The route to excellence AND fun isn’t always fun

Yes, SOME people do get it:

The article itself (by Barbara Oakley)

All learning isn’t — and shouldn’t be — “fun.” Mastering the fundamentals is why we have children practice scales and chords when they’re learning to play a musical instrument, instead of just playing air guitar. It’s why we have them practice moves in dance and soccer, memorize vocabulary while learning a new language and internalize the multiplication tables. In fact, the more we try to make all learning fun, the more we do a disservice to children’s abilities to grapple with and learn difficult topics. As Robert Bjork, a leading psychologist, has shown, deep learning involves “desirable difficulties.” Some learning just plain requires effortful practice, especially in the initial stages. Practice and, yes, even some memorization are what allow the neural patterns of learning to take form.

Here is the way I see it: one can’t really understand math concepts unless one has some examples that they can experiment on. And learning the tools and objects isn’t 100 percent fun, 100 percent of the time. There IS going to be at least a little bit of drudgery.

But once you have mastered the tools, you can begin to build.

Workout notes: 5K run in 29:51, 1 mile walk cool down. I started out at 5.1 mph and increased the pace gradually until 10 minutes, then 6.7 to mile 2.1, then 6.8 for .5, then 6.9-7.0 to the end. It was not a long workout but a sharp one.


August 10, 2018 Posted by | education, mathematics, running | Leave a comment

closing in

It is kind of weird how much trouble the above object is causing me. 🙂

But I am working on it..but right now I am wasting time blogging.

We have a midterm in 2018 and there has been talk about trying to get those who don’t vote to show up and vote. The idea I’ve heard is if only the Democrats make their national platform appealing enough, people will show up to vote for them.

Let’s just say that I am a bit skeptical… (from 2012)

Workout notes: I am feeling better; post weightroom weight was 197.

Usual PT, pull ups (15-15-10-10, good) bench: 10 x 135, 4 x 185, incline: 6 x 150, decline: 8 x 170, military (better) 2 sets of 10 x 50 standing, 10 x 45, 3 sets of 10 x 110 rows, plank went a bit better (2:30) usual abs, pleasant 2 mile walk.

July 2, 2018 Posted by | mathematics, political humor, walking, weight training | Leave a comment

I need some motivation …

I am chasing my tail in my research project; my “shortcut” was really a dead end..but presents a nice direction for future research. Back to my more involved proof (which I liked better anyway).

In one part of my proof, I show that there are only a finite number of solid tori (an object that is shaped like a bagel or doughnut) that contain this knot in a non-trivial way (1 or 2, depending on the stitching pattern). That is only part of the proof.

Workout notes: 4 mile run on the treadmill in 41:36 (11:30, then 22:12, 32:03); go from 5.2-5.4 in 5 minute increments, 10 minutes at 6.1, 5 at 6.2, rest at 6.3. Then 2 mile walk outside. Left upper calf is a bit tender.

June 21, 2018 Posted by | mathematics, running | Leave a comment

One bit of good news

I think that I finally figured out how to proceed on a problem Now to get to it this afternoon. Who knew that knots in tori could cause so much trouble?

For the uninitiated: imagine a solid torus (bagel) that is twisted into some knot. Now imagine a more complicated curve inside the knotted torus that goes all the way around, possibly several times. The knot represented by the solid torus is said to be the companion knot of the more complicated knot, and the more complicated knot is said to the be the satellite knot of the knotted torus.

In the second diagram, the crudely drawn red represents a knotted solid torus that contains the more complicated black knot. Note: there are at least two other “obvious” companions: the figure 8 and the trefoil.

Workout notes it was only 76 F with 57 percent humidity ..but the non-shade of the 5.2 mile course got to me; today’s “easy” run (shuffle) wasn’t as easy as I had hoped. I then did 15 minutes on the bicycle to cool down. I really need to practice bending my knees as I run.

June 5, 2018 Posted by | mathematics, running | Leave a comment

to blog or not to blog

I am thinking of starting a blog for our complex variables course. I like the book I am using, but there are a few things I’d love to explore further (e. g. the roots of unity, the group structure of S^1 , etc.

We’ll see.

Last night: we went to Illinois State and saw Bradley lose 70-57 in a game that was tighter than the final score might indicate. Still, it is hard to win when you are shooting 33 percent..then again, some of that..ok much of that, it great defense by the Redbirds.

