How did she graduate from high school?
Posted: 02 May 2014 10:38 AM   [ Ignore ]
Jr. Member
Rank
Total Posts:  12
Joined  2013-11-01

I consider this a grave social issue. So, I post it here.

Yesterday, one of my students visited me in my office with a question about one of the problems we had done in class. The problem was this: If a machine can toss a coin 100,000 times per second and you want it to toss the coin 2.2x10^19 times, how many seconds do you have to wait? She didn’t understand why we divided 2.2x10^19 by 100,000 to get the answer. In such cases, I tell my students to replace the large numbers with small ones, because the power of ten may be too abstract for them. I asked her, “if you can toss a coin two times per second, how many seconds does it take you to toss it ten times?” She said, “two divided by ten?” ... Because of grade inflation - which is out of my control - she is getting a low B in my course! This is a general-education course at an American public university!

Has anybody else had a similar experience? Is there anything anybody can do about it? I, as a concerned teacher, feel helpless!

Sam, The Skeptical Educator

Profile
 
 
Posted: 02 May 2014 12:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Moderator
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  5551
Joined  2010-06-16

Gee, I did it by subtraction.  I just subtracted the six from the nineteen.  LOL

I can understand your frustration, but there’s more than one problem or question here. 

The first is: why should the system require that we identify a person as having gained adequate knowledge of a course in a given field when it’s apparent that s/he has not?  As is so often the case, systems decisions are made by politicians (not necessarily legislative, but in this case administrative) who are far more interested in avoiding controversy from the public. 

Second, just as some have an almost instinctive ability to play, say, the piano when they are very young and others are never capable no matter how many lessons they take, for some of us our first introduction to the manipulations of large numbers is an immediate joy, while to others (your student) it may be forever outside their reasoning.  Of course, another explanation is that she had rotten elementary school teachers.

What we can do about it and what we shall do about it are two different things.  We need to subsidize education across the board, from increasing teacher training, paying them more, making sure students can get all the education they want and need at very low cost, etc.  Unfortunately, too many of our legislators feel public education is anti-democratic or at least anti-capitalist, so we will probably continue on a downward educational spiral.

Occam

 Signature 

Succinctness, clarity’s core.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 02 May 2014 02:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2233
Joined  2007-04-26

There does seem to be a problem in some places with grade inflation and pressure to push kids along who may not be learning what they need to know. I am no expert in education but it had been my impression in recent years that this was being addressed with standardized tests. I may be wrong.

When I interview people for jobs in my office I am often astonished by the lack of education. I recently had a resume on my desk for a woman who was applying for a medical assistant job and in the cover letter for her resume ( a document that should have been spell checked and edited ten times before she sent it out to 100 employers) the word assistant was spelled three ways—asistant, assistent, and asisstint. Needless to say I didn’t even interview her. i just sent her an email explaining that this might harm her in her job search and she might want to correct it. I got no response to my comments which also says something in itself.

There are great kids out there getting a very good education, but there are certainly some who are getting degrees they dont deserve

 Signature 

For every complex problem there is a solution that is simple, obvious,.... and just plain wrong

Profile
 
 
Posted: 02 May 2014 03:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3256
Joined  2011-08-15

Yesterday, one of my students visited me in my office with a question about one of the problems we had done in class. The problem was this: If a machine can toss a coin 100,000 times per second and you want it to toss the coin 2.2x10^19 times, how many seconds do you have to wait? She didn’t understand why we divided 2.2x10^19 by 100,000 to get the answer. In such cases, I tell my students to replace the large numbers with small ones, because the power of ten may be too abstract for them. I asked her, “if you can toss a coin two times per second, how many seconds does it take you to toss it ten times?” She said, “two divided by ten?” ... Because of grade inflation - which is out of my control - she is getting a low B in my course! This is a general-education course at an American public university!

Has anybody else had a similar experience? Is there anything anybody can do about it? I, as a concerned teacher, feel helpless!

Hello Sam, I’m an educator as well with 36 years of experience in public education and twenty five in higher ed. I teach History (American and European) and social studies. My question is why is grade inflation out of your control? Most colleges have a standard grading system using letter grades (inaccurately reflecting a student’s ability; percentage grades are a much better indicator) but are based on student performance. I teach required courses at a technical college and base the student’s grade on the work they complete. No work, no grade. Substandard work including tests receive a low grade. And I have failed students for poor performance. Are you saying that you are pressured by the college to artificially inflate a student’s grade?


Cap’t Jack

 Signature 

One good schoolmaster is of more use than a hundred priests.

Thomas Paine

Profile
 
 
Posted: 03 May 2014 08:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Jr. Member
Rank
Total Posts:  12
Joined  2013-11-01
Thevillageatheist - 02 May 2014 03:16 PM

My question is why is grade inflation out of your control? ... Are you saying that you are pressured by the college to artificially inflate a student’s grade?

Hi Cap’t Jack,

The short answer is YES! I have been “advised” many times by the administration that my GPA of 2.2 (equivalent to a letter grade of just above C) is too low for the course taken by the student I mentioned in my original post; that students will not register in our general-education physics courses, and that these courses will not be populated enough to justify offering multiple sections of them, meaning that we would have to decrease the number of the employees of the department. Now the GPA of my course is 2.6, with the result that those who ought to fail the course are getting a low B!

