Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

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Schoolchildren writing on chalkboard in classroom during math lesson

Antiracism In Math Promotes Racism and Bad Math

If you are scratching your head over how math might be racist, you are not alone

Recently, a conglomeration of California education associations got together to work on a series of resources for mathematics teachers. The goal? Eliminate racism in mathematics classes by promoting Equitable Math. If you are struggling to imagine how mathematics could be racist, you are not alone. I am certain there exist racist teachers, and probably teachers who exhibit racist expectations of their students. I would support any reasonable action to get rid of or reform such teachers. But that is not the primary goal of these resources. The website, equitablemath.org, instead believes that the very way that mathematics is commonly taught is not just racist, but is specifically white supremacist. While I consider myself to be somewhat of a mathematics reformer…

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Educational kids math toy wooden board stick game counting set in kids math class kindergarten. Math toy kids concept.

Yes, There Really Is a War on Math in Our Schools

Pundits differ as to the causes but here are some facts parents should know

The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) recently encouraged teachers to register for training that encourages “ethnomathematics,” an education trend that argues, “among other things, that White supremacy manifests itself in the focus on finding the right answer”: “The concept of mathematics being purely objective is unequivocally false, and teaching it is even much less so,” the document for the “Equitable Math” toolkit reads. “Upholding the idea that there are always right and wrong answers perpetuate objectivity as well as fear of open conflict.” … An associated “Dismantling Racism” workbook, linked within the toolkit, similarly identifies “objectivity” — described as “the belief that there is such a thing as being objective or ‘neutral’” — as a characteristic of White supremacy. Instead…

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Propaganda and brainwashing of the influential mass media concept. Vintage TV set with hypnotic spiral on the screen.

Contradictory Beliefs Are a Feature, Not Bug, of Critical Theory

As a historian of totalitarianism has pointed out, “The aim of totalitarian education has never been to instill convictions but to destroy the capacity to form any.”

“Intersectionality” is the claim by critical theorists that various kinds of oppression against victim groups intersect, in the sense that all oppression ultimately has the same source — you. In an essay at Substack titled “Intersectionality Has Hit the Stop Sign,” Tom Knighton argues, too optimistically in my view, that intersectionality is falling victim to its own contradictions. I believe he misunderstands the nature of the problem. Let me explain why. He cites the example of women’s rights vs. trans rights. A major victory for women’s rights is all-female sports, which allow women to compete without having to overcome the natural physical advantages of men. A major victory for trans rights is to allow men who identify as women to…

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The red human figure extends its influence to the neighboring figures. Spreading ideas and thoughts, recruiting new members. Infection of other people, zero patient. Leader and leadership, new team.

To Succeed, Understand Difference Between Influence and Power

Do you wonder why some people are listened to and not others, regardless of the value of their ideas? Well, read on…

At business mag Forbes, some have begun to consider the difference between influence and power: Swarthmore College has been rated the best liberal arts college in the U.S. by Academic Influence, a new college rankings method that uses artificial intelligence technology to search massive databases and measure the impact of work by individuals who’ve been affiliated with colleges and universities throughout the world. Last Monday, Academic Influence released its first-ever ranking of American liberal arts colleges – those four-year institutions that are relatively small in size, focus on bachelor’s level education, emphasize direct engagement with professors, provide an enriched residential experience, and insist on broad grounding in the liberal arts along with focused study in a major. In brief, here’s…

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Guérilla urbaine

Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems: The Cause—and Cure—of Wokeness?

Why do so many people today think there are only arguments, not facts?

In modern “woke” ideology, there are no facts, only arguments which express cultural power— based on the acceptance of those arguments by current society. In such ideologies, it is not important whether or not the arguments are logically consistent or if they are true in any real sense. What is important is whether or not they achieve the desired results in politics and society. This is not a criticism. It is a description of their methodology (for a review of the academic literature on the subject, see the book Cynical Theories by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay. Many people wonder how we got here. Why do so many scholars actively reject logic as a method of finding the truth, and…

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backside graduation hats during commencement success graduates of the university, Concept education congratulation. Graduation Ceremony ,Congratulated the graduates in University during commencement.

Will Machine Learning Disrupt Academic Rankings?

A case study in the best computer science and artificial intelligence programs

Note: Our author, Ross Gulik, an educational consultant who closely follows the academic ranking industry, offers us a look at how such rankings are created and how they might be improved. 1 Introduction to AcademicInfluence.com AcademicInfluence.com is a new website that claims to do academic rankings right. Getting academic rankings right has become a pressing concern for higher education. As AcademicInfluence.com correctly observes on its methodology page, schools face enormous pressure to perform well in the big annual rankings. The big academic ranking organizations (such as US News and Times Higher Education) carry enormous weight. If a school slips in these annual rankings, it can affect student enrolments, the bottom line, and the prestige of the institution. This pressure leads…

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Dictionary showing the word definition

Jill Biden: Who Should, and Shouldn’t, Be Called “Doctor”?

