disprove our current theory?” can help get students engaged in the thought process and maybe not so caught up on whether the ultimate conclusion is “right” or “wrong.”

  7. On one of those genius kids shows, one boy, whose family was very devout, stated that he did not believe in the Big Bang Theory and God created the universe. He then proceeded to answer every question they through at him about the universe, the Big Bang theory etc. He knew the material well. I’m guessing it was important to his family that he make that statement. I’d be curious to see what he believes in 15 years or so.

  8. Right now our attempts mostly center around math homework, where #1 will sometimes yell at us that 6×7 is NOT equal to 42, for example. We have limited success.

  9. In the home country my parents recall food shortages and rationing and the Malthusian theory of population gained lots of exposure. Then came the Green Revolution and food shortages became a thing of the past.
    Now it is pollution and climate change. The technology exists, implementation is an issue.

    The presentation of an issue, what we know now, how man’s actions to help work or may have unintended consequences – these discussions are important rather saying here is our conclusion – that’s the end, it’s never going to change.

  10. It is easy to blame culture and politics in the case of climate change science, but the problem is much more fundamental. It is extremely difficult to change students model of the world, but to learn science, that is precisely what has to happen. There has been a lot of research work done in the last couple of decades in physics education particularly. In physics, they have an instrument called the Force Concept Inventory which measures mastery of concepts traditionally taught in first year physics. Studies done in the 90’s showed the absolute failure of physics courses – a famous study from the 90’s, in which they tested students at the end of their physics course using the FCI, found that students had essentially learned nothing, even students that had done well in the course. They had not changed their mental models of how physical objects move.
    “The students had improved at handling equations and formulas, he explains, but when it came to understanding “what the real meanings of these things are, they basically reverted to Aristotelian logic—thousands of years back.” For example, they could recite Newton’s Third Law and apply it to numerical problems, but when asked about a real-world event like a collision between a heavy truck and a light car, many firmly declared that the heavy truck exerts a larger force. (Actually, an object’s weight is irrelevant to the force exerted.)”

    and

    “Mazur tried the test on his own students. Right at the start, a warning flag went up when one student raised her hand and asked, “How should I answer these questions—according to what you taught me, or how I usually think about these things?” To Mazur’s consternation, the simple test of conceptual understanding showed that his students had not grasped the basic ideas of his physics course: two-thirds of them were modern Aristotelians. “The students did well on textbook-style problems,” he explains. “They had a bag of tricks, formulas to apply. But that was solving problems by rote. They floundered on the simple word problems, which demanded a real understanding of the concepts behind the formulas.””

    http://harvardmagazine.com/2012/03/twilight-of-the-lecture

    This has been demonstrated now in many STEM fields. It is absolutely a huge problem in my field.

    The problem in the OP’s article is exactly this: the teachers are trying to talk at their students, trying to convince them by force of words. But like the student in the quote above, they know how to parrot back what their teacher wants without actually changing their understanding.

  11. I met a nurse this last week who pretty much refused to believe my elderly lady patient could be HIV positive. Turns out he is one of the old-school HIV-deniers. Still believes the illness only strikes the unworthy, the gays and the drug addicted. It was astonishing. I didn’t engage because I had work to do. But, wow. Wow. wow.

    Many nurses I work with are pretty comfortable with fringe science and policitcal theories. I don’t know if I meet a special kind of nurse, or if the profession attracts people who are kind of sciency, but not too much. Perhaps they are simply notable because they are authority figures in a way (giving patients information about vaccines, etc). But a good chunk of my colleagues believe Obama is from Kenya, you get Flu from the flu vaccine, end times are a coming.

  12. I have an ongoing discussions about the problem with a group of friends on the problem with the millennials at work. One of the key observations has been that they have always been provided a rubric in school defining how to succeed. Well, this doesn’t work in real life as there is no guidebook. They can’t do the critical thinking to solve the problem or even play office politics well. A few millennials I work with never go to the company town halls, department-wide meetings, or optional trainings even if they are obviously not busy. They don’t see how it impacts them. (Yes, the value is questionable sometimes.) What they don’t realize is that they could meet people in other departments, learn of the company strategy, meet leadership, or that the boss expects them to. My doctor friend has noticed that the residents don’t bother to review patient charts for allergies. She’s alarmed as it is a life or death issue that could make them lose a license (direct impact on resident) in addition to potentially killing someone.

  13. But a good chunk of my colleagues believe Obama is from Kenya, you get Flu from the flu vaccine, end times are a coming.

    I wonder if this isn’t an extreme manifestation of how neurotypical people think. Everyone goes through life in a bubble of their own cognitive biases. To some degree this is healthy. We see and believe what we want to be true and discount and ignore those things that make us uncomfortable. This only become a problem in the extreme when people become wholly unwilling to accept anything that disagrees with their carefully curated personal narrative.

  14. One of the key observations has been that they have always been provided a rubric in school defining how to succeed. Well, this doesn’t work in real life as there is no guidebook.

    It was ever thus, though. I’m technically a Boomer (though I didn’t get any of the good economic Boomer stuff), and I definitely tripped over a bunch of invisible but very real workplace rules in my first (okay, and my second) “real” job(s). School rules have always been different from workplace rules.

  15. I think another tough thing society has to deal with is what Kerri said – that all ideas are considered valid and equal. Sure this has been going on forever, but with 24/7 information at our fingertips, we are inundated with ideas.

    Learning how to vet information is now more important than ever. I’m not sure it’s been taught correctly, or at all.

    It’s far easier to live in extreme confirmation bias, or just keep sharing those ridiculous memes across the universe.

  16. RMS, it certainly has always been true that school rules are different from workplace rules. However, there has been a real change in “school rules” in the last 20 or so years – the shift to rubrics that tell students exactly what they have to do, in infinite detail. Back when I was in college, especially, it was always a bit of a game to figure out what a professor wanted. Now, there is no question because there is a rubric that breaks the assignment down into multiple categories and tells you exactly what has to be done in each category. Rubrics can be good because they let a student know exactly what you want, and they are also good for the professor (once you have gone through the angst of writing the darn thing) because they cut off a lot of grounds for grade disputes. However, relying on them turns into a problem for students once they hit the workplace, because no manager is going to provide you with a rubric. Evne in more advanced courses, there is less likely to be a rubric because the assignments may be more open ended.

  17. The one thing at work that resembles a rubric at all my workplaces has been the annual performance review worksheet. There are boxes for goals, the weight assigned to each goal and a written narrative of how you performed/what you did to meet those goals.
    Early on in my career one workplace had a scale of 1 to 5. I got into a conversation with my manager as to why I wasn’t rated a 4.5 instead of a measly 4.

  18. Louise, the difference is that those performance reviews are once a year. If you manager gave you something similar for every single job assignment, that would be more like the way rubrics are used in school

  19. MM,

    Specifically, it has been established that (1) commonsense beliefs about motion and force are incompatible with Newtonian concepts in most respects, (2) conventional physics instruction produces little change in these beliefs, and (3) this result is independent of the instructor and the mode of instruction….. The implications could not be more serious. Since the students have evidently not learned the most basic Newtonian concepts, they must have failed to comprehend most of the material in the course. They have been forced to cope with the subject by rote memorization of isolated fragments and by carrying out meaningless
    tasks

    I never got the sense that the goal was anything other than rote memorization. Students and teachers were going through the motions because that’s what they were told to do with no real idea how it fit into the bigger picture.

  20. Mooshi – I think you captured exactly why I switched out of Engineering in college. Second semester Physics did me in. I could just tell that I wasn’t really getting it at a deep level and I did not feel like I ever would. I’ve always wondered if I went to a more hands on, technical institute if I would have stuck with it.

  21. Nothing new to add on topic. I too quit physics when i realized I didn’t understand angular momentum despite getting all the test questions right.

