Category: Find and Use Data

What if there was a Google for Math?

What if you could go to a free and readily available website and enter an equation, an expression, a question about math, a request to analyze data, or anything else, and the site would answer your question, elaborate on it, give you all the steps for the mathematical work, etc.? Did that make you uneasy or excited? Well, ready or not, it’s going online at 7pm CST today, and I think we ought to pay some attention to this. Wolfram Alpha You can watch a screencast about Wolfram Alpha here. It does have the potential to seriously wreak havoc on the way we teach math today if students can simply copy all their work from an A.I. website.  Whether you think that it’s time that somebody forced a change, or whether you think it’s just hype and not really a threat, I think we should all be aware that after today, it exists. Possibly Related Posts: Contemporary Algebra Collection (new resources 2/4/2019) Teaching in Higher Ed Podcast about ESIL Lens Add Graphs In The World to Courses ESIL: A Learning Lens for the Digital Age Taking the Algebra Out of College...

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Google Search Data vs Real CDC Data: Guess who wins?

Google has been using search data to model flu outbreaks for a number of years. Generally, they look at the number of searches for words related to “flu” (graphs) and look for sharp increases in the number of searches (slopes, derivatives). You can watch a short and elegant video showing the results here. They’ve been tracking this data against the CDC data (graph comparison) and although the CDC data lags behind one to two weeks, it looks like the Google data can accurately predict when a flu outbreak starts (only, in real time). The data follows a nice periodic graph which you should be able to model with a Fourier Series. Want the data? Google will give you the data (go here). Perhaps, intrigued by this, you’d like to see if search trends make any other predictions – perhaps you could’ve predicted the recession in January 2008 (instead of 12 months later) by looking at searches for bankruptcy, unemployment, jobs, etc. You could assign a project to your students and have them use Google Trends. Unfortunately, I’m about to take a sabbatical, so I can’t do this with a class next semester, but I’m thinking that it would be a good project for Honors Calculus in the fall! I think I will have each student come up with a set of terms to track that are related to a...

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Density Equalizing Maps (Worldmapper)

Some of the really stunning visuals that Neil Turok used in his TED Prize talk were graphics from the website Worldmapper. The idea is that you start with a standard area map of the world, and then create cartograms (or density-equalizing maps) – resizing each territory to relate it with the variable being mapped. Here is a standard Land Area Map of the world: Here is the map of Women’s Income: John Pritchard, from the Geography Department at the University of Sheffield, was kind enough to give an overview of the process involved in the creation of these maps for this blog post: A cartogram can be thought of as part map, part pie-chart. It attempts to keep areas (such as countries) in roughly the same place, whilst changing their size to reflect the value of a variable, for example, population. A world cartogram of population would show, for example, China and India as larger than their land area size, and Australia as smaller. An algorithm that creates a cartogram from a map, preserving recognisable shapes whilst resizing countries, has been something of a‘holy grail’ of the cartogram world. The solution we use forWorldmapper, from Mark Newman and Michael Gastner at the University ofMichigan, is inspired by the diffusion of gas molecules. If you imagine the example of human population, the algorithm would have the effect of allowing the...

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