Skepchick Quickies, 9.20
- Danica McKellar discusses her math books and changing up
math’s unsexy image. (From ZenMonkey.)
- Pope Benedict XVI’s astronomer: the Catholic Church welcomes aliens. (From Jay.)
- Man charged with pretending to practise witchcraft.
- Pregnant women need fear no cell phone radiation: belly armor is here!
- Chemistry Ph.D. thesis explained via dance routine. (From Dave.)
The woo is strong in the second comment about the Belly Armor T-shirt. The commenter claims to be an EE, but clearly has little if any understanding of RF, antennas, shielding or digital encoding of analog signals. What he says is just barely correct enough to be hilarious.
On the other hand, I didn’t understand the chemical dance at all. But it was fun to watch.
Interesting how pretending to practice witchcraft is a chargeable offense, but actually practicing witchcraft is perfectly legal. Seeing as most Wiccans and pagans are only loosely affiliated in the first place, one wonders how you would make the distinction.
At least Ragbirsingh, near the end of the story, is responsible enough to advise people to see doctors and financial advisers for… shall we say; more serious problems. We should encourage more of that kind of behaviour from the New Age movement.
Winnie Cooper can do no wrong!
It really bothers me that she maintains that math is hard. We have this crazy idea that math is harder than other subjects. It isn’t. We are simply ill-prepared for it.
@Buzz Parsec: Of COURSE he’s an EE. He went to Internet State, which is where I got my PhDs in Biophysics, Astrophysics, Electrophysics and Physicsphysics.
‘Cause I’m that smart. And rich. And, incidentally, I am also the sexiest man alive, and an astronaut.
That chemistry video has seriously made my day.
@whatbluedot: Where does she say math is hard?
And am I weird for wanting those books? I teach math, so it’s not like my interest isn’t academic.
@Bjornar: I know we’ve got at least “Math DOESN’T Suck” on our shelves.
@whatbluedot: Nowhere does she say “math is hard”. Quite the opposite, it seems. What she’s saying to girls is that they can be good at mathematics, contrary to what they’re told.
Of course the Catholics church would welcome aliens! They’re losing more humans every day.
I’ve seen and have been curious about Danica McKellar’s books for a while, but of course by the time I get my students (in college), they’re past the age those books are aimed at. Has anyone in this group read them? are they good?
My gut feeling is that every bit helps– the more young girls who are turned on to math and science, by whatever means, the better.
My eight-year-old is getting Danica’s book for her birthday. She is aready starting with the “I hate school” talk even though she used to love school. I asked her whay and she said all her friends hate school.
I feel that I have failed her.
Don’t. You haven’t failed her. Look at this as one of those teachable moments. Now would be a good time to teach her that she doesn’t have to share her friends’ opinions to belong.
*Engaging teacher mode*
Also, she will probably love and hate all kinds of things for various lengths of time – don’t take it too seriously unless her behavior is seriously affected. Most kids say that kind of thing all the time and it doesn’t always mean much. If you’re looking for advice (sorry, I feel almost professionally obligated to give it in this scenario – please skip the rest of this post if you’re not, and feel free to tell me to mind my own business) I would recommend approaching the topic indirectly through books – namely “A Bad Case of Stripes”, a particularly relevant book, though it involves lima beans rather than school; and “The Toll Bridge Troll”, which includes riddles (math riddles too) and delivers the message that you should go to school so others can’t take advantage of you. And, if you can do a good troll voice, it’s actually very funny.
*Teacher mode off*
You hear all kinds of interesting things from the vatican these days. Was this before or after the pope blamed the Holocaust on the “atheist extremism” of nazis?
Will anyone welcome our new Catholic alien overlords? ;-)
@QuestionAuthority: After liberating myself from my Catholic human overlords, what reason do I have to believe the Catholic aliens will be any better?
Thank you for the advice. I will have to look into those books. I’ve not given up on her but it can be discouraging that’s all. I’m thinking of getting her a chemistry set or one of those electronics boards for Christmas.
Where does she say math is hard?
I’ve heard a few interviews with her. She insists that it’s better to say “Yes, math is hard, but you can do it.” She thinks having girls know they can succeed at something that is hard is the goal. But I think it’s a fundamental misunderstanding that we have that math is difficult. I think she’s doing a good job, since, as a former math tutor I had to fight the same “girls can’t do math” attitude time and time again. But it was more in the older remedial students. In the younger students it was “math is hard!” full stop. At a time when we’re seeing fewer and fewer men succeeding at getting into and staying in college, and now even getting into graduate school, we can’t afford to uplift girls alone. And to do that, we have to fight the idea that math is hard.
@whatbluedot: If that’s what she says, I agree with her. I don’t think you should start every math class with “this is hard”, but neither should you pretend it isn’t. Most students will, at some point, hit math that requires thought, insight, work and perseverance to learn. Pretending that it isn’t difficult is just setting people up to feel more of a failure when it doesn’t come easy.
Of course there’s a balance. I’ve heard stories of the current Norwegian crop of elementary school teachers where some have gotten a teaching degree with barely passing math grades and pass on their own incomprehension to the kids. That kind of “this is hard” is obviously bad. “You may find this hard, but you can do it.” seems to me to be just fine.
@Bjornar: “Math is hard” as an argument from ignorance. :-P
“Some math is hard, but it’s a lot harder if you don’t try.” – Anonymous gun dealer in “The Friends of Eddie Coyle”.
“You don’t always get the math when you start, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get the math that you need.” – Jagger and Richards.
Anything that encourages more kids to think for themselves, which I think is the basic skill that math requires, is good.
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