    Note to self off topic. Do NOT wear skinny jeans when babysitting small active children. For Finns sake, the reason is that more forgiving trousers make it easier to get up and down off the floor frequently and quick enough to deal with things that come up. Smart nurse had mom administer benadryl to see if random scalp rash would fade and it did (Lyme rash apparently will not) so they are holding off meds for now.

  22. @Meme – there’s a reason that all the moms of young kids wear athleisure all the time! I now can wear “real clothes” more often outside of work, but DS is still always wanting to go for a bike ride, to play catch, to practice kicking around the soccer ball, to hit a bucket of balls at the baseball diamond, etc. So I still have a large stock of athleisure for evenings/weekends.

    Good to hear about the rash.

    @RMS – When I hear about the downfall of society due to Millennials, I generally am more in line with you. 20-somethings in the workplace have always struggled to learn the new rules for success. It was certainly that way for us “Xers”. I work with and have managed quite a few millennials, and I’m not sure that there is a huge difference between them and me 15-20 years ago. Every once in awhile there is a special case, like the guy in the mentoring 1:1 coaching session who complained that he hadn’t been promoted after 6 months and claimed he knew “everything there was to know” about his entry-level job already. But there were probably guys like that in the 90’s too. Managing entry-level people has its ups & downs and frustrations – I definitely talk about it with my friends/peers too. I’m just not sure that it has changed all that much except for where influenced by technology. I mostly have found the college grads of the past 10 years to be as hardworking, resourceful, and no more in the need of a work “participation trophy” or excessive hand holding than my peers. And they have Google!

    OT – I read this article, but I hadn’t thought much about it.

    I feel like my HS physics teacher was really good at helping us visualize the concepts, and we did a lot of lab work vs. just doing theoretical calculations. But it was a long time ago. My memory could be bad. And it wasn’t college-level physics anyway. The best part of the class was the year-end field trip to an amusement park to do experiments on the rides.

  23. I, too, never really understood angular momentum.

    Or matrices.

    It feels good to let it out.

  24. “a real-world event like a collision between a heavy truck and a light car, many firmly declared that the heavy truck exerts a larger force. (Actually, an object’s weight is irrelevant to the force exerted.)”

    Really?

    F=d/dt (mv) = (m*dv/dt) + (v*dm/dt). (IIRC, chain rule from 1st semester calc).

    Weight = mg, and we can assume g is the same for both vehicles, so weight is directly proportional to mass.
    If we let weight=w, w=mg, and m=w/g.

    We can assume non-relativistic speeds (i.e., dm/dt=0), so we are left with F=m*dv/dt=mA=wA/g. Weight is not irrelevant.

  25. “Or matrices”

    This! It still blow my mind that the inner part of a record (played on a record player) is moving slower than the outer part of a record. I get it and yet I don’t.

  26. Just yesterday a guy on Nextdoor described in detail, how physics is used to prove that you don’t want to ride your bike against car traffic. It was very logical, yet several people responded that they don’t believe it and feel safer facing oncoming traffic.

  27. I had previously reacted along the same lines as Finn that weight was certainly not irrelevant, and for the reasons illustrated, but I think what the author was getting at — especially since (s)he references Newton’s Third Law (for every action, equal and opposite reaction, etc.) — is that, in the collision, the small car exerts on the large truck a force equivalent to that which the truck exerts on the car. In the same vein, when a small car collies with a butterfly, they each exert the same force on each other, although the former is better able to withstand such a force than the latter.

    But it’s certainly poor form to say that weight is irrelevant. The difference in weight (weight being proportional to mass) is what allows the car to maintain a nearly constant velocity while the butterfly fares less favorably.

  28. “Just yesterday a guy on Nextdoor described in detail, how physics is used to prove that you don’t want to ride your bike against car traffic.”

    TMK, it’s also the law everywhere in the USA.

  29. “It was very logical, yet several people responded that they don’t believe it and feel safer facing oncoming traffic.”

    They don’t have to “not believe it” to make an equally logical and rational decision that facing oncoming traffic is safer. Facing traffic means that you’re better able to avoid the collision through an emergency swerve.

  30. I fell asleep halfway through Finn’s post.

    Brief threadjack. I have a new favorite summer supper that makes a lovely take-to-work-the-next-day-lunch.

    Shred grocery store rotisserie chicken. Boil up a package of that good Costco cheese tortellini. Drain and cool. Toss with the chicken, a bunch of arugula and sliced tomatoes, and a good sprinkling of feta cheese. Combine in a leftover jam jar: 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 3 good grinds of your pepper grinder. Shake well and pour over the pasta/chicken. Toss, chill, serve. Preferably with a nice cold, crisp Sauvignon blanc.

  31. “the small car exerts on the large truck a force equivalent to that which the truck exerts on the car.”

    Doesn’t that assume an inelastic collision?

  32. “Facing traffic means that you’re better able to avoid the collision through an emergency swerve.”

    That requires somewhere to swerve. It also doesn’t work well if the bicyclist and the driver swerve in the same direction.

    OTOH, if both are going in the same direction, a car moving faster than a cyclist can slow down behind the cyclist and pass when it is safe to do so, just as it could do with any other slow moving vehicle. Does it make sense for, say, a cement truck to drive facing traffic because its driver can see oncoming traffic and swerve when that happens?

  33. In high school physics, my friends and I determined that Michael Faraday was totally cute. (N.b.: It was not AP Physics.) When I got home and talked to my mom, it turned out that she too had determined in high school physics that Michael Faraday was totally cute! It’s nice to have generational continuity.

  34. My understanding was simply Force equals mass times acceleration. So therefore if the speed is equal the heavier car will have more Force.

  35. “Doesn’t that assume an inelastic collision?”

    Does it matter?

    You’re going to make me review here, and I’ve got one more thing to submit before I go.

    Let me go back to 12th grade. A close approximation of elastic is the cue ball striking the eight ball, no? Inelastic is two hunks of Play Doh thrown at each other and becoming one blob.

    In reality, the truck and the car (or, for that matter, the butterfly) are going to deform and the process of deformation will absorb most of the kinetic energy as mechanical work and dissipate some as heat. And they’ll also bounce off each other a little bit.

    But what difference does it make?

  36. Clarification. If the acceleration is equal then the heavier car has more Force.

  37. Now I know why I’m in finance and not in a technical field.

    Lark: I love your recipe posts.

  38. “My understanding was simply Force equals mass times acceleration. So therefore if the speed is equal the heavier car will have more Force.”

    No, if speed is equal, the heavier car will win out in determining which direction the combined wreck moves. If I drive my 4-cyl sedan the wrong way on the train tracks and collide with a diesel locomotive, and we’re each initially traveling 60 mph on opposing vectors, then we’re each going to exert the exact same force on each other:

    F = ma

    But since m(milo’s car) is a lot less than m(locomotive), my A needs to be significantly greater in order to multiply to the same F. Therefore, I’m going to end up going 59.5 mph in the opposite direction, for a total velocity change of 119.5 mph, and the train, while technically also being accelerated in the opposite direction of original travel, will only slow down to 59.5 mph for a total velocity change of 0.5 mph.

    But in each case, the F is the same.

  39. ““Doesn’t that assume an inelastic collision?”

    Does it matter?”

    Well, first of all, you’re absolutely right that I meant assuming a totally elastic collision, e.g., similar to billiard balls, not inelastic.

    And you’re also right that deformation is one way in which energy is absorbed in collisions. And it totally matters; that’s why cars are designed with crumple zones, and how bike helmets work.

  40. “And it totally matters; that’s why cars are designed with crumple zones, and how bike helmets work.”

    It matters in protecting passengers. It doesn’t change Newton’s Third Law about equal and opposite reactions.

