PoSWW 16: Not Essential

The questions below come from something called Essential Assessment and, to be upfront, the questions are somewhat misleading. To give EA some micro-credit, not all their questions were this bad, even if plenty more that we’d seen could have been posted. So, EA is not quite as bad as these questions suggest.

On the other hand, EA, like pretty much all teaching-replacement software, appears be utterly aimless and, thus, utterly pointless and, thus, much worse than pointless.

WitCH 56: Fuzzy Dots

Has it occurred to anyone else that these WitCHes are a blogging Ponzi scheme? As long as we keep posting new WitCHes, no one bugs us about not polishing off the old WitCHes. What the hell; we’ll keep going until someone calls the Blog Cops. And, to continue with the scheme, this WitCH comes from the Cambridge text Specialist Mathematics 1 & 2, in the section titled Linear Diophantine equations. Happy hunting.

RatS 8: Donald McNeil Has His Say

Last month, science writer Donald McNeil got shoved out of the New York Times. McNeil has waited until he was formally out of the Times to have his say. Now, he has done so. The whole thing is insane.

Part One: Introduction

Part Two: What Happened January 28?

Part Three: What Happened in the 2019 Investigation?

Part Four: What Happened in Peru?

RatS 7: Taibbi on Dr. Seuss and eBay

It was big news that the estate of Theodor Geisel – aka Dr. Seuss – had decided to cease publication of six Seuss titles, because of their portrayal of people “in ways that are hurtful and wrong”. Seuss is huge, of course, but in the scheme of it the news shouldn’t have been that huge. Geisel-Seuss wrote plenty of mediocre stuff, and some grotesquely racist stuff. It’s complicated. Books – good and bad – go out of print for all sorts of reasons – good and bad. We were a bit surprised by the discontinuance of Circus and Mulberry Street, but they aren’t great, and it’s not like they’ll be hard to find.

But then, eBay decides it will no longer list the Bad Seusses. And, as Matt Taibbi points out, that is batshit insane. Read it and Scream.


It’s Square to Be Hipping

It turns out we’re now at an age to require new body parts.* So, tomorrow we go in for a hip replacement. (Life’s a bitch and then you get a hip.)

Presumably, we’ll be back in around a week or so. Of course, everyone should work under the assumption that the next five posts will be drug-induced: no one need take offense or contemplate any  defamatory interpretation.**

Back to you soon.

*) The problem really started 45 years ago, but whatever.

**) Except ScoMoFo.


UPDATE (05/03/21)

“You’ll feel like a new man once you get your hip replaced.”

They lied: we feel like an old man with a new hip. But, the surgery went well and we’re recovering well. Looking forward to the day when we can kick a torpedo again.

We’ll soon be up and about, back to the noble work of pissing people off.


RatS 6: Bipolar Opposites

We’ve never paid particular attention to Scott Alexander (pseudonym) and his blog, Slate Star Codex (now Astral Codex Ten). Long ago, we ran into a few SSC posts and our very vague memory is that we liked them. Then, while reading more on the New York Times‘s crucifying of Donald McNeil, we came across the Times‘s smelly article on SSC, including the gratuitous and sleazy outing of Alexander.* We explored a little, including reading this thoughtful critique of SSC. Still, we didn’t, and don’t, look to have an opinion on SSC, or on the “rationalism” in which it is supposedly immersed. (We did however, come to the opinion, that the New York Times has lost its collective fucking mind.)

A couple days ago, however, and completely by chance, we ran into an old, 2014 post on SSC. Alexander is a psychiatrist, and this post was on his long and futile attempt to conduct a study of a screening test for bipolar disorder, a test that Alexander suspected was of limited worth and knew was being widely misused. From the introduction to Alexander’s saga:

You ask patients a bunch of things like “Do you ever feel really happy, then really sad?”. If they say ‘yes’ to enough of these questions, you start to worry.

Some psychiatrists love this test. I hate it. Patients will say “Yes, that absolutely describes me!” and someone will diagnose them with bipolar disorder. Then if you ask what they meant, they’d say something like “Once my local football team made it to the Super Bowl and I was really happy, but then they lost and I was really sad.” I don’t even want to tell you how many people get diagnosed bipolar because of stuff like this.

Alexander’s post struck a particularly strong chord. Our father was a clinical psychologist, and he saw the worst. The whole Cuckoo’s Nest thing. More importantly, he didn’t think the not-worst was generally all that much better. In general, he regarded his psychologist and, especially, psychiatrist colleagues as arrogant, narrow-minded, drug-pushing quacks. Alexander’s story is from a different angle, but it fits right in.

Alexander’s post is alternately hilarious and horrifying. Read it. And then scream.


*) The kind of thing that a toady like James Massola would do.

WitCH 55: Oregonian Dreamin’

It must be something in the water.

This one, with due credit to Bill and Melinda, will be appearing in plenty of right wing snicker-rags in the very near future. It’s really a PoSWW. However, given the previous (and much more important) post, we decided to make it a companion blivit-WitCH. (As well, we’re working on another post on this stuff, in defense of it.)

Courtesy of the Oregon Department of Education, teachers there are being offered a “micro-course” on Equitable Math Instruction. More specific links are below. Good luck, and Good God.


1. Dismantling Racism in Mathematics Instruction

2. Fostering Deep Understanding

3. Creating Conditions to Thrive (zip file)

4. Connecting Critical Intersections

5. Sustaining Equitable Practice

Whole Course (zip file)



WitCH 54: California Dreamin’

OK, this is one of those blivit WitCHes. Yeah, sorry, but what are you gonna do? We don’t have the time (or the stomach) to give the stuff below the full-blown critique that it warrants, and there is a stormfront much closer to home.  Given the thing has been brought to our attention, however, it also seems an error to not raise it on this blog. And so, here we are.

The inestimable Jo Boaler is one of the writers for the California mathematics curriculum review, and the proposed new “framework” is now up for public comment. The screenshots below are from youcubed‘s newsletter, and further below are links to individual chapters of the new framework (all also available here, along with other relevant material). Good luck.

CHAPTER LINKS (Word files, because making PDFs is apparently so damn hard)

(There’s also grade level brochures on this page, but, at posting, the links weren’t working.)

1. Introduction

2. Teaching for Equity and Engagement

3. Number Sense

4. Exploring, Discovering, and Reasoning With and About Mathematics

5. Data Science

6. Mathematics, Investigating and Connecting, Transitional Kindergarten through Grade Five

7. Mathematics, Investigating and Connecting, Grades Six through Eight

8. Mathematics, Investigating and Connecting, Grades Nine through Twelve

9. Supporting Equitable and Engaging Mathematics Instruction

10. Technology and Distance Learning in the Teaching of Mathematics

11. Assessment in the 21st Century

12. Instructional Materials

13. Glossary