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Topic: Mathematician
Replies: 28   Last Post: Oct 15, 2010 8:47 AM

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kirby urner

Posts: 3,690
Registered: 11/29/05
Re: Mathematician
Posted: Oct 6, 2010 2:37 PM
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On Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 7:27 PM, Wayne Bishop
<> wrote:
> Some folks appear to not be relating the title thread to the article and my
> objection. Certainly I have my problems with what passes for STEM
> preparedness as well as the acronym but my real objection was yet another
> article in which "mathematician" is used in place of "mathematics education
> professor" or some other inappropriate "equivalent".
> Wayne

Ah yes, an anthropological question: who gets to be called, or even
wants to be called, an X in a given ecology / community, where X
may be "mathematician" "doctor" "shaman" "chief" "engineer" or
whatever title. What track records matche what types of cred

Looking at Starship Enterprise (Star Trek), it's pretty clear that
Mr. Spock is good at math (logic especially), but his title is not
"mathematician". He's a "first officer" right? He supports Kirk,
the "captain".

Against the backdrop of some of the storyboards around here,
you've got kids jumping on electric ATVs and heading out with
their GPS devices to work in various fields, including bee keeping
and smoothing a nearby runway (40 miles distant). We're in
New Mexico someplace, international cast. Solar dish's from

Our school engineers work with the dishes a lot, repairing the
Stirling engines. But they also work with SQL engines
(engines of a different kind, such as Oracle's MySQL etc.).

The ATVs (electric) also need maintenance, and given these
feature in many a template, students are eager to master
the many makes and models. Given the Quaker nature of
our sponsors, there's not much gun play (a little), but there's
lots of physics in ballistics. It's not all just "pre-med"
(although that's the trend, as "health professional" has
replaced "lawyer" pretty much across the board as the
thing to be -- that's where all the romance is, these days).

Where is the "mathematician" in this school? Perhaps she
comes through as an intern-trainee, with a PhD from PSU,
Vietnam Campus (one of several satellites). There's a
sister campus developing in Borneo that'll use a different
assortment of power sources (mostly micro hydel), but
plans to implement some of the same programs in K-12
mathematics. Does Paul Allen's Vulcan Corporation might
have a stake?

Back to immediate reality, I was awhile back tapped as a
sidekick for Guido, our BDFL (dictator -- chairman a different
position) to join a small meeting regarding possible math ed
reforms in the RSA (Republic of South Africa). My to/from
airfare and hotel stay in the Kensington neighborhood was
contributed by the meeting convener. An entourage from
the RSA joined experts from around the world for three days
of meetings.

Why tap me of all people, given the vast army of PhDs (not
even counting those dophins)? I'm not a product of the UC
math ed system, nor SUNY 's and don't have the kind of
cred that'd let me teach grad school calc or group theory,
even though I've taught mathy stuff at the 12th grade level
at one of Wayne's St. Sensibles.

I was billing myself as Minister of Education for Python Nation
at the time (the Litvins text had yet to be published). We were
neighborly with Ubuntu (still are). Free software was making
waves, with Freedom Toasters in Cape Town, students flocking
to TuxLabs.

We had a similar phenomenon here in Oregon, with recent
immigrants interested in getting on the Internet and doing legal,
safe things that would not draw attention to themselves and
get them deported (you can just hear the parents kvetching,
saying nothing good will come of getting on-line -- with many
public schools subtly reinforcing that message (this was the
early days, and "piracy" and "hacking" was all people
seemed to care about -- getting ready for the "cyberwars"
of the 21st century).

I was working the George Heuston, formerly with the FBI,
NORAD and stuff, helping the Silicon Forest do an end run
around the public schools, to make cyberspace seem more
friendly and appealing that average Americans (paranoid and
ignorant) were prepared to allow. We used facilities in the
West Precinct (Hillsboro Police Department) for our mutli-
week pilot. What I'm good at are pilots, prototyping classes.
I led two more of these this summer, in an all-Windows math
lab at PSU, and an all-Mac math lab at Reed College. This
was the same kinda STEM stuff I'd been promoting in
Kensington at at the London Knowledge Lab (where I spoke
about my work in Hillsboro).