    And I disagree somewhat about bike helmets. I don’t know that they really absorb energy like a crumple zone so much as they distribute force across a greater surface area of your head. Or I guess it’s both, I suppose, if you’re counting on the foam to crumble a little bit. Minor point, to be sure.

  41. Hey, Finn, speaking of dissipating kinetic energy, I have a spin cycle in my house with a magnetic brake for variable resistance. I like Newtonian motion; I don’t like magnets and eddy currents and the like. This spin cycle is like black magic to me. And where the Hell does all the energy go from my hard work? I figure I must be heating up the flywheel. I’ve even tried to test it after working out by quickly dismounting and touching the flywheel, and I guess it’s a little warm. But is that where it’s going? Heat?

  42. “But in each case, the F is the same.”

    But if we tweak your scenario to use a train with half the mass and a car with half the mass, the forces involved will be smaller.

    Or put another way, a head on collision of a 1500# car and a 3000# truck, both going at 60mph, will involve less force than a head on collision of a 2000#car and a 4000# truck both going at 60 mph. Mass, and thus weight, are not irrelevant to the amount of forces exerted.

  43. I, too, never much cared for angular momentum. Spin a wheel in one direction, it suddenly wants to move in an entirely different direction.

    But people with yachts swear by these things. Mount a heavy-ass flywheel on your boat, spin it really fast, and when the boat starts to rock, have the computer change the angle of the flywheel just slightly and it will push the boat back down against the wave to stop the rocking. Craziness. All for about $30k:

    https://www.seakeeper.com/technology/

  44. Pretty soon y’all are going to start talking about spherical cows, aren’t you?

    Here’s one that an old Usenet group wasted about 8,000 posts on:

    But suppose one had a huge flatbed truck as long as a runway. Now suppose that truck is driving south at the same speed a plane on the runway-bed is traveling north. In that case, I believe, the plane will prove unable to take off.

  45. ” Mass, and thus weight, are not irrelevant to the amount of forces exerted.”

    Yes, absolutely. I said before that it was poorly written to call it irrelevant.

  46. “In that case, I believe, the plane will prove unable to take off.”

    Foolishness. It will take off just fine, and it will take off at the exact same absolute speed as it would have if it were rolling along the runway rather than the flatbed trailer. However, its wheels on the landing gear will be spinning twice as fast when it does so. And because of this higher spinning speed, it will require just a touch more thrust in order to reach the same absolute speed (or airspeed, if you prefer).

    Very different from the way an aircraft carrier is required to drive fast and against the wind in order to launch and recover planes.

  47. “Or I guess it’s both, I suppose, if you’re counting on the foam to crumble a little bit. Minor point, to be sure.”

    No, it’s a major point, at least from the perspective of protecting heads.

    Bike helmets are designed to absorb impact through crumbling of foam, which is why it is important to replace any helmet involved in an impact, and why you don’t want to carelessly drop your helmet on a hard surface, and why you want to replace helmets every few years even if they’ve never been in an impact. All of these can degrade the foam and reduce the ability of the helmets to absorb impacts that otherwise would be absorbed by heads.

  48. “Lark: I love your recipe posts.”

    Me too. Makes me miss the Everyday Food magazine which always had great simple ideas. I wonder if this would also be good with that Wild Planet tuna from Costco. I’m thinking yes & plan to try it.

  49. I’ve always been skeptical of the degrading foam argument for replacing helmets & car seats. Not that you would want to keep them 20 years or something, but that foam and plastic degrade so quickly that car seats are death traps after 5 years. (or that bike helmets need to be replaced every 2 years or whatever the recco by the manufacturer would be)

  50. Oo, I hadn’t thought of aircraft carriers! Of course I didn’t actually participate in the original thread, I just popped corn and watched all the engineers argue about it.

  51. “I have a spin cycle in my house with a magnetic brake for variable resistance. I like Newtonian motion; I don’t like magnets and eddy currents and the like. This spin cycle is like black magic to me. And where the Hell does all the energy go from my hard work? I figure I must be heating up the flywheel. I’ve even tried to test it after working out by quickly dismounting and touching the flywheel, and I guess it’s a little warm. But is that where it’s going? Heat?”

    When I first read this, I thought you were talking about your washing machine’s spin cycle.

    I think you’re right, that you’re heating up something.

    My trainer is so old, I got it before magnetic trainers. It’s a wind trainer, with a fan that gets spun as the bike’s pedaled; newer versions directed the moving air to the cyclist, which was IMO a very nice touch. Very easy to understand what happens to the energy I put into the system.

    I think some of the newer trainers use the energy the user provides to run the displays and even small electric fans.

  52. Finn – I didn’t realize that the helmet is so dependent on crumbling foam, but I see what you’re saying.

    Ivy – I think the car seat argument is different, but again, I could be mistaken. I think that they’re worried that the hard plastic will deteriorate over time and when the anchored LATCH straps suddenly jerk it back (Newton’s 3rd Law, again), the plastic will simply fail and seat and baby will continue moving forward.

    I agree that the recommendations are almost certainly overly conservative, and I suppose I’ve risked my younger children’s lives on that bet. But at this point, those car seats are in our rear view mirror, pardon the pun.

  53. RMS, did that discussion specify wind velocity?

    It’s really airspeed that matters. At takeoff, the plane is increasing airspeed until there is sufficient lift, and lift is dependent upon the speed at which the air moves over the wings.

  54. “Of course I didn’t actually participate in the original thread, I just popped corn and watched all the engineers argue about it.”

    When I’ve been an engineer, I usually felt below average. But I can’t see any possible way you could argue that one. The plane’s speed is determined by thrust of the engines either from the prop or the jets. The wheels just spin freely. The plane will take off when lift exceeds its weight. Weight is constant (nod to Finn about assuming constant g). Lift is dependent upon airspeed.

    So either I’m REALLY below average and I’m totally missing something, or half those commenters are crazy.

  55. “I think that they’re worried that the hard plastic will deteriorate over time”

    Yes, and the deterioration can be greatly exacerbated by heat and UV.

    “I agree that the recommendations are almost certainly overly conservative”

    Yeah, if your car is parked in a garage most of the time, or you don’t keep the seat in your car all the time, it’ll probably last longer than the recommended inverval.

  56. “I agree that the recommendations are almost certainly overly conservative, and I suppose I’ve risked my younger children’s lives on that bet. But at this point, those car seats are in our rear view mirror, pardon the pun.”

    Yeah, me too. The question has only come up in regards to other people’s kids. Are the barely-used seats in Grandma’s car from DS’s preschool days really unsafe at 6 years old for occasional use for younger cousins? One SIL says it is fine, the other does not. I do not offer an opinion – I nod & smile at both SIL’s when they think the other is wrong while agreeing with neither. (Secretly, I think the car seat is fine, but then again – I’m not putting my own child in it. As the oldest grandchild on both sides, he’s gotten new everything from birth.)

  57. “But suppose one had a huge flatbed truck as long as a runway. Now suppose that truck is driving south at the same speed a plane on the runway-bed is traveling north. In that case, I believe, the plane will prove unable to take off.”

    Speed is relative.

    It’s not clear whether the plane’s speed is relative to the flatbed truck, the ground below the truck, the air, or something else. Without knowing that, it’s not possible to determine whether the plane can take off in this case.

  58. Milo, the comments went back and forth between actually trying to argue the issue and stuff like this:


    > >>
    > >> > Stand on an infinitely long ice rink wearing skates and move the
    > >> > rink at 25 mph and eventually you will be going very close to 25
    > >> > mph.
    > >>
    > >> At least we’ll have found a place to store the infinitely long
    > >> conveyor belt.
    > >
    > > I’m assuming that it will also be full of perfectly spherical cows of
    > > uniform density…
    >
    > Only partly full. We have to use some of the infinite space for
    > replacement frictionless bearings for the plane.