Workout notes: Yes, it is warmer but the roads are kind of slushy. So it was the treadmill for me:
50 minute froggy (0.5 incline, 4.9 start, up .1 every 5 minutes) 23:48 at 2) then at 50 minutes, upped it to 6.8 then 6.9 to make 5 miles in 54:56, then 1 mile of walking. That 5 minutes at a “faster” pace just about killed me. I handled it ok but…

January 18, 2018 Posted by | basketball, mathematics, running | , | Leave a comment

Spring Semester 2018: about to start and…

Ok, some academic stuff is on my mind…not all of it serious.

I just finished the book The Teacher Wars by Dana Goldstein (New York Times book review is here). It talks about the issues involving K-12 teaching from the founding of the country up until the later years of the Obama administration, and ends with an epilogue which has some interesting suggestions.

What I was struck by is how many of the current issues we are having really have been around for a long time. Controversies: how educated should the teachers be? (and yes, often, they were not and still are not “the brightest”) How well paid should they be? (missionaries or well paid professionals?) How should teachers be evaluated?(whims of the administrators, local school boards/parents, “value added test them to death?, “peer review”?) How should teachers be obtained and trained (converts? straight from teacher education programs?) What should be emphasized? (academic stuff, or “being a good citizen”) When it comes to who is best for a certain group of students: teachers who know how to control a class room but have poor mastery of the academic material?

Obviously, a thorough study would have to be volumes of very big books, and this is just one 280 page one, but IMHO, well worth reading. Bottom line: it was not necessarily “better back then”, at least not in every aspect.

The tough social issues (racism, sexism, the feminization of the teaching profession) are not dodged.

Current academia
Yes, there has been quite a bit of “mission creep” in academia. The number of administrators have gone up over the years I’ve been teaching at the college level, and so has the number of “very important issues” that the “professors have to be educated on”. And there are have been trends such as “assessment”, and yes, these new duties (piled on top of the old ones) really do not add a thing to student learning. And there is the old “do more with less” mentality which tends to spread us a bit thin.

Here is a small thing: I teach mathematics and yes, that means I don’t have to grade a ton of essays. That means that adding a couple of extra students to my section doesn’t increase my work load that much. But you can increase the class size to the extent that one never gets to know any of them and leads to a more “assembly line” type of class, at least for the larger sections.

And what makes it very though is a wide variation between the student abilities in a given class: a 2 standard deviation in the math ACT of a given section can make it difficult to keep the better students interested while not blowing away the lower end of the class. (and yes, the ACT is reasonably predictive).

Math related humor

I chuckled when I saw this posted in a science group:

Now I can say that even the most dedicated, hetero male mathematicians love women but yes, mathematicians tend to see mathematical patterns in many (all?) places.

Riddle me this: Many years ago, I met a girl in high school that I was sweet on; this was in one of those 1 week summer camps. Once she wore tight pants and showed panty lines that looked a bit like …well…this.

(this isn’t her; this photo was taken from cheekygenie)

And..of course I liked them…but I also thought of a mathematical graph: of a branch of the secant function!

Of course, a parabola is really a better fit.

Workout notes: this one didn’t go well…I was thinking about running 10K but..on the track..I resorted to 2 miles of “jog a lap, walk a lap” then “jog 2 laps, walk a lap” and that workout took..28 minutes! The second mile, though it included more jogging, was the same time as the first. Then I walked 2 more miles in 27:36 (yes, my “all walking” pace was faster than my “walk/jog” warm up) then 2.2 more miles on the treadmill (every 2 minutes: .5, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, then .5 miles at 6, .6 at 5 (to 2.1) then .1 at 0.5; total time was just under 32 minutes for 2.21 miles of hill walking)

So, bad day, but still 10K. The body is sputtering a bit; the old “cold as hell outside but I gave blood” bit. It is almost as if I have a mild cold, sans the cough, runny nose, blah, blah.

January 17, 2018 Posted by | books, education, mathematics, running, spandex, walking | , , | Leave a comment

Pre workout thoughts: graphic software and North Korea …

Just so you know where Korea and Guam are; many Americans do not.

I am not worried about North Korea attacking the United States; having a reliable ICBM with a miniaturized warhead is a huge technological task. But a new Korean war would be a human disaster for not only Korea but possibly for those in Japan and other nearby states. The first one devastated Korea, burned down almost every major town and killed more than 1,000,000 people.