So I should be a target then, of these PhD insiders. Indeed,
Dr. Ian Benson of Stanford, who knows Fernando Flores,
some of the math faculty, might have reason to worry about
Python's trajectory, which seems to be tilting towards
GeometryFirst over AlgebraFirst (both buzz words for an
early primary school level agenda). However MIT's Scratch
and other technologies likely render this debate moot: no
one is using Python with children that young.

But the fact remains, here I am contributing science fiction
to the New Mexicans, hoping to recruit returning vets to
staff our numeracy tracks (GIS/GPS intensive) -- not always
tapping the math teacher rank and file -- and I appear to be
getting away with it. Isn't that wrong? Many would say it
is, because I'm not credentialed the way they think I oughta
be. Is Bill Gates? Is what you really need a lot of money?
Can one buy credentials based on net worth? In our current
economic system, I'd have to say "yes, that's one way to go".

Anyway, I enjoy being in meetings with university profs, am
in one right now (Lewis & Clark College guy, with a specialty
in Indonesia, is leading our session -- very socio-politically
aware, lots of experience in Washington DC).

Gotta go. Lunch with Uncle Bill.


> At 02:24 PM 10/5/2010, Jonathan Groves wrote:
>> Wayne and others,
>> Since many colleges and universities label these subjects the
>> "mathematical sciences," why not just call these the mathematical
>> sciences?  Or maybe we can call them the mathematical and technological
>> sciences for those who might not think of engineering and computer
>> science and other technology-related fields as mathematical sciences.
>> These wouldn't have very good acronyms, but at least these names are
>> less confusing to the public.  The name can be an acronym but does
>> not have to be.
>> Kirby's proposed alternatives are also worth considering.
>> I can understand the public being confused about the term "STEM education"
>> because if it had not been for my participation in online discussions
>> about education, I would not know what "STEM education" means.
>> Jonathan Groves
>> On 10/5/2010 at 11:33 am, Wayne Bishop wrote:

>> > One of my pet peeves...  Taught what at the graduate
>> > level?
>> >
>> >
>> > .html#advisory
>> > "Elizabeth Stage is Director of the Lawrence Hall
>> > of Science, University of California at
>> > Berkeley.  A former middle school mathematics and
>> > science teacher who has also taught at the
>> > graduate level, she has conducted research,
>> > program evaluation, and curriculum development;
>> > led professional development programs; and worked
>> > on state and national standards and assessments
>> > in mathematics and science.  Throughout these
>> > activities, she has been guided by a vision of
>> > high quality mathematics and science education for
>> > all students."
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> > ml?_r=1&ref=education&pagewanted=print
>> > <>
>> > The New York Times
>> >
>> > October 4, 2010
>> >
>> >
>> > STEM Education Has Little to Do With Flowers
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> > By
>> > <>
>> > eople/a/natalie_angier/index.html?inline=nyt-per>NATAL
>> > IE
>> >
>> > If you want to talk about bolstering science and
>> > math education in this country, I?ll gladly break
>> > out my virtual pompoms and go rah. Who wouldn?t?
>> > Our nation?s economy, global allure and future
>> > tense all depend on the strength of its scientific
>> > spine.
>> >
>> > But mention the odious and increasingly pervasive
>> > term ?STEM education,? and instead of
>> > cheerleading gear, I reach for my ... pistil. In
>> > my disgruntlement, I am not alone.
>> >
>> > For readers who heretofore have been spared
>> > exposure to this little concatenation of capital
>> > letters, or who have, quite understandably,
>> > misconstrued its meaning, STEM stands for
>> > Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics,
>> > supposedly the major food groups of a comprehensive
>> > science education.
>> >
>> > Aficionados pronounce STEM exactly as you?d
>> > imagine ­ like the plant part, like the cell
>> > type, like what you do to a tide and I wish I
>> > could do to this trend, but it?s probably too
>> > late. Go to any convention, Congressional hearing
>> > or science foundation bagel chat on the ever
>> > ominous theme of ?Science in the Classroom, and
>> > why can?t our students be more like Singapore?s
>> > when they take international tests anyway?? and
>> > you?ll hear little about how to teach
>> > trigonometry or afford all those Popsicle sticks
>> > needed for the eighth-grade bridge-building
>> > competition, but you?ll be pelted by references to
>> > STEM.
>> >
>> > <>
>> > tes/ostp/pcast-stemed-report.pdf>A
>> > new report from the President?s Council of
>> > Advisors on Science and Technology offers many
>> > worthy ideas for improving science education,
>> > like creating a ?master corps? of the nation?s
>> > finest science teachers who would in turn train
>> > others; but the STEM word keeps thudding up its
>> > pages like so many gristle nubs in a turkey
>> > burger. It?s greasy-peasy: collapse down
>> > education, and you?ve got a buzz phrase to rival phys
>> > ed.
>> >
>> > As even those who use the term admit, it is
>> > deeply, serio-comically flawed. For starters, it
>> > is opaque and confusing. ?Everybody who knows
>> > what it means knows what it means, and everybody
>> > else doesn?t,? said Eric Lander, co-chairman of
>> > the president?s advisory council and head of the
>> > Broad Institute of the
>> > <>
>> > rganizations/m/massachusetts_institute_of_technology/i
>> > ndex.html?inline=nyt-org>Massachusetts
>> > Institute of Technology and
>> > <>
>> > rganizations/h/harvard_university/index.html?inline=ny
>> > t-org>Harvard
>> > University. When he first heard the term, he
>> > figured it was a too-cute reference to botany. ?I
>> > thought, stem education? What about flower
>> > education?? he said.
>> >
>> > These days, given the public?s fixation on
>> > embryonic
>> > <>
>> > ditionsandhealthtopics/stemcells/index.html?inline=nyt
>> > -classifier>stem
>> > cells ­ progenitor cells that give rise to all
>> > the different tissues of the body ­ the potential
>> > for confusion is even worse. ?People hear about
>> > STEM education, and they think some harm has come
>> > to an embryo in the process,? Dr. Lander said.
>> >
>> > The term also sounds didactic and jargony, which
>> > is why Sally Ride, the former astronaut who now
>> > travels the country promoting the glories of
>> > science education to girls and other interested
>> > parties, said she consciously avoids it.
>> >
>> > ?With my
>> > <>
>> > rganizations/n/national_aeronautics_and_space_administ
>> > ration/index.html?inline=nyt-org>NASA
>> > heritage, I?m perfectly capable of speaking
>> > entirely in acronyms, including the verbs,? she
>> > said. ?But this is not very helpful when talking to
>> > the public.?
>> >
>> > Dr. Ride?s instincts are well grounded. According
>> > to survey results released last month by the
>> > nonprofit group
>> > <>Entertainment
>> > Industries Council, when some 5,000 participants