    Couldn’t you use the cows? They’re perfectly spherical.

    So I couldn’t possibly tell you what the actual conclusion turned out to be.

  59. “Now suppose that truck is driving south at the same speed a plane on the runway-bed is traveling north.”

    “Speed is relative. It’s not clear..”

    No, it’s clear enough, especially since they use cardinal directions, although I recognize that speed is a layman’s term here, just like “deceleration.”

  60. “an aircraft carrier is required to drive fast and against the wind in order to launch and recover planes.”

    Moving the runway into the wind effectively lengthens it, adding the speed of the carrier to the wind speed.

    My dad had a great story about taking off at an airport whose runway only went in one direction. There was a strong crosswind, so strong it prevented him from taking off the regular way. But because it was so strong, he was able to take off across the runway.

  61. “Stand on an infinitely long ice rink wearing skates and move the
    > >> > rink at 25 mph and eventually you will be going very close to 25
    > >> > mph.”

    Not if have jet engines strapped to your arms putting out 25,000 lbf of thrust in the opposite direction, you won’t be. At that point, the friction between your skates and the ice is negligible (although I acknowledged this before by saying that the wheels would have more friction than they would on a static runway)

  62. “Stand on an infinitely long ice rink wearing skates and move the
    rink at 25 mph and eventually you will be going very close to 25
    mph.”

    This reminds me of a physics homework problem. You’re on the middle of a frozen pond, with a perfectly frictionless surface. The ice is thick enough everywhere that your weight will not break it. How do you get to a side of the pond?

  63. “I think you captured exactly why I switched out of Engineering in college. Second semester Physics did me in. I could just tell that I wasn’t really getting it at a deep level and I did not feel like I ever would. I’ve always wondered if I went to a more hands on, technical institute if I would have stuck with it.”

    Physics was a common weeder for engineering, as was calculus.

    Much (most?) of engineering is applied science, and math is often a tool to apply science. Students who struggle with word problems in either math or science thus are not typically good candidates for engineering.

    BTW, this is why I think the use of the “STEM” acronym is misleading. It’s mostly about science. Math facilitates applied science and scientific research (advanced math is sort of a field on its own, but that part of math is not usually what people include in “STEM”); engineering is largely applied science, and technology is what engineers create/apply/maintain/facilitate.

  64. “I met a nurse this last week who pretty much refused to believe my elderly lady patient could be HIV positive. Turns out he is one of the old-school HIV-deniers.

    In the old school, aren’t all nurses female? This would suggest he doesn’t exist.

  65. “However, there has been a real change in “school rules” in the last 20 or so years – the shift to rubrics that tell students exactly what they have to do, in infinite detail.”

    Not necessarily, at least not for college admissions.

  66. Physics was a common weeder for engineering, as was calculus.

    Kerri, Mémé, et al, passed their physics classes and probably got A’s. They weeded themselves out because they were unhappy with their intuitive apprehension of the subject. I guar-on-tee you that there are plenty of engineers who took their A’s and their absolute lack of intuitive apprehension of much of anything and are now happily working as professional engineers.

  67. I like how Milo’s answer followed the rules and mine challenged them.

    I liked the applied part of engineering the abstract part less so.

  68. ” I guar-on-tee you that there are plenty of engineers who took their A’s and their absolute lack of intuitive apprehension of much of anything and are now happily working as professional engineers.”

    Not to mention the engineers lacking intuitive apprehension who barely scraped by with Cs. And I’m sure that Kerri and/or Mémé could’ve graduated with engineering degrees had they really wanted to be engineers.

    But a lot of wannabes couldn’t even pass the physics and calculus classes that were prerequisites to upper division engineering classes.

  69. “But a lot of wannabes couldn’t even pass the physics and calculus classes that were prerequisites to upper division engineering classes.”

    Oh Lord have mercy.

    I’ve known people to struggle so much in engineering classes that they dropped down to the unaccredited General Engineering major, then go on to the nuclear field just the same, and even later pick up a PE license.

  70. they dropped down to the unaccredited General Engineering major

    and combined it with sales experience and went on to make mondo bucks.

  71. “The math or the concept?”

    I can memorize equations, if necessary.

    And I can grasp why a figure skater who contracts his arm spins faster.

    But I can’t grasp why a bicycle wheel hanging from a rope, if you spin it, wants to turn sideways. (There are tons of YouTube videos on this). Same principle as the gyro stabilizer for boats. I made my kids watch the videos after they were playing with fidget spinners.

  72. . But I can’t see any possible way you could argue that one.

    You “can” if, in your mind, you’re thinking in terms of a car rather than a plane. In terms of physics people have a hard time eliminating gravity and friction. If it was year 2237 and kids routinely took a field trips to space, everyone would have a much firmer grasp of the concepts.

  73. I, too, never really understood angular momentum.

    The math or the concept?

    Rhett, intuitively is what I meant. I was used to, once I grasped a concept, being able to just sense how it worked and how it interacted with other concepts because it felt right. It would be sort of a lightbulb moment. That never happened with angular momentum (or matrices, which made it more difficult when they returned to haunt me in a weirder form post-calculus).

  74. But I can’t grasp why a bicycle wheel hanging from a rope, if you spin it, wants to turn sideways.

    It doesn’t’ want to turn sideways. It wants to stay where it is.

  75. Milo, glad you’re back. Mr WCE took apart my Buick Century engine down to the valve stems in order to replace a leaking internal coolant gasket. If we’re lucky, this will give it a few more years. He assumed I had a knowledge of engines that I lack (need to watch some videos) and the boys got homeschooled.

    I don’t know whether my intuitive knowledge of physics was/is adequate or not. I certainly benefited from taking engineering physics at the community college with an experienced physics professor in a class of 4. If one of us looked puzzled, he’d go over another similar problem.

    When I was in high school, I was interested in calculus as it applied to circles spinning at different rates, such as minute/hour/second hands on theoretically perfect clocks and reel to reel movie projectors. I had a lot of spare time in high school and would try to observe the movie projector at the exact point in time at which the reels were spinning at the same speed. Once I moved West, I learned about center pivot irrigation and decided that moving such a system and watering evenly was an even more interesting problem.

    Mr WCE is better at these sorts of things than I am and I’ve gotten worse instead of better about technical things as more of my mental life has revolved around home/family management. I still like them, though, and even in my fairly theoretical engineering group (photolithography), the reality is I am surrounded by guys who build stuff and fix engines in their time away from work, and I think that’s cool.

  76. WCE, they don’t use center pivot irrigation in Iowa? Or didn’t then?

  77. HM explained my “grasp” issue with physics – that is exactly how it was for me.

  78. You don’t irrigate in most of Iowa- it usually rains enough that you don’t need to. My family’s farm was tiled for drainage so it wouldn’t be a wetland. In Nebraska, you need to irrigate.

  79. You don’t irrigate in most of Iowa- it usually rains enough that you don’t need to.

    I did not know that.

  80. “my fairly theoretical engineering group (photolithography), ”

    I may have asked this before, but in your experience, have female process engineers been disproportionately working in photolithography?

    That was my experience. One of them came from a big city by her standards.

    I’m wondering if was a bias of our process engineering manager, an industry-wide bias, or perhaps a little of both. Of those I worked with, several came to us with previous photolith experience, but at least a couple were put there fresh out of school.

  81. Finn, no other women are doing photolithography, but we only have 1 person with less than ~15 years experience in photolithography besides me right now. The group is considered technical and abrasive and not all women enjoy that.

  82. Ok, I don’t really understand…

    Finn or WCE…

    A one kg object is floating in space. If I want to make it move to the right at 1m/s I can do so by applying a force from the left of 1 newton. Now, if the object is traveling at 100m/s forward do I still need to apply only 1 newton to get it to start moving 1m/s to the right?

