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word problems

Another in a long line of cleverness from Savage Chickens: http://www.savagechickens.com/2009/03/teacher.html

If a word problem isn’t relevant to the teacher or the student, why are we bothering? Just because it was done to us?

links round up — 2

67% of Children Left Behind
“A new study by researchers at Rice University and the University of Texas-Austin finds that Texas’ public school accountability system, the model for the national No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), directly contributes to lower graduation rates. Each year Texas public high schools lose at least 135,000 youth prior to graduation — a disproportionate number of whom are African-American, Latino and English-as-a-second-language (ESL) students.”
It gets worse. The link above is to a blog by Chad Orzel. Follow the link there to the report on the study.

Concept Maps
A reminder from a practicing teacher that concept maps and other “non-traditional” techniques can help students learn. The exchange in the comments is as interesting as the post itself.

Euphemism and American Violence
An insightful article on words and politics and torture and the abdication of our democratic responsibility: “‘History begins today’ was a saying in the Bush White House on September 12, 2001—repeated with menace by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage to the director of Pakistani intelligence Mahmoud Ahmad—a statement that on its face exhibits a totalitarian presumption. Yet nothing so much as language supplies our memory of things that came before today; and, to an astounding degree, the Bush and Cheney administration has succeeded in persuading the most powerful and (at one time) the best-informed country in the world that history began on September 12, 2001. The effect has been to tranquilize our self-doubts and externalize all the evils we dare to think of. In this sense, the changes of usage and the corruptions of sense that have followed the global war on terrorism are inseparable from the destructive acts of that war.”

Better than Free
Smart, provocative commentary about the internet and current society and what makes things valuable from some one who clearly spends way too much time online. Doesn’t change the power or the debatable nature of his observations.

Chris Jordan Photography
I once spent a lot of time making photographs of trash and other detritus of our culture. Jordan’s work has a more arranged quality to it (mine was more about what was found), but I like it.

SAT scores and book lists
Another take on book lists.

Why Math Matters
I get this question a lot—from students, from friends, from strangers. Dustin M. Wax provides a possible answer and I thought some of you might be interested. I think there are other answers, too, and they are almost always contextual. That is, I answer the question differently depending on to whom I’m speaking and in what situation. At what I think have been appropriate times, I have said that math doesn’t matter. Not very often.

Credit goes to Scottie and Mike M. for pointing me toward these links.

late on pi day

Naturally, Savage Chickens has a lovely pi day cartoon. Who can resist these charming fowl?

(As usual, thanks to Alisa for the heads up.)

how it works

More excellent commentary on math and gender bias from xkcd.

As usual, thanks to my friend and former roomie, Alisa, for the heads up.

links round up

A few more links from my friend Scott at Skippy Records. The last link, however, comes from Godfried, who is curiously blogless.

The Stevens Seventy lists the “best” science books of the last 100 years or so. Obviously, put together by someone who likes lists almost as much as me.

Crayon Physics Deluxe is just cool. It took me a minute to understand what was going on; once I did, I was very excited.

Here’s some thoughts about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and why they will never end. It’s depressing and it is upon us—Unleashing the Dogs of War.

Vinyl May Be the Final Nail in CD’s Coffin, or so says this Wired article.

savage chickens

If you haven’t already found him, Doug Savage creates a new cartoon every weekday. The topics vary, but they are almost always clever and cute. If you’ve ever gone to school, and especially if you’re a teacher, I think you will enjoy this one.

quadratic grafitti

In the tradition of i divided by zero, I bring you this picture courtesy of Charles Hope, via Ms. Choat. My friend and colleague, Mary, immediately thought of someone potentially risking their life to stand in the road and write the quadratic equation. There are worse things than math for which to risk your life.



I have been a rock climber for 20 years. Climbing has fit me from the beginning in the same way that my favorite books fit. It has all of life inside it—joy, suffering, frustration, satisfaction, risk, reward—and is, like life, a struggle with both the subjective and the objective. The subjective struggle is to know your self, your limitations, and your abilities; to know when to go and when to back off. The objective struggle is to know the rock, the gear, the weather, and your partner. And then the distinction between objective and subjective breaks down and disappears. All of it becomes part of climbing. This completely focused self-consciousness together and simultaneous with the loss of self-consciousness is ultimately why I love climbing. It is a meditation, a mode of being.

I think this sense of climbing is one of the reasons, maybe the most important reason, that I have never enjoyed stories about climbing. I mostly don’t watch climbing movies or read climbing books or look at climbing magazines. Rarely do they touch my experience of climbing and usually they feel like trivializations of something intensely personal and private.

Having said this, I recently found a video that gets it pretty close to right. There is a shameless bit of advertising at the front; get past it. Listen and watch. Let me know if you see there what I’m trying to get at here.


Check out Synaesthesia (Colored letters and numbers), a new video from silentmiaow. Be a little patient; groove on the tunes from Suerte. It’s worth it.

refrigerators of our lives

Lost in Dixieland has created Refrigerators of my life for the past 5 years. I shudder to think what my fridge says about me.

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