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Education, tools and tactics and free stuff


Lily Valley

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Hello the Board.  It looks like the new skin ate all of our education threads.  I wanted to necro one of them because I found something really cool.

My favorite data analysis program Origin from OriginLab gives academic users some great rates on this software.  In fact I was approved to get a 6 month site license for my students and installed it on all of the computers in our classroom for free.  I will have to reapply twice a year to update the licenses, but now my students have access to a great program in the classroom.  This is a great tool if you are teaching any type of data analysis, statistics or basic experimental techniques.   If you've ever tried to do any curve fitting with excel and wanted to throw your computer out of a window, this is a WAY better option.  

In addition, my students who are working on special projects have had great luck getting materials donated from various companies just by asking for it.

So I have a couple of questions. 

1.  Do any of the rest of you teachers know of a simple statistics primer?  I'm going to be adding OriginPro training into the labs and want them to pick up some basic statistics.  I could write one, but I know I won't.

2.  Any of you know of other sources for free stuff?  Our state is totally bankrupt, so I have had to be pretty creative around here scrabbling for supplies and funding.  Also, people have seemed pretty happy to give stuff away.

 

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5 hours ago, Iskaral Pust said:

Have you tried Python?  Free, open-source language and engaging programming environment (like MatLab) with tons of libraries aimed at quants in STEM fields.  Also, it's used by academics and in the private sector so useful downstream. 

I haven't tried Python.  We need something like MatLab for our current project.  It took my students repeatedly rattling my cage to realize after three weeks that they had asked me a question that required pretty high level interpolation for modelling the problem.

 Do you have a favorite site for a python starter?  I'm currently up to my ears trying to learn PBASIC.  I didn't have a choice on this project.  And it's as miserable as basic was.  I have 3 students interested in programming that would benefit from having it available.

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Just download and install Python and use the main open source website for some tutorials on getting started.  A familiarity with any high level language should be enough to pick it up.  You don't need to think in matrix notation like MatLab -- so shallower learning curve, but fewer tricks and shortcuts for a good mathematician once you're adept. 

If you have a specific objective here around curve interpolation, then just select the relevant library, assign them to read the notes on the different methods available and they'll quickly be able to choose a good fit. (Sorry, pun intended).  Programming the syntax of arguments and output should be pretty easy.  

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We use Python quite a bit at work, and a while back there was an email thread discussing people's different approaches to learning the language. The following came up as online resources that might be useful:

  • Python's own tutorial: Useful way of getting started, but goes into unnecessary detail sometimes. FWIW this is what I learned from - turned out OK.
  • Codecademy: Has a good, lesson-based flow to it with programming challenges along the way. Doesn't cover the standard library much, but possibly OK if you have a specific application in mind (which it sounds like you do!)
  • Dive Into Python: Claims to be for experienced programmers, but apparently is easy enough to follow that you don't necessarily need that much prior knowledge.
  • Learn Python the Hard Way:You can buy a copy of the book, but the author has made it available for free online (which sounds like just what you need). Reported excellent for people with little to no programming experience, possibly a bit slow if you've done any coding before.
  •  Google's Class: Reportedly not much depth, but a good intro for people who've done programming in other languages before.
  • Think Python: Aimed at beginner programmers - possibly too slow for someone with programming experiences. You can read the book in its entirety online for free!

Hopefully some of those are useful!

ST

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10 hours ago, Lily Valley said:

I haven't tried Python.  We need something like MatLab for our current project.  It took my students repeatedly rattling my cage to realize after three weeks that they had asked me a question that required pretty high level interpolation for modelling the problem.

You might want to check out SageMath, which is a free, open-source alternative to Mathematica and the like. You can install it or use the web interface, SageMathCloud. Its language is based on Python and I believe it draws on a lot of the science and math Python libraries.

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Sir Thursday, Mr. X those are great.  I'm going to install both this semester and make them available to my students.  Most of them have zero programming experience, but they are interested.  The slower pacing would be good for them.  This year they are having to do a lot of independent work on their project.  Next year I'm hoping to do a better job with the programming.  I'm RUSTY.