  83. Rhett, do you want it to ONLY move 1 m/s to the right (in case you need to apply a force vector 100 m/s backward AND a force vector 1 m/s to the right) or do you want it to continue moving with a slightly trajectory? We always solved these by drawing vectors and if you don’t stop, you wind up moving forward and very slightly to the right at sqrt (100^2 in X + 1^2 in Y) as I recall.

  84. Rhett, if you’re looking at orthogonal directions, then yes. It’ll still move at 100m/s forward, but will also have a motion component of 1m/s to the right.

  85. I took physics in college because it was required by my major, and like many of you, I did not feel I understood it. I could solve the problems well enough, but I didn’t get it in the way I got math, or computer science. And I am the daughter of a physics professor. Because of that, I know a little more about this topic.

    Physics was really badly taught, and probably still is in many places. Like math, it requires a deep understanding, the thing that honolulumama meant when she said “I was used to, once I grasped a concept, being able to just sense how it worked and how it interacted with other concepts because it felt right. It would be sort of a lightbulb moment. “. People are taught math from first grade, but not physics. Also, because that first physics course involves things that we are used to thinking about in an everyday kind of fashion, it is hard to undo that and become all formal about blocks of wood sliding down inclines and the ilk. And at the same time, it was badly taught. It was common for exams to have averages of 15 out of 100.

    The article I posted the link to is about Eric Mazur who has become very influential in STEM education in general. He came out of physics, but he wasn’t the only one. About 20 years ago, physicists started actually worrying about the fact that people know so little about physics, and about the fact that exams had averages of 15, which meant that students were really not learning anything they thought students should be learning about physics. That Force Concept Inventory was developed around 1992, and it gave them a powerful tool for seeing how much students were learning – and it was appalling. This led to a lot of interest and indeed funding in physics education. My father, who always stayed as far aloof from “mere education” as he could, suddenly got interested because of the funding, though he only did a little in the area. But this was happening at a lot of universities. So in physics, because they had good measures of learning, lots of money, and a sense of crisis, a lot of research was done in physics education. And they found that certain kinds of teaching really did lead to better results.

    This eventually leaked to other STEM education fields. In computer science, there are a number of groups, including Mark Guzdial’s group at Georgia Tech, who have been pretty much replicating the results from physics education in computer science. This has been done across a number of fields. There is a widely cited report from 2014 which has led to the NSF starting a new grant program for changing the way STEM is taught in universities.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4060683/
    Basically, traditional lectures, in which someone talks at the students and then the students trot off and solve problems, doesn;t work very well. Interestingly, even demos do not work very well. It turns out that students have to grapple with the material in a structured way in class. And to loop back to the OP;s article, I think that was the problem. The teacher thought he was explaining facts and figures to the students, but he was talking at them. Even his documentary wasn’t going to help. The students needed to work on the material actively, and not in that “lets do a diorama” fashion favored by K12 teachers. They needed to walk through the material from the ground up, from the basics, reasoning through all of it in a structured way. Sadly, there isn’t time for that in the curriculum. So we continue to lecture at the students and wonder why no one learns science well.

  86. Even if there were time for that in the curriculum, I doubt if there are enough truly expert teachers to instruct students with an appropriate ratio for active learning. I wonder if lab simulations will be/are a good alternative, especially for students accustomed to videogames.

    One of the things I’ve learned on this blog is that there are places (high schools, colleges, assistantships) where people get feedback on how to improve their writing. I never got feedback on how to improve and I think that’s pretty typical of above-average writers in classes with high student:teacher ratios.

  87. Mooshi, DS’ physics teacher from last year is now getting a PhD in physics education.

    The guy who designed the school’s middle school math curriculum has a PhD in math education.

    WCE, DS used to be a volunteer at the school’s writing workshop.

  88. With the help of the satellite video, I may have gyroscopes down. But it makes me think it would be a lot easier to understand physics if the classes were held in space.

  89. It turns out that students have to grapple with the material in a structured way in class.

    Yes – this would have helped me a lot. I always “fought” the example. Frictionless: well let’s change that, because that isn’t real. Instead of working within the example, it never felt intuitive so I looked for some way to make it more intuitive.

  90. If I asked you the following question, would you answer 12.5% or 87.5%?

    The length, width and height of a rectangular box are each decreased by 50%. By what percent, is the volume of the box decreased?

  91. Bike helmets
    1) I would not be standing/sitting before you writing, perhaps at all (I might even be dead) and certainly not as coherently as I am, had I not been wearing a properly fitted functional bike helmet 18 years ago this coming Tuesday. I was going about 20mph and was involved in a bike – pedestrian accident because I tried to avoid a collision with her and ended up going over my handlebars, landing on my head (first), and right shoulder, hand, butt cheek, coming to a stop on my back laying on the double yellow line of the 35mph road I had been riding on. It was a little after sunrise, 530am, so car traffic was light and that helped too.
    2) in addition to heat/sun, accidental drops, bumps and general wear and tear, sweat also degrades the integrity of bike helmets. So if someone rides often and works up a good sweat the helmet needs to be replaced every year. Really.
    3) Giro is my brand, always will be. I am brand loyal on few things, but for bike helmets it’s Giro in our house. I am sure Bell and other brands work perfectly well, too.

  92. 87.5%
    to end any speculation:
    4x4x4=64 cubic units
    2x2x2=8 cubic units
    1x1x1=1 cubic unit

    2x4x8=64 cubic units
    1x2x4=8 cubic units
    .5x1x2=1 cubic unit

  93. I was trying to explain to DD why it is 87.5% instead of 12.5%. My explanation wasn’t working even though I used 3d figures to show her why it was 87.5%. As soon as I showed her your example, she got it. THANKS!

  94. you’re welcome. remember, I’ve had middle school math three times in the last 10 years.

  95. Show your work?

    X*y*z = V

    .5(x)*.5(y)*.5(z) =
    (.5*.5*.5)*(x*y*z) =
    (.5*.5*.5) * (V) =
    (.125) * (V)

    But I’m not sure how to state the point that .125 of V is 87.5% less than V.

  96. Fred – I was in a minor bike crash recently, also hitting my head and cracking my helmet. Ended up with a headache and a sprained wrist/palm. Always wear a helmet! It is shocking to me how many people do not.

  97. Lemon, I emailed you earlier today.

    I understand angular momentum, but found it very disconcerting that uni physics was just as boring as my HS class. Until then, I thought I loved all science and that it was the nun’s fault that physics class was so boring. Nope. It just is. Not coincidentally, “it just is” is the end answer to “why” questions in physics. Physiology was also difficult for me to pay attention to. I knew that by the end of the semester we’d get to the systemic level, which would make clear the importance of everything we’d learned, starting at the cellular level, but that’s a long wait. The main thing I remember from that class (besides being singled out for being a girl) is the bit about membrane permeability–I could connect that to what I knew about interocular pressure. Otherwise, there was a lot of memorizing how various things work and fit together. Tedious. I know that eventually all that info can be used in thinking, and appreciate Ada’s comments on things like Lyme disease, but years of simply packing it all in? Whew–not for me!

  98. But I’m not sure how to state the point that .125 of V is 87.5% less than V.

    1 – .125 = .875 = 87.5%

    I interpreted the issue as that she wasn’t able to interpret the question, not that she wasn’t able to do the math. I figured she got to the point of .125(V), but then simply wasn’t understanding the concept of percent decreased.

    Not really the same thing, but it reminds of a class I took where I got into a huge debate with the professor over the meaning of “10 times greater than”. I forget the exact numbers, the instruction stated “10 times greater than 100”. I said it was 1,100, he said it was 1,000. To his credit, he did research it and found several sources that supported me, but he still wouldn’t give me credit for it.