The meaning of the “average” seems to have been lost in education! Our College of Education, for example, has a GPA “average” of 3.8 out of 4. So all their graduates are excellent teachers!

Sam

Profile
 
 
Posted: 03 May 2014 10:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
Moderator
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  5551
Joined  2010-06-16
Sam Hertzinger - 03 May 2014 08:23 AM

Our College of Education, for example, has a GPA “average” of 3.8 out of 4. So all their graduates are excellent teachers!

  Well, all that may mean is that the bottom 95% of the education majors dropped out before graduation.  LOL  One has to love statistics and probabilities. smile

Occam

 Signature 

Succinctness, clarity’s core.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 03 May 2014 11:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3256
Joined  2011-08-15

Hi Cap’t Jack,

The short answer is YES! I have been “advised” many times by the administration that my GPA of 2.2 (equivalent to a letter grade of just above C) is too low for the course taken by the student I mentioned in my original post; that students will not register in our general-education physics courses, and that these courses will not be populated enough to justify offering multiple sections of them, meaning that we would have to decrease the number of the employees of the department. Now the GPA of my course is 2.6, with the result that those who ought to fail the course are getting a low B!

The meaning of the “average” seems to have been lost in education! Our College of Education, for example, has a GPA “average” of 3.8 out of 4. So all their graduates are excellent teachers!

The high school I taught in has the same dilemma for students with learning disabilities, i.e. the teacher has to follow an individual plan (IEP) designed to assist the student in whatever subject they’re failing and the grades are weighted so that no student will receive a failing grade. This also has to be reported to the State. These grades are now tied to funding and both teachers and the admin. are gun shy. this year Ohio is instituting a plan to tie student performance to salary which makes me relieved that I’m retired. All of this is based on standardized State tests of course, leaving the teacher to spend most of his/her time teaching the test.

The problem now facing local colleges and universities is that many students are attending colleges with the expectation of being assisted as they were in high school. Now those institutions are being forced to implement tutoring programs and entry level courses that are literally “dumbed down” in order to attract students hence your problem. It’s a real nail biter for professors who want to teach but don’t want to be laid off due to lack of students. Some of my friends have taken early retirement out of frustration; complaining that many students have trouble writing a cogent paragraph. I’ve noticed many changes in education in the last forty years and it seems that we’re dropping our standards for money and that’s a pity. Yes, our Education department demands that students maintain a 3.5 average and they are given one semester of probation to bring up a lower average. After that they have to set out one year before reapplying.


Cap’t Jack

 Signature 

One good schoolmaster is of more use than a hundred priests.

Thomas Paine

Profile
 
 
Posted: 11 May 2014 03:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  266
Joined  2012-09-14

From my baised perspective (I am a student so I have some sinister things to say   >:)  )

A good chunk of the problem is that the education knocks the will to learn from you.  If learning
could be made more enjoyable, then maybe some of these problem will dissapear.


To give an example

A few months ago, I had studied 15 hours for one engineering exam (just an average midterm)
I did not just know how solve problems with a few equations, I knew how to DERIVE the equations themselves.
In spite of that, I wound up witha lousy 70.  (The exact average of the class)

However, I find that reading the book and solving problems without/ decreased pressure for good grades makes
learning much more fun.

That is a big reason why I can more easily remember things I read by myself (biographies, periodicals, social science, history etc)
rather than stressful school things which caused me sleeping problems the past year.


Here is an interesting take on education (I have not read the book so I dont know how accurate the information is)
http://www.amazon.com/Educating-Your-Child-Modern-Times/dp/0974164100

[ Edited: 11 May 2014 03:23 PM by I.J. Abdul Hakeem ]
 Signature 

Say: He is God, the Unique.
God, the Self-Sufficient.
He does not give birth, nor was He born.
And there is none equal to Him.

Quran (112: 1-4)

Profile
 
 
Posted: 11 May 2014 03:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  266
Joined  2012-09-14

To be clear, I am a Calculus tutor and am also horrified that I was tutoring and asked something like ” 2/3 - 1 “
And got an answer like   “1/2”

 Signature 

Say: He is God, the Unique.
God, the Self-Sufficient.
He does not give birth, nor was He born.
And there is none equal to Him.

Quran (112: 1-4)

Profile
 
 
Posted: 11 May 2014 05:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
Moderator
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  5551
Joined  2010-06-16

The logic your student used seems rather obvious.  2/3 -1 = 2/3 - 1/1 so therefore, the answer is (2-1)/(3-1) or 1/2.  LOL  I love playing with math. smile

In my freshman year of chemistry, I bought the text and the paperbacked problem syllabus.  The text author was an obnoxious, pompous old instructor at UC Berkeley who started his preface by insulting all the readers.  I got pissed and even now, 65 years later have never opened that stupid book beyond the preface.  However, the syllabus was loaded with humdreds of chem based math problems.  We were assigned two or three of them for each chapter, but I loved doing them so I would go through and do all fifty or so for each chapter.  Using what I learned there and listening to the lectures, I was in a three way tie for first place out of 340 students by the end of the semester.  In other words, understanding the mathematical basis in science courses is far more important than the minor stress put on it in classes. 

