sciencehabit writes "Think women can't do math? You're wrong — but new research (paywalled) shows you might not change your mind, even if you get evidence to the contrary. A study of how both men and women perceive each other's mathematical ability finds that an unconscious bias against women — by both men and women — could be skewing hiring decisions, widening the gender gap in mathematical professions like engineering."
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An anonymous reader writes "I am a middle school math teacher and I also run a programming club. I recent completed my M.Ed in math education and was inspired to try to do the new GT online MS in Computer Science in a couple of years. I have some background in programming: two intro to comp sci courses, Java, C++, Python, the main scripting languages, and a bunch of math background. I also read through this great article on getting these pre-requisites completed through Coursera but unfortunately you need to wait for courses to enroll. I would like to just learn these on my own time, no credit necessary. Suggestions?"
cartechboy writes "Math watch time: For many traffic analysts, INRIX is considered the gold-standard. This week the company says traffic congestion surged in 2013 and grew over three times as fast as the American economy. The bad news: If true, this reverses two consecutive years of traffic declines with a six percent increase in 2013. (GDP, by comparison, grew 1.9 percent last year.) The analysts then theorize links between economic growth and traffic congestion, which makes sense on the surface. (As the economy improves, more jobs are created, so more commuters on the roads) But INRIX's theory creates as many questions as it answers. For example, the U.S. GDP has been steadily growing since 2009. So why did congestion decline in 2011 and 2012?"
An anonymous reader writes "According to the NY Times, 'Saying its college admission exams do not focus enough on the important academic skills, the College Board announced on Wednesday a fundamental rethinking of the SAT, eliminating obligatory essays, ending the longstanding penalty for guessing wrong and cutting obscure vocabulary words. ... The SAT's rarefied vocabulary words will be replaced by words that are common in college courses, such as "empirical" and "synthesis." The math questions, now scattered widely across many topics, will focus more narrowly on linear equations, functions and proportional thinking. The use of a calculator will no longer be allowed on some of the math sections.' The College Board will also be working with Khan Academy to provide students with free, online practice problems and instructional videos. The new version of the SAT will be introduced in 2016."
An anonymous reader writes "Mathematics Ph.D. student Jeremy Kun has an interesting post about how mathematicians approach doing new work and pushing back the boundaries of human knowledge. He says it's immensely important for mathematicians to be comfortable with extended periods of ignorance when working on a new topic. 'The truth is that mathematicians are chronically lost and confused. It's our natural state of being, and I mean that in a good way. ... This is something that has been bred into me after years of studying mathematics. I know how to say, “Well, I understand nothing about anything,” and then constructively answer the question, “What’s next?” Sometimes the answer is to pinpoint one very basic question I don’t understand and try to tackle that first.' He then provides some advice for people learning college level math like calculus or linear algebra: 'I suggest you don't worry too much about verifying every claim and doing every exercise. If it takes you more than 5 or 10 minutes to verify a "trivial" claim in the text, then you can accept it and move on. ... But more often than not you'll find that by the time you revisit a problem you've literally grown so much (mathematically) that it's trivial. What's much more useful is recording what the deep insights are, and storing them for recollection later.'"
Doofus writes "The Atlantic has an interesting story about opening up what we routinely consider 'advanced' areas of mathematics to younger learners. The goals here are to use complex but easy tasks as introductions to more advanced topics in math, rather than the standard, sequential process of counting, arithmetic, sets, geometry, then eventually algebra and finally calculus. Quoting: 'Examples of activities that fall into the "simple but hard" quadrant: Building a trench with a spoon (a military punishment that involves many small, repetitive tasks, akin to doing 100 two-digit addition problems on a typical worksheet, as Droujkova points out), or memorizing multiplication tables as individual facts rather than patterns. Far better, she says, to start by creating rich and social mathematical experiences that are complex (allowing them to be taken in many different directions) yet easy (making them conducive to immediate play). Activities that fall into this quadrant: building a house with LEGO blocks, doing origami or snowflake cut-outs, or using a pretend "function box" that transforms objects (and can also be used in combination with a second machine to compose functions, or backwards to invert a function, and so on).' I plan to get my children learning the 'advanced' topics as soon as possible. How about you?"