In times such as these, I want cool heads to prevail.

Graphic software: in the days of old, if you wanted to get a mathematics paper published, you’d send out the paper, get it refereed, and if it was accepted, technical typists and artists would write up the paper and you would review it.

Now, it is up to the author to type set it (I can do is a minor pain) and draw it…and well, it is tough to make good drawings with just “Paint”. I am trying to learn Inkscape and am running out of patience. I am sure I will be a pro when I finally learn it but ugh…that isn’t how I want to spend my time.

Workout notes: yesterday, 8 miles of hills; untimed but it was a steady effort. Great weather for it; I could not make myself go into the gym to do timed laps.

August 11, 2017 Posted by | mathematics, politics, walking, world events | | Leave a comment

low energy all around but life is good

I was sort of low energy today. I slept in..that felt good but I still had time for 10 miles:

My time: 2:33…15-15:10 mpm. Not much energy but I got it in.

Then I had lunch with Tracy and assembled a chest of draws for her; I am just terribly incompetent.

By the time I was done…I was tired and resolved to go home and rest..I had given up on making the Chiefs game; it was 5:45 and the Chiefs game started at 6:30. But I said…”what the hell” and left the house at just before 6.

I had time to get a ticket, get a cheeseburger and watch the game (3-1 Timber Rattlers winning; 2 run home run and then an insurance run in the top of the 9’th).

Contrast the above to the 7 dollar ticket that I got for Friday night’s White Sox vs. Cleveland game:

It was a full, if unproductive, day.

I have much to write about, re: my Chicago trip, but this trip, my nights were taken up by 2 White Sox games (one with a buddy) and travel. I also had a very pleasant lunch with a friend.

With Pat at the Cubs vs. White Sox game (Cubs won 6-3; good game though)

Our view (better than the other one)

Michelle agreed to go to lunch; I had not seen her since 1974 (in Yokota High School, Yokota Air Force Base, Japan). I played football with her brother Johnny.

I walked a bit; I did two Lakeshore path courses. This is from Northerly Island. You can see some of the skyline and Soldier Field.

From below the Shedd Aquarium

There was some great mathematics too. There were a couple of talks I wish that I had prior to teaching certain courses, and one that I wish that I had early in graduate school.

This is Dusa McDuff. She was the main speaker and gave three great talks. She is a professor at Columbia and..a member of the National Academy of Science (a very elite list, very elite; most Ivy league faculty do not make it). And yet..she rode the L to get to the airport. Someone of her accomplishment in, say, economics, would have been given a personal limo.

July 31, 2017 Posted by | baseball, Friends, mathematics, travel, walking | , , | 1 Comment

A bit of fun…

I’ll say something about the Sessions testimony (lying sack of….) and the shooting of the Congressman (deplorable, but where was the GOP calling for “toning it down” when Giffords was shot?)

But for now, something pleasant:

From here:

Ok. Suppose you choose at random. A and D are the same answer, so you can choose A/D, B or C. So you have a 50 percent chance of hitting A/D or not. That means that the correct answer is 50 percent, (B) but you have a 25 percent chance of selecting B with a purely random selection, which puts you back in the A/D or “not A/D” which puts us back to 50 percent….
and so on.

This is a version of the “this sentence is a lie” paradox (a statement that can’t be assigned a truth value); there is no correct answer to the question.

Workout notes
rotator cuff, pull ups (5 sets of 10: went well), incline presses: 10 x 135, 5 x 160 (good..decent hips), 6 x 150, military: 15 x 55 seated, supported, 10 x 50 standing, 10 x 40 standing. One arm rows: 2 sets of 10 x 50, 10 x 60

Then a treadmill run: 2-2-2-2 to 8 minutes, (5.2-5.5), then up 2 (6.7-7.0, last 2 minutes were 7.1 to 19:12 (2 miles), 7.2 to 20 minutes (2.1 miles). That was harder than usual.
Then goblet squats: 50, 50, 60, 65, 70, 70 (sets of 5)

June 14, 2017 Posted by | mathematics, running, weight training | | Leave a comment

A good reason to take a calculus of variations course

What is going on here? One path is shorter but ..


March 6, 2017 Posted by | mathematics, physics | 1 Comment