Over the summer I'm going to hammer out how to incorporate both into the labs.  In the meantime I can at least set up the machines and post the links for the students.

They're trying to model heat transfer in a changing temperature environment.  It's a nightmare of a problem.  

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Pardon me for showing my age...but I hate the way math is taught these days. What's wrong with teaching kids to do statistics and graphing by hand on actual honest to goodness graphing paper? As a parent, I think it's pathetic that they have to whip out their calculators and laptops for the simplest calculation. 

Machines are no replacement for a brain. 

Just my two cents. 

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5 minutes ago, Crazy Cat Lady in Training said:

Pardon me for showing my age...but I hate the way math is taught these days. What's wrong with teaching kids to do statistics and graphing by hand on actual honest to goodness graphing paper? As a parent, I think it's pathetic that they have to whip out their calculators and laptops for the simplest calculation. 

Machines are no replacement for a brain. 

Just my two cents. 

They won't be able to use batch processing software to model their experiment unless they understand what they are doing.  Garbage in/garbage out as programmers say.  Calculating the model they have come up with for their current project would be three years at a desk with an abacus, at least.  Teaching the meaning of mean, median and standard of deviation by hand is great for understanding.  Calculating mean temperature by altitude by date by location by time of day with data that ranges from 0-100,000 ft over a whole week over three different areas is a monstrous project best done by a computer or an army of minions.  We don't have an army of minions....yet.

I will agree with you that it's shameful that I have to use a week and a half of classroom time to teach college students about mean, median, standard of deviation, and  still have to tell them when they are comparing apples to grapefruit.  Speaking of which, do you have a good statistics primer?

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13 minutes ago, Lily Valley said:

They won't be able to use batch processing software to model their experiment unless they understand what they are doing.  Garbage in/garbage out as programmers say.  Calculating the model they have come up with for their current project would be three years at a desk with an abacus, at least.  Teaching the meaning of mean, median and standard of deviation by hand is great for understanding.  Calculating mean temperature by altitude by date by location by time of day with data that ranges from 0-100,000 ft over a whole week over three different areas is a monstrous project best done by a computer or an army of minions.  We don't have an army of minions....yet.

I will agree with you that it's shameful that I have to use a week and a half of classroom time to teach college students about mean, median, standard of deviation, and  still have to tell them when they are comparing apples to grapefruit.  Speaking of which, do you have a good statistics primer?

LOL I'm not a teacher and I've been out of school for so long the only textbook I remember was called Data Analysis and Computational Statistics or something like that. (1988 or 1989) 

I have a college freshman and I'll say it again--the way math is taught now SUCKS. No wonder they can't do the most basic equations, and it's not their fault--it's the teachers' and the curriculum. New isn't always better or more effective. 

We learned mean, median and standard deviation in high school, not college. If you have to teach that in college then they don't belong in college and they most certainly don't belong in a higher level science class. Then again, my math teacher in HS was phenomenal and it wasn't until I got to college that I could appreciate his teaching us what seemed like the hard way at the time. I'm forever grateful that he made us memorize log tables and the most high tech piece of equipment we got to touch was a slide rule. (This was the 80's, mind you, not the Stone Age.)

I like your example of altitude, but doing it by hand isn't impossible, just time consuming. 

My point is, teach them right the first time around. Then they can use computers and models all they want later. Those models are no good if they don't understand the math or physics behind it anyway. 

 

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35 minutes ago, Crazy Cat Lady in Training said:

LOL I'm not a teacher and I've been out of school for so long the only textbook I remember was called Data Analysis and Computational Statistics or something like that. (1988 or 1989) 

I have a college freshman and I'll say it again--the way math is taught now SUCKS. No wonder they can't do the most basic equations, and it's not their fault--it's the teachers' and the curriculum. New isn't always better or more effective. 

We learned mean, median and standard deviation in high school, not college. If you have to teach that in college then they don't belong in college and they most certainly don't belong in a higher level science class. Then again, my math teacher in HS was phenomenal and it wasn't until I got to college that I could appreciate his teaching us what seemed like the hard way at the time. I'm forever grateful that he made us memorize log tables and the most high tech piece of equipment we got to touch was a slide rule. (This was the 80's, mind you, not the Stone Age.)