The controversy around Jill Biden’s title, “Dr.,” could use some clarification from the dictionary

There is a controversy about whether Joe Biden’s wife should be referred to as “Doctor” Jill Biden. Isn’t “Doctor” a title for physicians only?The question is resolved easily by consulting a dictionary. Two of the definitions in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary are: 1.a person skilled or specializing in healing arts especially : one (such as a physician, dentist, or veterinarian) who holds an advanced degree and is licensed to practice 2.a person who has earned one of the highest academic degrees (such as a PhD) conferred by a university Jill Biden has a doctorate (an EdD) from the University of Delaware. Independent of one’s politics (I’m not a Biden fan), Jill Biden can be accurately referred to as Dr. Jill Biden.…

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Quitting smoking - male hand crushing cigarette

Yellow Fingers Do Not Cause Lung Cancer

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and computer engineer Bob Marks look at the ways Big Data can mislead us into mistaking incidental events for causes

It’s easy to explain what “information” is if we don’t think much about it. But what if we ask a student, what does your term paper weigh? How much energy does it consume? More or less matter and energy than, say, lightning striking a tree? Of course, the student will protest, “But that’s not the point! It’s my term paper.” Exactly. So information is very different from matter and energy. It means something. Realizing that information is different from matter and energy can help us understand issues like the difference between the causes of a problem (causation) and circumstances that may be associated with the problem but do not cause it (correlation). In last week’s podcast, “Robert J. Marks on…

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student term paper showing 'a' grade

Can a Computer Write Your Paper for You Someday Soon?

GPT-3 recently came up with a paragraph that—a pop psychologist agreed—sounded just like him

This summer the OpenAI lab, backed by $1 billion in funding from Microsoft, Google, and Facebook, released an updated version of GPT-3, a text generator that produces convincing sentences by analyzing, among other online sources, Wikipedia, countless blog posts, and thousands of digital books. According to a recent story by Cade Metz in the New York Times, one GPT-3 programmer decided to target pop psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman. Could GPT-3 really come up with a paragraph that sounded just like him? Kaufman himself (pictured) was really impressed with this one, on the subject of becoming more creative: I think creative expression is a natural byproduct of growing up in a diverse world. The more diverse the world is, the more…

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Educated school kid lifting world globe chalk doodle drawing on green chalkboard for education concept

To Fix Math Education, See It as a Program That Needs an Update

As a computer programmer, I’ve seen this problem in my work: The basic idea is still sound but “fixes” have made it too complex

In this series we are looking at ways that math education can be reformed. In contrast to some other math reform efforts, we are not trying to fundamentally rewrite what math education is doing but to simply admit that we can do better and see where that takes us. (See Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.) Here in Part 4, let’s look at specific content issues that, I will argue, we could improve when we do a curriculum revision. Mathematics is an old subject. We have inherited quite a bit of mathematical thought. We must educate future generations so as to make sure that this hard-won knowledge is not lost. But one of the biggest impediments to our task…

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Bored student girl during math lesson

Helping Students See How Math Benefits Them in the Long Run

To keep them motivated, we need to answer the “Why bother?” question honestly and directly

In this series we are looking at ways that math education can be reformed. In contrast to some other math reform efforts, we are not trying to fundamentally rewrite what math education is doing but to simply admit that we can do better and see where that takes us. (See Part 1 and Part 2.) Here in Part 3, we will concentrate on making the curriculum more “conscious” of what students are supposed to be learning in mathematics. One of the primary complaints students have about higher mathematics is that they don’t see where they are going to use the information later in their jobs. There are a number of ways of answering this question but first I want to…

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Maths class

Straight Talk About Fitting the Math Curriculum to the Student

We need to avoid pushing too much too soon, lest students come to see themselves as “bad at math” when they are just not ready for it

In this series we are looking at ways that math education can be reformed (Part 1 here). In contrast to some other math reform efforts, we are not trying to fundamentally rewrite what math education is doing but to simply admit that we can do better and see where that takes us. This article, Part 2, will concentrate on improving math education by better identifying where students are when we encounter them. Mathematics curriculum is generally developed with a goal of “fitting it all in.” That is, educators assume that people learn at a relatively fixed pace. They then pace the lessons so as to fit all of them into the curriculum in the right amount of time. However, this…

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Girl solving mathematical addition

How Can We Really Fix the Way Math Is Taught?