Occam

 Signature 

Succinctness, clarity’s core.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 May 2014 02:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  266
Joined  2012-09-14

I sometimes have a hard time reconciling between effort and output.
On one hand, I have studied with an hour commute AND sleeping problems.

Then after all the stress and studying, I see average results.  mad

But when I also see algebra mistakes like the one I mentioned, then I think again. 
Right now I am reconciling by saying that our greatness is measured by the effort we put, and if we get stupid results then many a time it is due to a bad upbringing.

I love to learn….. but I hate school.  I am sure my students feel the same.

 Signature 

Say: He is God, the Unique.
God, the Self-Sufficient.
He does not give birth, nor was He born.
And there is none equal to Him.

Quran (112: 1-4)

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 May 2014 03:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  266
Joined  2012-09-14

Dr. Bart ehrman has a good joke here
http://ehrmanblog.org/seriously-off-topic/

 Signature 

Say: He is God, the Unique.
God, the Self-Sufficient.
He does not give birth, nor was He born.
And there is none equal to Him.

Quran (112: 1-4)

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 May 2014 10:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  816
Joined  2012-04-25

I forget where I read it, but it makes sense. The reason for grade inflation and many others ailments of college is that colleges are no longer institutions of learning. They are corporations who sell a product to customers, and as such want to keep their customers happy. So, what customer (usually the parent footing the bill directly or with loans) wants to hear that they just paid $50k and their kid got an F.  It’s a much easier sell to the parents when their kids are getting great grades (without much effort) etc. Also, one thing that struck me a few years ago when we were going through the college tour thing for my kids was how the schools always seemed to make a big deal of Sally and Tommy having multiple majors. “Tommy is majoring in History, Math, Spanish, and Theater!!” see how much you’re getting for your money. Nevermind he won’t be able to get a job, that’s after you’ve taken out the loans.

Basically, like almost everything nowadays in the US, this is what higher education looks like in a Capitalistic/Fascistic country.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 May 2014 04:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
Moderator
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  5551
Joined  2010-06-16

One of the problems is that most people learn the procedures of mathematics without really understanding the philosophy behind it.  I gave three examples above and no one picked up on them. 

1. The instructor wanted the student to divide 2.2x10^19 by 100,000, and that’s equivalent to 2.2X10^19 divided by 10^6.  You can do the actual division or subtract the second exponent from the first.  The student should have been shown at some point in her education that they are equivalent.

2.

Our College of Education, for example, has a GPA “average” of 3.8 out of 4. So all their graduates are excellent teachers!

is presented as an example of grade inflation, and it most probably is, however, we can’t just say that without recognizing the mathematical possibility the the lower 95% of the students had dropped out so only the top 5% got the grades they deserved in relation to those who left.

3. Asking to simplify ” 2/3 - 1 “ we would think of it equalling 2/3 -3/3 thus equalling -1/3.  However, if the student has learned the basic math, but not how to deal with fractions, 2/3 - 1 equals in her/his mind 2/3 -1/1 which is correct.  If the student hadn’t learned that you can’t mess around with fractions that have different denominators, it’s easy to subtract both the numerator and denominator of the second from the first to come out with (2-1)/(3-1) or 1/2. LOL

Occam

 Signature 

Succinctness, clarity’s core.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 23 May 2014 10:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  266
Joined  2012-09-14
CuthbertJ - 22 May 2014 10:08 AM

I forget where I read it, but it makes sense. The reason for grade inflation and many others ailments of college is that colleges are no longer institutions of learning. They are corporations who sell a product to customers, and as such want to keep their customers happy. So, what customer (usually the parent footing the bill directly or with loans) wants to hear that they just paid $50k and their kid got an F.  It’s a much easier sell to the parents when their kids are getting great grades (without much effort) etc. Also, one thing that struck me a few years ago when we were going through the college tour thing for my kids was how the schools always seemed to make a big deal of Sally and Tommy having multiple majors. “Tommy is majoring in History, Math, Spanish, and Theater!!” see how much you’re getting for your money. Nevermind he won’t be able to get a job, that’s after you’ve taken out the loans.

Basically, like almost everything nowadays in the US, this is what higher education looks like in a Capitalistic/Fascistic country.

True that.

A number of scholars like Neil Postman, Hamza Yusuf, John Gatto have noticed this.  Students are too caught up trying to make sure they can get a job and no longer have a desire to learn.  Is it no wonder that we see things like this http://www.salon.com/2013/03/20/are_americans_too_stupid_for_democracy/

There is also the issue of what Dr. Postman calls “the end of education”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3G8a4Tdnab8

Good lecture given by Mr. Yusuf here.  He had examined traditional education in poor African countries and has interesting things to say.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUjV0wuUoxU

 Signature 

Say: He is God, the Unique.
God, the Self-Sufficient.
He does not give birth, nor was He born.
And there is none equal to Him.

Quran (112: 1-4)

Profile