    Finn would have loved the debate :)

  99. I regard the science and math education y’all had with envy. In the home country if you were not a STEM student in junior college you didn’t have any science and math was optional in my day so many students skipped math.
    OTOH since STEM fields were considered prestigious there were a flood of candidates for STEM. I would say a lot of candidates weren’t suitable for engineering but they somehow made it through. None of my friends are engineers though there are architects and doctors among them.

  100. WCE – I’m impressed about the engine rebuild. I wouldn’t know where to begin. I know everyone says YouTube videos, but still. My friend at work recently replaced the clutch on his 20-year-old RAV4, and I assuaged my jealousy by telling myself that he has little choice with a SAH wife and three kids in private school.

  101. Also, if you like your salad dressings a touch creamy, and not just pure vinaigrette, add 1/4 teaspoon mayo and 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard.

    You can also substitute champagne/white wine vinegar for the lemon juice but I think the lemon juice is better with the chicken and pasta. I do the vinegar when I’m making a salad of just vegetables.

  102. The math question –
    4x4x4=64 cubic units (original size)
    2x2x2=8 cubic units (new size)
    Percent change = ((new – original)/original) * 100
    ((8-64)/64)*100 = – 87,5% or a decrease of 87.5%

  103. Completely off topic, I wanted to report in about the family DD’s au pairing (verb!) for in Spain. She’s been amazed at a few things:
    1. (They’re still in Madrid – they leave next week for their beach house further south). In Madrid, they live in an apartment complex and so do both sets of parents, whom they see every single day. (I haven’t asked how big the apt is, but DD has her own room, and from what I’ve seen on FT, it’s a decent size. She shares a bathroom with the kids. No A/C and it’s over 100 now, but she doesn’t seem to care. Could it possibly be “dry heat” there?).
    2. The kids don’t start school until after 9am, and they all sleep until 8am. (The dad has told DD that when they’re out of school and at the summer place, he makes the kids sleep until 9am every day).
    3. At school, they have a 2+-hour break midday to eat/play, and then they finish at 5:30.
    4. Every day after school/work, the entire family goes swimming at the apt complex pool, and/or play various games, for at least an hour.
    5. They never eat dinner before at 8pm. Last night, DD and the mom were ordering sushi at 10pm for their dinner–the kids and dad had eaten not long before.
    6. All 3 kids go to bed at/around 9pm. They are 3, 6 and 8. No separate bedtimes based on age.
    7. A cleaning lady comes every single day and among other things, tidies the kitchen and picks up all the kids’ toys.
    It’s been amazing to DD how very different family life is there. Sounds to me like she prefers their way and I can see why — they seem to have more relaxation, sleep and family time built into their day than we did when our kids were little. And how great for the kids to have both sets of grandparents so close — I know DD would have loved that, as would her brother.

    BTW, I thought of you all and the travel tips post, b/c DD and I have now moved past FaceTime and onto WhatsApp. The family gave her a local cell phone, so she can text me via WhatsApp from that, share photos, etc — much better than her needing to be on wifi.

  104. Risley – when do the kids do travel field hockey, contemporary jazz, and soccer tots for the 3 yo?

    That’s why they’re relaxed. ;)

  105. I find the concept of “understanding” to be intriguing. I do believe that sometimes, maybe most of the time, you must just keep “doing” things even without understanding, until you have the lightbulb moment when you finally understand the concept.

    This comes back to the long-standing argument of “rote” learning vs conceptual understanding. Educators at times have insisted that conceptual learning must always precede procedural fluency. But it’s possible that for most learners it just doesn’t happen that way. And in fact practicing the procedure can be an important step in learning the concept. This is actually consistent with how cognitive scientists view learning. First, rote knowledge (memorization) then inflexible knowledge which is memorizing with meaning, but superficial and concrete. Third, flexible knowledge which can be applied in new contexts and is deeper and abstract.

    So in the context of the middle school math problem, a teacher can guide a student through learning the concept of the problem using manipulatives and diagrams and other explanations and tools. But if the student has mastered the procedure and works through the problem it can be an important step in better understanding.

  106. Milo – that makes me wonder if a lot of those activities take place at the schools, during the long midday break? Or do they start in HS? Or just not do them at all, ever, as a general rule?

    DD reports that the swimming pool is *very* busy when they go “because every other family goes there together before dinner, too.”

    So it’s clearly not just this family who has opted out of all the evening sports, lessons, etc.

  107. Risley,

    I wonder how much vacation time the dad gets. I was talking to a guy who was recruited by a Spanish software company and moved to Madrid. All in he was at 9 weeks and was expected to take it all.

  108. Risley, that’s fascinating and a great experience for your DD. It does sound very Spanish, dinner at 9 or even later, but it can take getting used to. I’ve wondered if that way of life has continued and apparently it has!

    WhatsApp works on wifi, I think.

  109. Risley,

    I bet they don’t do it at all. It looks like Spanish university admissions is based on test scores only:

    Admission to the Spanish university system is determined by the nota de corte (literally, “cutoff grade”) that is achieved at the end of the two-year Bachillerato, an optional course that students can take from the age of 16 when the period of obligatory secondary education (Educación Secundaria Obligatoria, or ESO) comes to an end. A number between 1 and 10, the nota de corte is a combination of the grade achieved from the Bachillerato exams which the students take at school, and the average grade (nota de media) obtained from the university selection exam (commonly known as la Selectividad but officially named “Prueba de Acceso a la Universidad” or PAU) that the students will take at the local university.

  110. Risley – sounds like my childhood but in the home country you had to spend part of the evening studying. Bedtimes and dinner times were similar. Schools started by 9.00 so most kids were up by 7 am. Most families had extended families near by so you saw your grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins – frequently, many of them at least once a week. To Milo’s point kids might do one extra curricular activity but that was about it.

  111. It would be like university admission in the US being based on using a weighted average of your SAT scores and your AP exam scores… and that’s it.

  112. Rhett – both parents work. I’ll see if DD knows about their vaca set up. When they move to the summer place, it’ll actually be just DD and one of the grandmothers with the 3 kids during the week. The parents will stay in Madrid to work and take the train down each weekend. At some point, they’re all going to Greece for a week I believe, but I don’t get the sense they’re taking more time than that in the summer. Maybe they take their vaca at other times during the year.

    Interesting about college. Takes the pressure off re: the EC stuff but I suppose, as Louise mentions, there is more focus on studying. ?

    July – I think she can WhatsApp me from anywhere, vs to FaceTime or iMessage me, she has to be on wifi. ?? And the messages don’t reach her right away, like they do with WhatsApp. And WhatsApp seems faster with photos vs the others where it takes too long to load. I don’t begin to understand it all, but she told me to get on WhatsApp and since then, it’s been easier for her. ??

  113. It would be like university admission in the US being based on using a weighted average of your SAT scores and your AP exam scores… and that’s it.

    I think that’s actually what happens at a lot of colleges but no one admits it.

  114. I think that’s actually what happens at a lot of colleges but no one admits it.

    While true, here GPA also has a component. In many (most?) other countries test scores are all that matter. As long as you graduate, you could go to their version of Harvard with a C- average as long as you had stellar test scores.

  115. WhatsApp works on both wifi and cellular data, just depends on what you turn on.

    What your higher educational system “values” and sets as the criteria for acceptance is what those who want to succeed in that system pursue.

    Yes, with the exception of a few countries, we are quite overworked.

  116. Risley – home country admissions are based only on exam scores. If you want to take STEM then the science and math scores are given more weight after grade 12.
    There is tons of exam prep so outside school tutors, tutorial classes (these are geared towards test taking vs. going into why and how which is taught at school).
    Academic pressure still continues despite efforts at reform. One state made it so you couldn’t hold anyone back till grade 9 but my cousin who tutors says standards have plummeted for the rank and file students because of this.