I like your example of altitude, but doing it by hand isn't impossible, just time consuming. 

My point is, teach them right the first time around. Then they can use computers and models all they want later. Those models are no good if they don't understand the math or physics behind it anyway. 

 

I had a summer math class once where I calculated Ordinary Least Squares regressions by hand. It was tedious waste of time.

It's better that students learn the mathematical principles behind it (proving and deriving equations) and then use a computer to crunch data, like you would in the real world. Even Excel can do basic stats.

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The expectations for math in the US school curriculum are absurdly low.  I think everyone I know here who grew up abroad is shocked by how limited are the math topics and how late they are introduced.  Most talented mathematicians seem to study extra at home and in math club or similar. 

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2 hours ago, Iskaral Pust said:

The expectations for math in the US school curriculum are absurdly low.  I think everyone I know here who grew up abroad is shocked by how limited are the math topics and how late they are introduced.  Most talented mathematicians seem to study extra at home and in math club or similar. 

 

 

U.S. standards are for every single student at that age.  In many other countries students are separated into 2, 3, or even more different schools starting around junior high.  The higher standards you are referring to may not be for EVERY student, but for ones in the higher academic tracks/schools.

Our school tends to get a lot of foreign exchange students and I have had many that have extremely good basic algebra skills.  I have also had quite a few who drop our Algebra II, which is for sophomores and juniors at our school, because it is too difficult.

In larger high schools there are plenty of opportunities for students to progress well beyond the standards in place.  Many students are taking calculus and beyond in high school.  At least in Minnesota, I think the standards are vigorous enough considering they are expectations for every single student.  Minnesota regularly only has about 50% of students meeting the standards they have set in math for juniors, yet consistently finishes towards the top in nationwide ACT averages.

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5 hours ago, Crazy Cat Lady in Training said:

LOL I'm not a teacher and I've been out of school for so long the only textbook I remember was called Data Analysis and Computational Statistics or something like that. (1988 or 1989) 

I have a college freshman and I'll say it again--the way math is taught now SUCKS. No wonder they can't do the most basic equations, and it's not their fault--it's the teachers' and the curriculum. New isn't always better or more effective. 

We learned mean, median and standard deviation in high school, not college. If you have to teach that in college then they don't belong in college and they most certainly don't belong in a higher level science class. Then again, my math teacher in HS was phenomenal and it wasn't until I got to college that I could appreciate his teaching us what seemed like the hard way at the time. I'm forever grateful that he made us memorize log tables and the most high tech piece of equipment we got to touch was a slide rule. (This was the 80's, mind you, not the Stone Age.)

I like your example of altitude, but doing it by hand isn't impossible, just time consuming. 

My point is, teach them right the first time around. Then they can use computers and models all they want later. Those models are no good if they don't understand the math or physics behind it anyway. 

 

They learn mean and median in like 4th or 5th grade.  Standard deviation is done in high school.

I have no idea why you would be grateful for having to memorize log tables?  I agree with your last statement, except that computers and models can show some things so much better and faster than you can by hand.  In 8th grade we make scatter plots, draw a line, and write an equation by selecting two points.  Eventually we use technology to do regressions of several functions comparing which is the best fit.  It would be ridiculously time consuming and unrealistic to teach them how to do regressions by hand and we would have no time to teach anything else.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 4/6/2016 at 9:55 PM, wolverine said:

They learn mean and median in like 4th or 5th grade.  Standard deviation is done in high school.

I was simply replying to the poster who said they had to teach them in college because they didn't learn them in high school. I don't really remember when we learned it, but it was certainly before college.

 

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I have no idea why you would be grateful for having to memorize log tables?

 

Let's keep things in perspective. Memorizing them was a hell of a lot more convenient than whipping out a slide rule, because even then not everyone had a pocket calculator, which were still very expensive. Most of them didn't graph and you weren't allowed to use a calculator of any kind on the SAT, period. What WOULD your average high schooler do without that???? Heaven forbid!  In the late 80's and early 90's Excel and computerized stats packages hadn't yet been invented. Hell, Windows hadn't even been invented yet.

