Additional Math Pages & Resources

Monday, August 24, 2009

Russian Studies, Welding and Math

How do we predict how people will grow up? What they will do with themselves? What jobs they will enjoy?

Back in 1969 the Washington State Pre-College Test suggested I could have future success in Russian Studies or Welding.

"academic prediction in Washington State is unique in that it is not directed at the admissions needs of colleges but at the decision-making needs of the average high-school graduate ... having to make choices against a background of aptitude and training which may spell success for some choices and failure for others ... " and so on.

I ignored their suggestions and went to college in sunny California. I studied Speech, with a minor in Latin American Literature. Having no career thoughts in mind, I continued on to graduate school. However, I quickly got bored studying medieval culture and its transfer via oral tradition.

I starting thinking about getting a job, and getting married. I soon did both. Publishing and Laurie have been my companions for 35 happy years.

Publishing is almost like school - you learn something and write about it before the deadline. But it's better than school, because you get paid. And when you grade/edit other people's papers, you still get paid.


But here I am today, explaining probability and prediction to teachers and students.

Prediction means to say before [it happens]. There are many ways to go about making predictions:

If we could really predict things we would be rich. But despite monumental efforts to improve our predictive abilities, we still can't reliably predict natural disasters, movements in the stock markets, software development schedules, sports scores, etc.

Nor can we predict who will love, tolerate or hate math.

In Excel Math we introduce a problem-solving process known as trial and error. You start with one possible number, try it in an equation, and if it doesn't work, try the next possible value.

This works in real life too.

I just read an article headed Fail Early and Fail Often. It argues for listing your failures after your name, instead of a list of your academic degrees.

Anyone out there looking for a work? Try listing your failures on your resume or CV. I hope this approach will get you a job.

If it doesn't, you can always try something else. Like Russian Studies, or Welding. Or Math.

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