First time accepted submitter campingman777 writes "I am being asked by students to develop an associates of applied science in modern web development at my community college. I proposed the curriculum to some other web forums and they were absolutely against it. Their argument was that students would not learn enough higher math, algorithms, and data structures to be viable employees when their industry changes every five years. As part of our mission is to turn out employees immediately ready for the work force, is teaching knowledge-based careers as a vocation appropriate?"
camperdave writes "I was recently going through a pile of receipts and other papers to put them into order by date. Lacking one of those fancy sorting sticks they have at the office, I wound up with all sorts of piles and I was getting confused as to which pile was for what. Finally, it struck me: Why don't I use one of the many sorting algorithms I learned back in my computer science classes? So I swept all the papers back into the box and did a radix sort on them. It worked like a charm. Since then, I've had occasion to try quicksorts and merge sorts. So, when you have to physically sort things, what algorithm (if any) do you use?"
theodp writes "The devil will be in the details, but if you were stoked about last November's announcement of the Wolfram programming language, you'll be pleased to know that a just-released dry-but-insanely-great demo delivered by Stephen Wolfram does not disappoint. Even if you're not in love with the syntax or are a FOSS devotee, you'll find it hard not to be impressed by Wolfram's 4-line solution to a traveling salesman tour of the capitals of Western Europe, 6-line camera-capture-to-image-manipulation demo, or 2-line web crawling and data visualization example. And that's just for starters. So, start your Raspberry Pi engines, kids!"
New pweidema writes "Michael Teitelbaum, a senior research associate in the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School who has been writing a book on the subject of the current state of employment in science and technology fields, recently spoke at an Education Writers Association Conference about the 'STEM Worker Shortage: Does It Exist and Is Education to Blame?' The National Science Board's biennial book, Science and Engineering Indicators , consistently finds that the U.S. produces many more STEM graduates than the workforce can absorb. Meanwhile, employers say managers are struggling to find qualified workers in STEM fields. What explains these apparently contradictory trends? And as the shortage debate rages, what do we know about the pipeline of STEM-talented students from kindergarten to college, and what happens to them in the job market? An article LA Times summarizes his findings of his findings on the STEM hype: '...some of it comes from the country’s longtime cycle of waxing and waning interest in science; attention seems to focus on science every 10 to 15 years before slacking off. The only forces pushing the idea of STEM doom, he said, are those that have something to gain from it. Mostly those are STEM employers ... that want to pack the labor force with people to suppress wages ... Joining the chorus are universities that want more funding for science programs...'"
bfwebster writes "During the past few years, I served as an IT expert witness in BanxCorp v. Costco et al., in which BanxCorp sued Costco and Capital One for citing (with credit) its web-published national averages for CD and money market rates in their advertising. Judge Kenneth M. Karas issued his summary judgment opinion last fall, finding that BanxCorp's published averages are 'uncopyrightable facts' due to the simple calculation involved and the lack of ongoing human judgment in what banks were involved. Here is my summary of his findings, along with a link to the actual ruling."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Chris Parnin has an interesting read about an international team of scientists lead by Dr. Janet Siegmund using brain imaging with fMRI to understand the programmer's mind and to compare and contrast different cognitive tasks used in programming by analyzing differences in brain locations that are activated by different tasks. One recent debate illuminated by their studies is recent legislation that considers offering foreign-language credits for students learning programming languages. There have been many strong reactions across the software-developer community. Some developers consider the effort laudable but misguided and proclaim programming is not at all like human language and is much closer to mathematics. Siegmund observed 17 participants inside an fMRI scanner while they were comprehending short source-code snippets and found a clear, distinct activation pattern of five brain regions, which are related to language processing, working memory, and attention. The programmers in the study recruited parts of the brain typically associated with language processing and verbal oriented processing (ventral lateral prefrontal cortex). At least for the simple code snippets presented, programmers could use existing language regions of the brain to understand code without requiring more complex mental models to be constructed and manipulated." (Read on for more.)
