Category: Probability and Statistics

Bringing the Real World to Your Math Class Every Day

I’ve been spending the first 5-10 minutes of every 2-hour math class discussing graphs in the news with my students. I’ll give you a few examples of what came up naturally week by week: Lots of social media graphs: Slope of the adoption rates for new users, the DAU (daily active users) and MAU (monthly active users) over time, and comparison of the adoption of new features in different platforms (Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) Tech industry: Growth of Amazon, Facebook, and Google, rise in employees at these companies, and comparison the money spent on Black Friday in the...

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WolframAlpha Facebook Report

This is a delightful exercise that everyone seems to love. WolframAlpha will provide you with an extremely detailed analysis of your own Facebook data including visualizations, world clouds, graphs, and more.       Here’s how: Go to WolframAlpha.com. Type “Facebook Report” and execute the search. Allow WolframAlpha to have access to your Facebook account by clicking on “Analyze my Facebook Data” and following the directions. Wait while the data is analyzed. Note: Sometimes the report seems to stall after 100% of the data is analyzed. If this happens, simply repeat steps 1-3. The second time, the report seems...

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Battling Bad Science (and Statistics)

If you ever needed a REASON to calculate the highest point of a parabola that opens downward, here’s one. Possibly Related Posts: Bringing the Real World to Your Math Class Every Day Taking the Algebra Out of College Algebra Group Exploration in Math Elaborations for Creative Thinking in STEM Learning Math is Not a Spectator...

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Moving Math from Analog to Digital

Arthur Benjamin has been on TED in the past (see Mathemagics) and has done a really phenomenal job. Here’s his latest 3-minute appearance, called “A Formula for Changing Math Education.” The problem is that the very short talk does not present a “formula” for changing education, just Benjamin’s idea that the pinnacle at the top of the math pyramid should be statistics instead of calculus. There is nothing in the the short talk that suggests any kind of coherent plan for how it could be done, or even a suggestion that he has a plan. That’s what I would want to know about. Of course, it’s only a 3-minute talk and it’s certainly possible that he had nothing to do with the name of the talk. I did agree with these two statements, but want to add my own two cents: 1. “very few people actually use calculus in a conscious meaningful way in their day to day lives” … but I’m not sure we teach people how to use calculus in a “conscious meaningful way” nor are many of us required to use calculus for the simple reason that our superiors don’t understand it at all. Calculus could be used in a “conscious meaningful way” but our society chooses not to engage. As a matter of fact, very few people actually use statistics in a conscious meaningful way...

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Mathematics of Coercion

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, a consultant to the CIA and DOD, uses mathematical analysis to predict the outcome of “messy” human events in this 2009 TED Talk: Three predictions on the future of Iran, and the math to back it up.  He claims that we can use mathematics to predict the outcomes of complex negotiations or situations involving coercion (everything that has to do with politics and business). His modeling is based in Game Theory, which (he says) is based on three assumptions that (1) people are rationally self-interested, (2) that people have values and beliefs, and (3) people face limitations.  The CIA verifies the predictive ability of the model, claiming it is correct 90% of the time even when the experts are wrong. To build a model of the outcomes, he says he need to know (1) Who has a stake in the decision? (2) What do they say they want? (3) How focused are they on one issue compared to other issues? (4) How much persuasive influence could they exert?  Using this, we can predict behavior by assuming that everybody cares about two things: the outcome (effect on their career) and the credit (ego).  In the model, you must be able to estimate people’s choices, chances they are willing to take, values, and beliefs about other people.  Believe it or not, history is not necessary for the...

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