Saturday, September 3

Parents' math skills 'rub off' on their children

now this is a very interesting result.

I quote

Parents who excel at math produce children who excel at math. This is according to a recent study that shows a distinct transfer of math skills from parent to child. The study specifically explored intergenerational transmission -- the concept of parental influence on an offspring's behavior or psychology -- in mathematic capabilities.

there's a genetic transfer...

so if they are rubbish at maths, blame their parents? and then their parents? and and and? 

Friday, September 2

Getting kids to do more maths

As you may know, I am a STEM ambassador and once every month or so, pop into a London school to speak to children about them doing more STEM and talk about how I use Maths in my day to day work. So it was with interest that I read this article

I quote

The math myth is the myth that the future of the American economy is dependent upon the masses having higher mathematics skills. This myth goes back to at least Sputnik, when the Russians were going to surpass us because they were better in math and science. It returned in the late 80's when the Germans and Japanese were going to surpass us because they were better in math and science. It's occurring again now because the Indians and Chinese are better than us in math and science.   I find it difficult to find anyone who uses more than Excel and eighth grade level mathematics (=arithmetic, and a little bit of algebra, statistics and programming). In the summer of 2007 I taught an advanced geometry course and had two students in the class who had been engineers and one who had been an actuary. They claimed never to have used anything beyond Excel and eighth grade level mathematics; never a trig function or even a log or exponential function! There is in fact a deskilling going on in our economy, where even the ability to make change is about to disappear as an important skill.  Vivek Wadhwa has described how there's no shortage of scientists and engineers. I've been concerned with what skills those who are working as scientists and engineers actually use. I find that the vast majority of scientists, engineers and actuaries only use Excel and eighth grade level mathematics. This suggests that most jobs that currently require advanced technical degrees are using that requirement simply as a filter. In particular, I'm working on documenting the following:   Math Myth Conjecture: If one restricts one's attention to the hardest cases, namely, graduates of top engineering schools such as MIT,  RPI,  Cal. Tech., Georgia Tech., etc., then the percent of such individuals holding engineering as opposed to management, financial or other positions, and using more than Excel and eighth grade level mathematics (arithmetic, a little bit of algebra, a little bit of statistics, and a little bit of programming) is less than 25% and possibly less than 10%.
Now there's obviously a difference in outlook here. I work in banking and we DO use mathematics. We use statistics, we use calculus, we use matrix algebra and we can get some really funky stuff. We use operational research and optimisation techniques. Dont forget we also use quite a lot of physics (money behaves like a fluid?) and stuff like that. In many of my banking jobs, i hired PhD's in physics, chemistry, astronomy, comp science, etc. But no trigonometry :) or geometry. 

But i can see why people want to use it as a filter. Doing Maths gives signals that you are structured, you are able to handle abstractions, you care good with numbers, you can review and analyse numbers, so on and so forth. It also gives signals that you are a good analyst (not that sure about this one). I would also posit that people with maths are maybe a bit more financial literate? although I dont have any evidence for this

So interesting view. 

Thursday, September 1

Public Mass Modern Education, Religion, and Human Capital in Twentieth-Century Egypt

People faff around with educational systems at their peril because the impact of even minor changes are felt 2-3 generations ahead. But people dont listen and as the quote goes, fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

See this example from Egypt

Public mass modern education was a major pillar of state-led development in the post-Colonial period. I examine the impact of Egypt's transformation in 1951–1953 of traditional elementary schools (kuttabs) into modern primary schools on the Christian-Muslim educational and occupational differentials, which were in favor of Christians. The reform granted kuttabs' graduates (where Muslim students were over-represented) access to higher stages of education that were previously confined to primary schools' graduates. Exploiting the variation in exposure to the reform across cohorts and districts of birth among males in 1986, I find that the reform benefited Muslims but not Christians.
What Europe is suffering from is the result of generalizing education among all levels of society… they have no chance of avoiding what happened [Europe's 1848 revolutions]. So if this is an example in front of us, our duty is simply to teach them how to read and write to a certain limit in order to encourage satisfactory work and not to spread education beyond that point.
Muhammad Ali Pasha, Ottoman Viceroy of Egypt (1805–1848), in a private letter to his son, Ibrahim Pasha (in Judith Cochran 1986, p. 6)
Education is like the water we drink and the air we breathe.
Taha Hussein, Egyptian liberal intellectual and Egypt's Minister of Education (1950–1952)
The poor go to heaven, but can't they have a share on Earth too? They are willing to give up a share in heaven in exchange for a share on Earth.
Gamal Abdul-Nasser, President of Egypt (1956–1970) (Excerpt from a public speech)

Wednesday, August 31

The second biggest bibliographic tragedy after the burning of Alexandria Library

I never heard this before but now that I have read it, its so tragic!

In September 1666, the ‘lamentable and dismal fire’ that we now know as the Great Fire consumed most of the City of London, from Fleet Street to the edges of the Tower of London, coating what remained in inches of soot, destroying homes, churches and ancient company halls, and causing many thousands to sleep out under the late-summer stars. As many as 100,000 people were rendered homeless, more than 80 churches were razed, along with St Paul’s Cathedral, the Royal Exchange and the Guildhall. Within three days, four-fifths of the ancient city had been destroyed.The flames not only consumed buildings, but also paintings, tapestries, and evaporated thousands of gallons of wine, beer and other liquor (estimated at over £1m in value). Many thousands of books and manuscripts also joined the pyre in perhaps one of the most terrible, and perhaps neglected, losses of the Great Fire. As one chronicler of the fire notes ‘Never since the burning of the great library at Alexandria had there been such a holocaust of books’ (W G Bell, The Great Fire of London in 1666

Tuesday, August 30

Indo-Pacific glass beads from the Indian subcontinent in Early Merovingian graves (5th–6th century AD)

this article was very interesting :), it talks about how the Merovingian graves had Indian beads, how they were manufactured, their composition, use and how they were traded. Given that we are talking about the 2 centuries after the Roman Empire crashed, its not surprising that the trade routes remained for 2 centuries afterwards although slowly dying. The authors talk about political upheavals in South India in 6th century and changes in fashion. Absolutely fascinating to see presence of Indian Manufactured goods in Europe so early in the human history. 

Peter Francis Jr. has devoted much of his research to Indo-Pacific glass beads. These productions are among the emblematic objects made by South Asian glass workshops for nearly two millennia. Despite their wide distribution, both in Asia and Africa and in the Middle East, these tiny beads have never been reported in Western Europe. They have recently been found in large numbers on funerary sites in Merovingian Gaul, dated to between the middle of the 5th and the middle of the 6th century AD (mainly in the form of necklaces or clothing ornaments). Their presence stimulates reflection on the extensive trade between the Merovingian and the Indian worlds. This contribution discusses the technological, typological and chemical characteristics of these beads, as well as their use.

Monday, August 29

An Ascetic on an Emaciated Nag

I came across this photograph of an Ascetic on an Emaciated Nag in a book in the British Library.

The artistic elements of the painting - well leave that aside for the moment, but this was so brilliantly executed that all I could do was to stare at it. Just look at it, the artist has managed to draw out the typical Hindu ascetic and that too riding a nag! absolutely amazing.