  117. My cousin lamented that though he had plenty of students to tutor he had to teach them the basics in the 9th grade just to pass the 9th grade exams.

  118. The possibility of college admission based solely on standardized test scores would, I think, terrify many UMC Americans. Simple reversion to the mean is a devastating prospect.

    On the other hand, if you can deploy your material advantages in a way that turns your kid’s “passion” into a “hook,” then you can better ensure they maintain their place in the hierarchy while you publicly decry limited socioeconomic mobility.

  119. Simple reversion to the mean is a devastating prospect.

    The heratability of IQ wouldn’t imply a reversion to the mean.

  120. And I guess it’s worth remembering that this family has gone to the trouble of bringing in an English-speaking au pair for the summer so that even their 3yo can practice his English. It’s not like they’re doing nothing to advance their kids’ chances.

  121. “you can better ensure they maintain their place in the hierarchy while you publicly decry limited socioeconomic mobility”

    Yes and no. You’d probably end up with Asian majorities at most elite colleges and blacks/Hispanics underrepresented.

  122. I wish colleges would go back to a simple formula of mostly test scores and a little bit of GPA with some adjustment for URM for admission. The last thing I want to do when my kids are teens is help them come up with some crazy interest to pursue or start some business or apply for a patent. Just so they can get in to UVA.

  123. come up with some crazy interest to pursue or start some business or apply for a patent

    As others have mentioned that may not be a thing. As Scarlett has mentioned, UMC parents have a wildly inflated idea of how important being class treasurer is in college admissions.

  124. Rhett/Milo – my colleagues DD was admitted to UNC, Duke, Columbia among other schools. In talking to him, there was little parental effort. She had the scores and grades and was motivated enough. I think her high school was t one that stood out either. She will be attending Columbia.

  125. For most state schools, test scores and grades are the primary drivers for application decisions. A problem is that some state schools are simply so competitive based on those two components.

  126. Re the school extracurriculars in Spain. There might be a little of it, but they’re not going to be organized by the school (e.g. high school soccer). All that, sports, music, anything else would be clubs or specialized academies. University admissions is test-based entirely as Rhett says.

    Yes, it’s still very normal in Madrid and farther south to have dinner 9pm and later, except for the very young and very old, but even then only at home. There’s always food available if you need a little something (i.e. tapas at any of a million bars) to hold you over till dinner. Even famous restaurants with a lot of tourists (e.g. Botin) they open for dinner at 9. But of course there are lousier restaurants that cater to the tourists who want to eat dinner earlier on their home schedule.

  127. OT: How do I stop getting robo calls on my mobile? I thought in the past mobiles were safe in this regard, but it seems that is no longer the case.

  128. I have been pondering why so many people are going Gluten Free. Is it because they ate too much bread, pasta, cookies to begin with ? Did these things crowd out their fruits and vegetables and led to them feeling bloated and uncomfortable ? Would they be OK if they just reduced their portions of Gluten intense foods ?
    Or do they truly have a gluten allergy ?

  129. July said “But if the student has mastered the procedure and works through the problem it can be an important step in better understanding.”
    Yes, it can be a step. The problem is, 99% of the time, procedural fluency alone is the stopping point. It isn’t the fault of the students – in K12, both teachers and parents confuse procedural fluency with mastery. And that is why we in higher education are faced with floods of students who have decent grades in HS math, including calculus, but who fall apart when faced with more advanced math – using said calculus to solve complex problems, doing proofs, developing new algoritihms.
    And yeah, I know, Rhett is going to post that no one needs to be able to do those things anyway.

  130. Rhett is going to post that no one needs to be able to do those things anyway.

    People do, just not many of your students. You yourself have said many belong in MIS not computer science.

  131. There is a genetic link to IQ but many uMC parents, especially perhaps Totebaggers, are UMC out of a desire never to have one bathroom or no AC or whatever deprivation we experienced that motivated us into the meritocracy. We also tended to marry similarly motivated spouses, but all of our kids are not going to get both the top IQ and the drive to jump through the hoops that we did.

  132. but all of our kids are not going to get both the top IQ and the drive to jump through the hoops that we did.

    While true, the data on inter-generational income mobility says they are very likely to remain at or near the top.

  133. Off topic:

    For Amazon, it marks an ambitious push into the mammoth grocery business, an industry that accounts for around $700 million to $800 million in consumer spending in the United States.

    Am I the only one who is surprised how often people confuse million and billion?

  134. but (not) all of our kids are going to get both the top IQ and the drive to jump through the hoops that we did.

    +1 +1 (since 2 of my 3 resemble that remark, mostly the latter part)

  135. My other response to July is that
    1. The research that shows that active learning is superior to lectures is looking at higher ed, not K12. So the assumption is that true mastery – deep conceptual understanding – is the goal of the courses they are studying.
    2. Active learning does not preclude procedural fluency – in fact, to survive any of the kinds of courses being studied, procedural fluency is a requirement. But the researchers assume that the goal is mastery, so that is what they look at. In the first CS course, the students are learning to program. If they can’t remember where to put the braces, or how to declare a variable, in whatever language we are using, they are not going to do well. But ultimately, if they don’t conceptually understand that variable as being a physical location, which you can refer to by a name, or by an offset into a list, or by a physicial address (a pointer), they are not mastering the content. They can’t do anything other than memorize example code that they don’t understand. We talk a lot about developing a mental model of the machine. If they can’t do that, they won’t survive.
    3. Because there have been so many studies showing learning gains, using active learning in STEM is not controversial. In fact, it has always been there in some ways – remember good ol’ chem lab? And the methods that are studied in the research are not the K12 diorama projects that somehow pass for “engagement” , and are not those amorphous “throw everyone at a problem that they don’t have the background to solve” kind of events. Mazur’s pet method, peer instruction, is highly structured, and is integrated into lectures so that students are always working with background. In my field, there is a group looking at Parson’s problems, where students are given, in class, code snippets that they have to rearrange to solve a problem.
    4. The big barrier is the mechanics of higher education. Big lectures, instructors whose incentive is to bring in grant dollars, and the students themselves who would rather look at Facebook from the back of a lecture hall with a nice droning professor. The NSF specifically looks to fund projects that scale active learning methods at an institutional level. I review for some of those programs, so I know this is a big priority for them.

  136. Amazon has no plans now to use the technology it developed for Amazon Go to automate the jobs of cashiers at Whole Foods, said Drew Herdener, a spokesman for Amazon.

    The slow checkout is what I hate about my local WF. They don’t have self checkout either.

  137. “It turns out that students have to grapple with the material in a structured way in class.”

    We did this in HS physics regularly. Is that not the norm? I remember spending a lot of time dropping things down inclines, playing with wheels, and all kinds of hands on things. We broke into pairs and did lab work twice a week at least, just like in chemistry. I never took college physics, so it was not calc-based or super complex.

    Spain.

    I am jealous! And yes – that sounds just like I remember it from the late 90’s/early 00’s. No one got to the office before 10, no one EVER took less than a 1.5 hour lunch (even during month-end close), and no one left the office until 7pm at the earliest. When arriving at the office sometime between 10 and 10:30, the first order of business was to gather by the cappuccino vending machine (and maybe have a smoke). The downside to that is that we were still expected to get the same amount of work done, so since people refused to come in early or work through lunch, there were some really late nights (and that is when the bad pizza would be ordered). Plus, the east coast would show up for work right around the time we were returning from our leisurely lunches, so it feel like a “Spanish” day and an “American” day sometimes. But I loved sleeping until 9am everyday & taking a nice long walk home in the evening. My office mostly took the full month of August for vacation. Me, the other American, and a couple of the most entry level Europeans were left behind to man the ship. We took even longer lunches – sometimes didn’t mix seltzer into our wine at lunch. haha

    The other thing is that people had a very large lunch most of the time. Dinner was usually a lot lighter. I usually had fruit and cereal, a sandwich, or a salad.

