09 August 2009

A new direction for my teaching career

This year I'm taking a break from Belmont to teach AP statistics to my oldest child.

My husband and I have taught our three children at home since kindergarten. Darin felt it was essential for their safety when we lived in the DC suburbs, and it was essential when we lived in Europe because they couldn't attend school there. My high school students attend Christian Liberty Academy through correspondence. I like the curriculum for the most part except for the mathematics courses (though I believe my children may disagree with me about the theology courses). CLA is just starting to offer Algebra I and Geometry by Harold Jacobs, which is good, but they offer Algebra II only through Saxon Math, which I don't like. They also don't have any good pre-calculus or calculus class, and no statistics.

My oldest child had Algebra I as a 7th grader (using Harold Jacob's book, which is a great book), and she finished pre-calculus last year using the trig book from CLA and an extra book by Forester. So this year I taught her AP Statistics, with moral support from teachers at church and friends from Facebook, using text books I've borrowed from staff at Belmont and the "5 Steps to a 5" book recommended by a college friend who teaches AP Statistics. I was a little bit worried that we'd do all this work and not find a place for her to take the test, but I talked to the AP coordinator at the high school closest to our church, and she was happy to include Miriam with her AP Statistics class.

With so little time before my children leave for college, it's nice to have more time to spend at home with them. We will be going to Belmont for their Preview Day for high school students, so that will be a different perspective for us all.

Next year I hope to teach calculus to my two oldest. So I don't expect to be teaching at Belmont next year either. Maybe for the 2011-2012 school year . . .

05 August 2009

The Joint Statistical Meetings in the Post

From an article in The Washington Post style section,

In D.C., Statisticians Flex Their Strength in Numbers
By Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Real superheroes, most people know, skip the capes and tights. Too bulky, too flashy, spandex doesn't breathe well, etc.

Which is why they can be easy to miss when they're in town, even when there are 6,000 of them, super-number crunchers, data heroes, with powers of finding meaning in digits far beyond those of mortal men and women.

The 6,000 is just rough data, not accounting for last-minute arrivals. Their median annual income is $65,720. Their employment is expected to grow 9 percent by 2016.

That's not even getting into their standard deviations.

Ladies and gentlemen: statisticians. At the Washington Convention Center this week for the Joint Statistical Meetings, the largest international gathering of data junkies on the continent.
Later, the author discusses the importance of statistical literacy:

. . . The general population does not get it. Worse, they don't even get what they don't get. They use "random" when they mean "uniform." They confuse "cause" with "correlation." They do not question study designs, like the recent survey claiming Republicans were happier with their sex lives than Democrats, but failing to take into account that more Republicans are men, who always think they're studs. They can't tell the difference between relative and absolute risk. They can't tell the difference between the mean and the median. "That eats at me constantly," says Jim Cochran, a statistics professor from Louisiana.

Go ahead. Laugh. Roll your eyes at the number crunchers, and the way they flock excitedly to sessions with names such as "Alternatives to Proportional Hazards Survival Methods." But this stuff matters. Statistics on the recession -- you think those create themselves? What about tracking the spread of infectious diseases? Don't even get statisticians started on the 2010 Census, which for the first time will include an option for same-sex marriages. Which would be fine, except that some gay couples have actually self-identified as married on the Census for decades, which means that some valiant guy on a computer needs to figure out how to interpret the numbers.

Why do they do it?

"I think it must have been something that happened to us in childhood," Larry Featherston says. He's a member of the Committee on Statistics and Disability, which aims to improve disability research.

"We might like to hang around with numbers," says David Keer. "But the real question is, what can we use them for? In this country, if you're not counted you don't count."

It's so true, even while sounding so . . . boring. Who wants to save the world using the Bayesian method?

The statisticians get that, and they're working on their image.

Our 20th Anniversary

Twenty years ago today, Darin and I were married. We are celebrating by Darin working in Tennessee and me working at the Joint Statistical Meetings in Washington, DC. Tonight I'll be going to a party at Dr. Findley's house (a former supervisor at Census).

It's not really how I imagined celebrating my 20th wedding anniversary on that long ago day back in 1989. But on the other hand, I did realize at the time that our wedding was at the same time as the JSM that year and knew it could happen again. Darin and I have spent several anniversaries together at the JSM and had a great time. Dallas especially comes to mind. There was nothing to do except watch people in the lobby and eat across the street at Denny's (where they did not appreciate my Redskins t-shirt).

Sometimes the JSM take place the same time as my middlest child's birthday which means she got to spend her 8th birthday shopping in New York City and her 11th birthday at the Mall of America in Minneapolis.

I'm happy that the 2010 meetings are on the west coast. It will give me a chance to be home with Darin for our 21st anniversary!

Happy Anniversary, Darin!

01 July 2009

New web design coming

I've been saying for a while that I want to get my course on-line, and I've been working on it for a long time without making much progress. So I've finally hired someone to help me with the design aspects. David Joyce of Exit 42 Design is going to design pages for the courses and help me redesign the site by improving my CSS code.

I've known Dave for years, and I love his work for other sites. I'm really looking forward to seeing what he comes up with, and it's a big burden off my shoulders to have some help with the html for the site.

Stay tuned. I really think I can get my first course on the web in 2010.