An anonymous reader writes "Enter decentralized, open source mining with the first scientific proof of work. Riecoin is a decentralized (p2p), open source digital currency. Proof of work is about finding Hardy-Littlewood k-tuples. Ultimately miners are verifying the Riemann hypothesis. Unlike for Primecoin the probability of accepting a false positive goes to zero as the network grows. Primecoin uses Fermat Test which runs the risk of accepting so called Carmichael numbers. Riecoin uses a stronger test to ensure correctness."
retroworks writes "Just over a year ago, complex systems theorists at the New England Complex Systems Institute warned that if food prices continued to climb, so too would the likelihood that there would be riots across the globe. Sure enough, we're seeing them now. The paper's author, Yaneer Bar-Yam, charted the rise in the FAO food price index—a measure the UN uses to map the cost of food over time—and found that whenever it rose above 210, riots broke out worldwide. It happened in 2008 after the economic collapse, and again in 2011, when a Tunisian street vendor who could no longer feed his family set himself on fire in protest."
mikejuk writes "Mathematicians have generally gotten over their unease with computer-assisted proofs. But in the case of a new proof from researchers at the University of Liverpool, we may have crossed a line. The proof is currently contained within a 13 GB file — more space than is required to hold the entirety of Wikipedia. Its size makes it unlikely that humans will be able to check and confirm the proof. The theorem that has been proved is in connection with a long running conjecture of Paul Erdos in 1930. Discrepancy theory is about how possible it is to distribute something evenly. It occurs in lots of different forms and even has a connection with cryptography. In 1993 it was proved that an infinite series cannot have a discrepancy of 1 or less. This proved the theorem for C=1. The recent progress, which pushes C up to 2, was made possible by a clever idea of using a SAT solver — a program that finds values that make an expression true. Things went well up to length 1160, which was proved to have discrepancy 2, but at length 1161 the SAT returned the result that there was no assignment. The negative result generated an unsatisfiability certificate: the proof that a sequence of length 1161 has no subsequence with discrepancy 2 requires over 13 gigabytes of data. As the authors of the paper write: '[it]...is probably one of longest proofs of a non-trivial mathematical result ever produced. ... one may have doubts about to which degree this can be accepted as a proof of a mathematical statement.' Does this matter? Probably not — as long as other programs can check the result and the program itself has to be considered part of the proof."
First time accepted submitter sixoh1 writes "Scientific American has an excellent summary of a new book 'The Improbabilty Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles, and Rare Events Happen Every Day' by David J. Hand. The summary offers a quick way to relate statistical math (something that's really hard to intuit) to our daily experiences with unlikely events. The simple equations here make it easier to understand that improbable things really are not so improbable, which Hand call the 'Improbability Principle:' 'How can a huge number of opportunities occur without people realizing they are there? The law of combinations, a related strand of the Improbability Principle, points the way. It says: the number of combinations of interacting elements increases exponentially with the number of elements. The 'birthday problem' is a well-known example. Now if only we could harness this to make an infinite improbability drive!"