First, we must understand why we teach math in the first place

Many people recognize that there are problems with modern mathematics curricula. However, the solutions proposed by current would-be math reformers are, I fear, worse than the cure. Some reformers want to stop having kids memorize their arithmetic facts, some want kids to just use computers to solve their problems, others think that the way we teach mathematics is racist, and still others seem to want to just greatly reduce the quantity of math education altogether. In this first part of a four-part series of short posts, I want to look at the most basic question: Why do we teach math? Earlier this month, an article by Yoree Koh in the Wall Street Journal took a look at the “Movement to…

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sunset on a yurt , in the grassland of Mongolia

High-Tech Suppression of China’s Mongol Region Provokes Protests

But Mongolian protesters against Chinese-dominated schools are threatened with loss of social credit, which means no jobs or loans

China is removing the Mongolian language and culture from the curriculum and textbooks in Inner Mongolia (see outline map), an autonomous region in China. In August, leaked government documents showed that language and literature, civics, and history will be taught in Mandarin rather than Mongolian in schools where Mongolian is the primary language. Additionally, the new textbooks replace stories about historic Mongolian heroes with Chinese ballads and expunge a popular folk verse that expresses pride in the Mongolian culture and language. In response, many parents in Inner Mongolia (called Southern Mongolia locally) have been keeping their children from attending school on September 1. In retaliation, state authorities threaten their jobs and social credit status: Southern Mongolia has quickly become a…

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A boy teenager with a teacher collect robot arduino and program it on the computer. The boards and microcontrollers are on the table. STEM education. Programming. Mathematics. The science. Technologie

New Electronics Book Honors Citizen Scientist Forrest Mims III

Jonathan Bartlett’s dedication reflects Mims’ immense influence on electronics enthusiasts—including himself, as a boy

Forrest M. Mims III (pictured) has been an icon for many decades to two hobbyist movements: hobbyist electronics and citizen science. Anyone who used to visit Radio Shack in its heyday has probably seen and/or benefited from more than one of Mims’ books. Mims’ most prominent claim to fame was his series of Engineer’s Mini-Notebooks, small volumes that diagrammed circuits and their components and designs. Most hobbyists had a large collection of these notebooks and eventually they were collected into the book Getting Started in Electronics. Mims has also been one of the most prominent “citizen scientists.” A citizen scientist engages in science without the backing of a degree or institution, for the love of discovery. Mims is famous for…

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Online exam

What’s To Be Done About Cheating with Chegg in the COVID era?

College-level solutions to specific problems can be texted, for a fee, to students writing exams

Academic dishonesty is a fancy term for cheating. With profit-motivated websites like Chegg.com, cheating is now easier than ever. When taking an exam, take a photo of a problem that stumps you and send it to Chegg. In literally minutes, you’ll be sent the answer over your cell phone. How do they do it? Often they employ smart nerds from poor countries who, by local standards, are paid big bucks for their efforts.Chegg, which charges $14.95 per month for its service, does not see itself as a site for cheaters but as a resource to help with homework. It advertises: With over 21 million homework solutions, you can also search our library to find similar homework problems & solutions. Browsing…

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Female student holding pencil and examination paper

Don’t Blame AI for the British A-Level Test Scandal

When 39 percent of the final grades assigned during COVID-19 were lower than teacher predictions, it was headline news. But what happened?

Many years ago, when I was a young assistant professor of economics, I had to endure a minor hazing ritual—serving for one year on the admissions committee for the PhD program. As a newbie, I was particularly impressed by a glowing letter of recommendation that began, “This is the best student I have had in 30 years.” The applicant’s test scores were not off-the-charts but the letter was number 1. A dean who chaired the admissions committee year after year advised me to calm down because this professor wrote a recommendation that celebrated “the best student I have had in 30 years” every year. The committee had a chuckle at my expense. I’ve now been teaching for nearly 50 years…

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Rear view of Asian woman working and online meeting via video conference with colleague

How to Teach and Hold Meetings in “Mixed Mode” in the COVID Era

Teachers and facilitators face a challenge when some students are online in quarantine and some are in front of them in person
In the current COVID-19 environment, the economy may be opening up but some people are still sick or in quarantine. This means that more and more meetings are run in a mixed mode — a combination of in-person and online participants. Read More ›
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Augmented reality application for retail business concept. Hand holding smart phone with A/R application on screen to finding interested product in the store.

The Amazing Things We Can Do with Virtual and Augmented Reality

The “father of virtual reality,” Thomas Furness, talks to Robert J. Marks about his vision for the future

In a recent podcast, “Robert J. Marks and Thomas Furness on VR and AR,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks continued his discussion with the “grandfather of virtual reality,” Thomas Furness. They focused on the cutting edge of virtual reality today. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-094-Thomas-Furness.mp3 Transcript. Partial transcript: Robert J. Marks: So, Dr. Furness, we have been talking about a number of fascinating things, but there’s still some things that I’d like to talk to you about. Another one is ARToolworks. Now, AR stands for augmented reality. Thomas Furness: Now, the difference really is between the VRs generally, where you are completely immersed in a computer-generated environment. That’s all you see is the computer generation of images. AR, on the other hand,…

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economist table with report

What, Exactly, Do Economists Do?

Economist make the world a better place

Thanks to economists, during the economic crisis that began in 2007, the President, Congress, and Federal Reserve did not repeat the errors of the 1930s.

Read More ›