    Madrid is hot as hell even though it is, yes, dry. It is MUCH cooler on the sea. I had A/C in Barcelona, but it was usually comfortable in the evenings even in the dead of summer because of the Mediterranean. Although there were a few really hot nights – including the 4th of July that year where I ended up hanging out with a bunch of Brits in an Irish pub of all places.

  138. “It is a pretty good place to work. I hope they stay that way.”

    That was my thought. And that I hope the stores don’t change too much at the core – technology would be good, but one of the main reasons I shop there besides the food quality & selection is the people. The customer service is excellent. My experiences with Amazon customer service have been much less positive. Then again, Zappos still has excellent customer service, and I have liked them more & more under Amazon, so there is plenty of hope that this will be good.

  139. Louise – on the gluten thing, I think a lot of people do it as a weight loss tool which it of course is because you’re removing a huge source of calories in most diets. I’ve been reading the work of this guy Jack Kruse who thinks a lot of the disease that people have today (celiac, food allergies, diabetes, cancer, etc.) have a lot to do with indoor lifestyles/overexposure to blue light and people should concentrate less on food and more on fixing their environment. I’ve been seeing a lot of research about how important getting full spectrum sunlight in your eye every day is (don’t wear sunglasses) and how damaging EMF is to our health. It’s really interesting.

  140. And I guess it’s worth remembering that this family has gone to the trouble of bringing in an English-speaking au pair for the summer so that even their 3yo can practice his English. It’s not like they’re doing nothing to advance their kids’ chances.

    But are they doing this to improve their kids’ chances of getting into a HSS, or are they doing it simply because knowing English will be useful for their kids? I bet it’s the latter.

    The big difference is most countries don’t place the importance of getting into a “good” college like the UMC and upper class here. That’s why they aren’t concerned about travel soccer, piano lessons, Kumon, SAT prep classes, the calculus track, etc. They also have very different government support structures (with corresponding higher taxes). It’s a completely different culture, to state the obvious.

  141. That Spanish schedule sounds like what DH described in his high school year abroad in 1978. It’s funny it hasn’t changed much. They aren’t going down to Cadiz, are they? That’s where DH spent his year.

  142. Ris – at what time do the parents sit down and open their laptops to work? Or check their phones throughout the evening? Probably never. Perhaps I should think about moving. Also, I’m curious to hear if there are scheduled playdates with friends. Or do the kids just hang out with family after school and on weekends?

  143. Milo, one of the advantages of our area/social class is that working on your car/lawnmower is pretty common so people consult friends/relatives for help. Mr WCE was having trouble removing the degraded gasket material with the listed chemicals and our friend from small group said that, really, he winds up taking it off with a straight razor. He watched some youtube videos for the Buick specific stuff, as you suggested.

  144. July, interesting. I read your first paragraph and copied it to comment that schools agree with you, much to my consternation, and I wish that they would also give kids who need to understand before they proceed the time and space to do so. Then I read the rest of your post and saw that your impression is 180 degrees opposite mine and you actually think there isn’t enough push to “learn by doing” in schools. I learn by doing by making many mistakes and fixing them. That’s not an approach I see room for in schools today. I see much more insistence on doing it the right way and eventually some kind of switch will be tripped to release all the insight into why this is the best way and what would go wrong with any of the other ways. (The latter part is really just me being charitable–how many people insist on doing d this way because it’s how it’s done, with no clue as to what would happen if other ways were tried). I wonder how much of this is due to differences in our dispositions and how much is due to different experiences.

  145. Denver – I expect you’re right.

    Lemon – I get the feeling that the entire neighborhood is at the pool after school, so sort of a built-in playdate for all. Certainly the entire extended family seems to be there.

    RMS – it’s not that town. I keep forgetting the name. Really must do better that that. DD reports the weather at the beach house will be way more moderate – highs in mid 80s rather than 100+.

  146. July, cont’d. Your last bit, about manipulatives and drawings as explanation, reminds me of discussions about “active reading” which entails asking questions; making connections to prior knowledge; etc. That’s how I read and it is also how I look at explanations with manipulatives, as a kind of almost-practice that doesn’t just show what to do but also shows why. Without knowing why, procedures just don’t make sense to me and are impossible for me to remember. An example: I’m probably one of the few people in the world who actually reads the first chapters in style guides (Chicago, Turbanian, etc). I find them helpful because there actually are philosophies guiding each of those styles (I know; whodathunkit?). Keeping that in mind makes it much easier for me to remember what goes where in my citations.

  147. Risley, to me, one of the biggest lessons in learning a foreign language or living abroad is that the definition of “normal” is not constant. Where we say “say it in plain English”, the Germans say “sprich deutsch”. The language is not the point in either expression. The point is to say it plainly and clearly. The language is included only because it’s “obviously” plain and clear. Right now the Spanish style is exotic to your daughter. I hope she can get to where it’s just the most obvious, normal way to live day to day and then reaches the generalization that everyone’s life is normal to them.

    That sounds simplistic and cyclical, but aren’t many “lightbulb” moments that way, when you look back at them?

  148. Rhett, European educational systems have been more standardized since the Bologna meetings a decade ago. Entrance exams to university are more comparable to the ACT achievemtn tests and AP exams. They are not IQ tests; they measure recall of what you should’ve learned in school.

  149. July, to your 8:01 comment, you must be assuming that schools for certain groups continue to be underfunded and -staffed and that parents would not pressure their kids to do well on test scores the way they now encourage sports as a way to move up in the world. The first is depressing, and Indisagree strongly with you on the second. (A third option, of course, is that you are revisiting 19th Century ideas about race, but I will give you the benefit of a doubt).

  150. Rhett on June 16, 2017 at 9:03 am
    but all of our kids are not going to get both the top IQ and the drive to jump through the hoops that we did.

    While true, the data on inter-generational income mobility says they are very likely to remain at or near the top.

    Yes, but that isn’t connected to IQ

  151. Louise, the chatty checkouts are part of the WF “experience” that you’re paying for, lol.

    DD, I assume that Spain, like most European countries, has a range of educational options, not simply college or nothing, right?

  152. S&M, I think many people are uncomfortable memorizing procedures without understanding them. That is why so many posters in this chain were commenting about the way that physics made them feel queasy, because they knew they didn’t understand what they were doing. I think the philosophy of memorization without understanding, which still dominates K12 even today because teachers like it, is one of the things that leaves girls feeling so unconfident about math.

  153. DD, I assume that Spain, like most European countries, has a range of educational options, not simply college or nothing, right?

    I have no idea. The point I was making is that my understanding is the U.S. is fairly unique in our emphasis on what college people go to and the associated pressure for admissions.

  154. “The big difference is most countries don’t place the importance of getting into a “good” college like the UMC and upper class here. That’s why they aren’t concerned about travel soccer, piano lessons, Kumon, SAT prep classes, the calculus track, etc.”

    I’ve heard that in a lot of Asian countries, there is a lot of stress on getting into “good” schools. Because admittance decisions are based on test scores, the kids spend a lot of time in the rough equivalent Kumon and SAT prep as they study for the exams that determine college admission.

    In large segments of many Asian countries, things like piano and violin lessons are very common, even if they don’t figure into college admissions.

  155. “We also tended to marry similarly motivated spouses, but all of our kids are not going to get both the top IQ and the drive to jump through the hoops that we did.”

    But we place a lot of importance on the schools our kids attend, where peer pressure often contributes to our kids’ drive to jump through the desired hoops.

  156. In the home country there was definitely a good deal of recognition of good colleges in each city. Admission is determined based on exam scores.
    Then there were government sponsored engineering schools, hard to get into with definite name recognition. Similarly some medical colleges were definitely more prestigious than others.
    The competition to get into a good college is fierce.

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