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I agree with your last statement, except that computers and models can show some things so much better and faster than you can by hand.

Screw better and faster when you're learning. It might be faster but they learn absolutely nothing. Once you know what you're doing and can explain it to someone else, then you can use computers. Again, a computer is a tool. It will never replace your brain. 

 

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In 8th grade we make scatter plots, draw a line, and write an equation by selecting two points.  Eventually we use technology to do regressions of several functions comparing which is the best fit.  It would be ridiculously time consuming and unrealistic to teach them how to do regressions by hand and we would have no time to teach anything else.

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Oh, so saving time is for your convenience rather than making sure the kids learn? On to the next topic before they've mastered anything else? The spiral method and Common Core in action. You're creating a generation of kids who can't think for themselves and don't even have the most rudimentary grasp of concepts they're expected to know before they get to college. No wonder so many of them have to waste a year in remedial math in college. 

The math teacher I mentioned above wouldn't let us use calculators for one simple reason and I'll never forget what he said: If you don't have a calculator (or computer or whatever), your clients do not want to hear, "I don't have that answer right now and I can't get it for you because I'm too stupid to figure it out by hand."

I come from a family of engineers, and every single one of them agrees with that statement. 

I don't mean to sound harsh, but as a parent I put up with this bs way of teaching for the last 15 years. It's frustrating for the kids and obviously produces very little in the way of results. 

 

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12 minutes ago, Crazy Cat Lady in Training said:

Let's keep things in perspective. Memorizing them was a hell of a lot more convenient than whipping out a slide rule, because even then not everyone had a pocket calculator, which were still very expensive. Most of them didn't graph and you weren't allowed to use a calculator of any kind on the SAT, period. What WOULD your average high schooler do without that???? Heaven forbid!  In the late 80's and early 90's Excel and computerized stats packages hadn't yet been invented. Hell, Windows hadn't even been invented yet.

I know this is probably hyperbole, but Lotus 1-2-3 was the defacto standard throughout the 80's, and Windows was invented in the early 80's, with version 2.0 releasing in 1985.  I had my first Windows machine in 1988.

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From Crazy Cat Lady  (won't let me quote her quote)

"Oh, so saving time is for your convenience rather than making sure the kids learn? On to the next topic before they've mastered anything else? The spiral method and Common Core in action. You're creating a generation of kids who can't think for themselves and don't even have the most rudimentary grasp of concepts they're expected to know before they get to college. No wonder so many of them have to waste a year in remedial math in college. 

The math teacher I mentioned above wouldn't let us use calculators for one simple reason and I'll never forget what he said: If you don't have a calculator (or computer or whatever), your clients do not want to hear, "I don't have that answer right now and I can't get it for you because I'm too stupid to figure it out by hand."

I come from a family of engineers, and every single one of them agrees with that statement. 

I don't mean to sound harsh, but as a parent I put up with this bs way of teaching for the last 15 years. It's frustrating for the kids and obviously produces very little in the way of results. " 

 

 

High school kids do not need to know how to do quadratic regressions by hand.  I have a math degree and have no clue how to do a quadratic regression by hand.  I suppose I am stupid though.

Pretty offensive that you can tell I am a terrible teacher based solely on the fact that I utilize technology.  Not sure how you can accuse me of creating a whole generation of incompetents because I think the a calculator can save time and be used as a learning tool in the right situations (for one, that is giving me way too much credit ^_^).  The funny thing is, I agree with some of the things you have to say.  It would be great to be able to go into more depth in many areas and really take the time to ensure greater understanding.  I also don't agree with calculator over use, especially at early levels, as I feel like it stifles comprehension and the repeated practice some concepts require to become efficient.  However, I do believe graphing utilities can be powerful tools for learning, if used appropriately, for demonstration to a class and by the students for exploration of functions.  I don't use "the spiral method" and our state doesn't do "common core" but our state does have its own standards.

I am sorry, but when you went to school it was massively different than it is now.  If I ever implied kids were "stupid" for not knowing how to do something my ass would be cooked.

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