Tall, Dark, and Mysterious

3/23/2005

Unfortunately, I am not the protagonist of a feel-good movie

File under: Those Who Can't, Know Thyself. Posted by Moebius Stripper at 7:39 am.

Ortega: If we fail? You can’t teach logarithms to illiterates. Look, these kids come to us with barely a seventh grade education.

Next week, I will be teaching logarithms in my precalculus class.

I know, blogging about it only makes it worse

File under: Those Who Can't, Meta-Meta, Queen of Sciences. Posted by Moebius Stripper at 7:12 am.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the wholly indefensible ubiquity of the TI-83+ graphing calculator in high school classrooms. Sure, such powerful calculators had their uses, I said, but most of the owners of these beasts have no real need for them, and they’re doing more harm than good in the hands of their high-school-age owners. (To wit: over at Joanne Jacobs’, someone is suggesting that I explain multiplication of algebraic expressions by comparing it to long multiplication of positive integers, “which [my students] likely understood by grade eight”. I wish. These are kids who will reach into their bag and extract their calculators when I ask them to multiply single-digit numbers together.)

Anyway, since I am right, my screed has not attracted anyone searching for such phrases as “compute covariance on TI-83+” or “polar coordinates graphing calculator”, even though I used all of those words on the same page. However, in the past week, TD&M has absorbed droves of people googling the phrase “how to make a penis graph on a TI-83″. Check it out - I’m number six. And seven. Back on February 28 I did indeed mention both the penis and the TI-83+, but apparently five people did so even more relevantly than I.

None of the more highly-ranked links provided the necessary instructions, though, so I’ll give it a go. Never let it be said that I don’t take my job as an educator seriously. I’m not an expert on either the penis or the TI-83, but here’s my best guess: in order to make a penis graph on a TI-83+, you’ll have to read Chapters 1, 3, 4, and 5 of the manual to find out how to graph functions by conventional means. Then, you’ll have to get really excited about your calculator, and it helps if you have above-average motor skills in areas that few take the time to develop.

Not that I really see the point. Me, I just use my hands.

3/20/2005

This is not my fault.

File under: Those Who Can't, Queen of Sciences, Know Thyself. Posted by Moebius Stripper at 9:46 pm.

I’m generally pretty candid and introspective regarding my flaws as a teacher, but dammit, there is NO WAY that I could possibly be so bad as to bear any responsibility whatsoever for this one student of mine - the one who needs a B - writing, by way of interpreting a confidence interval for a quiz, What this means is that we are 95% sure that the mean, which is equal to 123, is between 15.05 and 16.95. No amount of bad teaching can produce such nonsense. I may not have been presenting the finer points of sampling as clearly as I might have, but, as God is my witness, I have not been unteaching my English-speaking, college-aged students how the positive real numbers are ordered.

Speaking of this student and confidence intervals: she’d been in my office a few days prior to ask me about the “complidance interval”. She kept repeating this word, “complidance”, and it was fingernails across a chalkboard every single time, to the point that I just wanted to yell CONFIDENCE. IT’S A COMMON ENGLISH WORD THAT MEANS THE SAME THING IN STATISTICS AS IT DOES IN ENGLISH. If this were one of my Asian immigrant students whose English is shaky, I’d have been able to say Actually, it’s ‘confidence’, and my student would have giggled shyly and said, Oh…yes… and then tried it out - con-fi-dence, yes? But Needs-a-B is an anglophone, and a grownup, and correcting anglophone adults on their English is bad etiquette. It humiliates them. It’s like telling someone they have bad breath. So I responded by offering, in effect, what I suppose are the breath mints of mispronounced English, answering every question about the complidance interval in full sentences - Well, to find the CON-FI-DENCE interval here, we need to find the margin of error… And it didn’t take. Now I wonder if I’m even spelling “complidance” correctly. Maybe I’ll find out on the test.

Upgrade, outage

File under: Meta-Meta. Posted by Moebius Stripper at 9:39 am.