>> > were asked whether they understood the term ?STEM
>> > education,? 86 percent said no. ?They said it
>> > made them think of stem cells, branches, leaves
>> > and broccoli stems,? said Brian Dyak, the group?s
>> > president. ?I have no clue on that last one.?
>> > Clearly, he added, ?we have a branding issue here.?
>> >
>> > But is it a brand worth pitching? Some critics
>> > argue that the term is unnecessary and
>> > potentially self-defeating. What?s wrong with a
>> > simple science education, or if need be, science
>> > and math education? What?s with all the
>> > discipline call-outs that demanded the invention of
>> > an acronym?
>> >
>> > ?A program officer from a foundation recently
>> > asked me, ?Is the work you?re doing STEM
>> > education or science education?? ? said Elizabeth
>> > Stage, the director of the Lawrence Hall of
>> > Science at the
>> > <>
>> > s/organizations/u/university_of_california/index.html?
>> > inline=nyt-org>University
>> > of California, Berkeley. ?I drew him a Venn
>> > diagram, showing him what?s central about science
>> > and how that overlaps with technology, engineering
>> > and math.?
>> >
>> > Dr. Stage, a mathematician by training, thinks
>> > it?s a ?false distinction? to ?silo out? the
>> > different disciplines, and would much prefer to
>> > focus on what the fields have in common, like
>> > problem-solving, arguing from evidence and
>> > reconciling conflicting views. ?That?s what we
>> > should have in the bulls?-eye of our target,? she
>> > said.
>> >
>> > The decision to include engineering and
>> > technology in the education ?messaging? dates
>> > roughly to the 1990s, when the
>> > <>
>> > rganizations/n/national_science_foundation/index.html?
>> > inline=nyt-org>National
>> > Science Foundation and other government agencies
>> > began trying to draw up national standards for
>> > science education, specifying what students in
>> > kindergarten through 12th grade should know by the
>> > end of every school year.
>> >
>> > ?I remember it being made explicit that science
>> > encompassed more than straight-up science, and
>> > you started hearing requests to include mention
>> > of math, technology and engineering,? Dr. Stage said.
>> >
>> > Pragmatism and economics are also part of the
>> > equation. As government has turned ever more
>> > avidly to industry to help pay for expensive
>> > improvements in the science classroom, the need
>> > to emphasize the link between a well-rounded
>> > science education and tomorrow?s techie work
>> > force has grown accordingly. ?A lot of
>> > corporations are now talking to each other about
>> > what they?re doing in STEM education,? said Dr.
>> > Stage, and those corporations include engineering
>> > and computer heavyweights like Exxon Mobil, Intel and
>> > Hewlett-Packard.
>> >
>> > Dr. Lander argues that that there is a basic
>> > rightness to the itemizing spirit behind STEM.
>> > ?Science is discovering the laws of the natural
>> > world, and mathematics isn?t that, it?s logical,
>> > deductive truth, and its experiments don?t have
>> > error bars,? he said. ?And when you get to
>> > technology and engineering, it?s the constructed
>> > world, and that?s different than the discovered
>> > one.? He?d like a better term than the current
>> > one, but said he?s tried ?all four factorial
>> > permutations? of the letters, and the
>> > alternatives are either unpronounceable or
>> > already claimed by a baseball team. Dr. Ride
>> > points out that an earlier version of the
>> > official acronym was, in fact, SMET, ?and
>> > thankfully we?ve moved away from that,? she said.
>> >
>> > Yet others don?t frame the word ?science? so
>> > narrowly, as the province of the given rather
>> > than of the forged. Science has always
>> > encompassed the applied and the basic, and the
>> > impulses to explore and to invent have always
>> > been linked.
>> > <>
>> > eople/g/galileo_galilei/index.html?inline=nyt-per>Gali
>> > leo
>> > built a telescope and then trained it on the sky.
>> > Advances in technology illuminate realms beyond
>> > our born senses, and those insights in turn yield
>> > better scientific toys. Engineers use math and
>> > physics and the scientific mind-set in everything
>> > they design; and those who don?t, please let us
>> > know, so we can fly someone else?s airplane and
>> > not cross your bridge when we come to it.
>> > Whatever happened to the need for
>> > interdisciplinary thinking? Why promote a brand that
>> > codifies atomization?
>> >
>> > Besides, acronyms encourage rampant me-tooism.
>> > Mr. Dyak said that some have lobbied for the
>> > addition of medicine to the scholastic program,
>> > complete with a second M. ?It?s called STEM
>> > squared,? he said. Even the arts are hankering
>> > for an orthographic position, he added.
>> >
>> > STEAM education: great books, labs and
>> > motherboards, and free rug cleaning, too.


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