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Mathematician Edward Frenkel writes in the NYT that one fanciful possibility that explains why mathematics seems to permeate our universe is that we live in a computer simulation based on the laws of mathematics — not in what we commonly take to be the real world. According to this theory, some highly advanced computer programmer of the future has devised this simulation, and we are unknowingly part of it. Thus when we discover a mathematical truth, we are simply discovering aspects of the code that the programmer used. This may strike you as very unlikely writes Frenkel but physicists have been creating their own computer simulations of the forces of nature for years — on a tiny scale, the size of an atomic nucleus. They use a three-dimensional grid to model a little chunk of the universe; then they run the program to see what happens. 'Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom has argued that we are more likely to be in such a simulation than not,' writes Frenkel. 'If such simulations are possible in theory, he reasons, then eventually humans will create them — presumably many of them. If this is so, in time there will be many more simulated worlds than nonsimulated ones. Statistically speaking, therefore, we are more likely to be living in a simulated world than the real one.' The question now becomes is there any way to empirically test this hypothesis and the answer surprisingly is yes. In a recent paper, 'Constraints on the Universe as a Numerical Simulation,' the physicists Silas R. Beane, Zohreh Davoudi and Martin J. Savage outline a possible method for detecting that our world is actually a computer simulation (PDF). Savage and his colleagues assume that any future simulators would use some of the same techniques current scientists use to run simulations, with the same constraints. The future simulators, Savage indicated, would map their universe on a mathematical lattice or grid, consisting of points and lines. But computer simulations generate slight but distinctive anomalies — certain kinds of asymmetries and they suggest that a closer look at cosmic rays may reveal similar asymmetries. If so, this would indicate that we might — just might — ourselves be in someone else's computer simulation."
theodp writes "With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the tech billionaire-backed NewSchools Venture Fund, the Silicon Valley Education Foundation used a competition based on the reality show Shark Tank to determine which educational technology entrepreneurs would win the right to have teachers test their technology on students for the rest of the year. 'Ten companies, selected from 80 original applicants,' reports Mercury News columnist Mike Cassidy, 'had three minutes to convince a panel of educators and then a panel of business brains that their ideas would be a difference maker in middle school math classes.' The winners? Blendspace, which helps teachers create digital lessons using Web-based content; Front Row Education, which generates individual quizzes for students and tracks their progress as they work through problems; LearnBop, which offers an automated tutoring system with content written by math teachers; and Zaption, which lets teachers use existing online videos as lessons by adding quizzes, discussion sections, images and text."
cold fjord sends this excerpt from the Wall Street Journal: "In a lab in Oxford University's experimental psychology department, researcher Roi Cohen Kadosh is testing an intriguing treatment: He is sending low-dose electric current through the brains of adults and children as young as 8 to make them better at math. A relatively new brain-stimulation technique called transcranial electrical stimulation may help people learn and improve their understanding of math concepts. The electrodes are placed in a tightly fitted cap and worn around the head. ... The mild current reduces the risk of side effects, which has opened up possibilities about using it, even in individuals without a disorder, as a general cognitive enhancer. Scientists also are investigating its use to treat mood disorders and other conditions. ... Up to 6% of the population is estimated to have a math-learning disability called developmental dyscalculia, similar to dyslexia but with numerals instead of letters. [In an earlier experiment, Kadosh] found that he could temporarily turn off regions of the brain known to be important for cognitive skills. When the parietal lobe of the brain was stimulated using that technique, he found that the basic arithmetic skills of doctoral students who were normally very good with numbers were reduced to a level similar to those with developmental dyscalculia. That led to his next inquiry: If current could turn off regions of the brain making people temporarily math-challenged, could a different type of stimulation improve math performance?"
KentuckyFC writes "Arbitrage is a way of making profit by exploiting price differences for the same asset. In capital markets, traders aggressively seek out and exploit these market 'inefficiencies.' Now one data scientist says it's possible to do the same with metro fares and has studied the fare-arbitrage potential of San Francisco's subway system, BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). The idea is to swap tickets with another commuter during your journey to reduce the amount you both pay. BART has 44 stations which allows 946 different journeys and 446,985 unique pairs of trips. Of these, over 60,000 have arbitrage potential and commuters can save at least $1 on 4,666 of them. But there are good reasons why cities might want to maintain price differences for certain journeys — to encourage people to live in certain areas, for example. What's more, it's possible to imagine a pair of commuters who each travel from one side of a city to the other at considerable cost. But by swapping tickets in the city center, they could both pay for a short commute in each others' suburbs. But is that fair to other commuters?"