Wordpress 1.5 has been installed. Still working out some design glitches, but as far as I can tell, everything is functional. Had a bit of a scare last night when, after everything worked just fine on the test blog, upgrading on the real blog gave me an internal server error. For the first time ever, I think, I was able to debug by myself as soon as my logs updated. ‘Twas the old .htaccess file, which did not play well with the new version. I deleted it, and all is well. One immediate benefit I can see: comments are no longer automatically moderated. One you prove you and your IP not to be affiliated with spammers (one comment’ll do), your comments will go up immediately.

Of course, I decided to do this on a weekend during which I had thirty tests and more than sixty quizzes to grade, as well as a test to set, and a textbook outline to edit. And I need to get this all done today, because I didn’t even take home the five-inch-thick pile of test corrections that my precalc students submitted last week, and those need to be marked by Tuesday. Oh, and some of my precalc students have asked for more practice word problems, which I’d like to give them, because they now know (in theory) how to approach them. Would also like to swing by the studio today; it’s only open nine hours a week, three of which fit into my schedule. Feh.

Anyway, I’m done tinkering for today.

(ETA: no, of course I’m not. Turns out that the feeds have changed; if you’re reading through an aggregator, please make sure you’re using http://talldarkandmysterious.ca/feed. If the folks who control my Bloglines and LJ feeds could make that change, I’d be much obliged.)

3/18/2005

And they’re supposed to be able to graph rational functions

File under: Those Who Can't. Posted by Moebius Stripper at 10:39 pm.

I think - touch wood - that I’ve made some progress in precalculus in the past week. The math diary assignment, according to some of my hardworking-but-woefully -unprepared-and-hence-failing students, was really helpful - and I’m glad. I wish I’d given it earlier. Attendance suddenly soared from 50-60% to above 75%, probably because I made it clear that I seldom scale grades, and when I do, I need a better reason than “because people aren’t understanding the material and consequently everyone is failing.” I’ve also decided to give students a bit of in-class time to work alone or in groups on simple examples. I wish I could do more of that, as talking at people isn’t the best way to teach math, but we’re pressed for time as it is and the lecture format is my only hope for presenting four chapters’ worth of material to students who are as slow and as underprepared as mine. (Mind of Winter has a lot on the topic of teaching math in non-lecture formats, all worth reading.) In any case, I haven’t graded the diaries yet, nor have I really looked at the last quiz; so I’m going to hold off on claiming any measure of success until then.

However, it’s not like my students are suddenly all that when it comes to doing math at the level required of them. Not by any stretch. In particular, although I hate (not really) to make predictions at this point, I think that it’s a pretty sure bet that when a student asks “what do I need to get in the rest of the course to get the 65% I need?”, and you say “well, here are your test marks and quiz marks, and your tests so far are worth 40% and the quizzes so far are worth 8%, so you can figure it out from that” and they say “how do I do that?” - they’re not likely to get that 65%. Just sayin’.

Low-maintenance pets

File under: Know Thyself. Posted by Moebius Stripper at 8:12 pm.

In my apartment, on the wall opposite the entrance, there is a sign in my handwriting that reads “FEED THE CAT”. This is because my landlords, who are away for the week, have left me in charge of their cat, and I am the sort of person who would forget this sort of thing.

I know little about cats, but my landlords assured me that there’s not much to taking care of theirs for a week: leave the door to the room with the litter box open a crack. Scoop out the clumps of litter every couple of days. Refill the water bowl daily. Refill the bowl of pellets when it’s empty. It’s easy, they told me, and if I want to head over to the mainland for Easter then that’s okay, the cat can survive without me for a day or two.

That was two days ago, and so far, so good. The water bowl is still pretty full. As is the bowl of cat food. And the litter box looks fine, no clumpier than it was a few days ago, I don’t think, not that I’m keeping terribly close track. As for the cat herself - well, cats aren’t very social, right? They sleep all the time, right? And real-life cats don’t really respond to “heeeere, kittykitty” anyway, do they?

Then I remembered some other things my landlords said, such as, “She may be a bit confused at first when she doesn’t see us.” Noted.

And, “Sometimes if the food isn’t fresh, she won’t touch it, so you might want to change it if it’s there for awhile.” Done.

And, “She’s sixteen years old, getting on in years, and not as healthy as she used to be.”

Crap.

For the record, I am “mocks students on blog to relieve job-related stress” cruel, but not “kills landlord’s cat” cruel. For the record.

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