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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

“Fake news” versus “Fake statistics” | The Online Citizen

This entry was posted in Opinion.  

A friend asked me – with all the hoohah on “fake news” – got “fake statistics” or not?

Photo: The Online Citizen
Well, from my experience analysing statistics for the last two decades or so – “fake statistics” are very very rare.
What we have are often:
  • no disclosure of the statistics
  • partial disclosure of the statistics
  • omitting statistics
  • changing the definition of the statistics
  • changing the time period of the statistics
  • not reporting statistics using international norms
  • changing the base population of the statistics
  • a combination of the above
Let me try to give some examples to illustrate the above.

“no disclosure of the statistics” – the HDB does not breakdown the price of HDB BTO flats into contruction, land and other costs. All that we know is that land is charged at market rates

“partial disclosure of the statistics” – the employment growth statistics are broken down into locals and foreigners, but not Singaporeans

“omitting statistics” – the GIC’s annualised returns are for up to 20 years in US$ – but not the annualised return from its inception in S$. In contrast, Temasek also discloses its annualised return from its inception in S$

“changing the definition of the statistics” – a part-time worker used to be defined as working not more than 30 hours a week – this was changed to 35 hours. So, arguably, by the stroke of a pen – both the categories of full-time and part-time workers’ median wages increased

Source: The Online Citizen

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From rural to actuarial | Independent Online

"When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. This was the idiom young Sfundo Manyathi, a star achiever in the 2017 matric exams, said most accurately summed up is life and, more particularly, the last three years of high school" notes KwaZulu-Natal - IOL.

The confident pupil who recently matriculated from Star College in Durban, Sfundo Manyathi, who this year aims to pursue Actuarial Science at UCT. He scored a spectacular As in the NSC matric exams.
Photo: Supplied
Sfundo told The Mercury of his journey to achieving top marks in the 2017 NSC exams.
“I was given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet with Star College, which opened doors to a new and improved life for me,” said Sfundo. “I was taken from a relatively poor township (Ntuzuma), where everything was jovial and easy, to a place where everything was challenging and serious.”
Sfundo said despite the independent school being the best thing that had happened to him, it presented a number of challenges.
One of those was trying to fit in, socially and academically. 
“It took a while for me to change my colours from street smart to academically smart, making new friends all around the school and most importantly, knowing and loving my teachers,” the charismatic student said.
Sfundo was offered a full scholarship, free stay in the school’s dormitory, free books…

He said people at the school were generous with help and emotional support throughout his schooling there and he wanted to make his teachers proud...
The principal, Osman Karayvaaz, said Sfundo was a great motivation and inspiration to other pupils.

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'Active Learning' Math Initiative Expands to 12 Universities | Inside Higher Ed

Photo: Doug Lederman
"A National Science Foundation-funded initiative aimed at expanding the use of "active learning" techniques in introductory mathematics courses is expanding from three to 12 universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities announced today" inform Doug Lederman, Editor at Inside Higher Ed.


The project, known as SEMINAL: Student Engagement in Mathematics through an Institutional Network for Active Learning, has been led by San Diego State University, the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, which have reworked their math curricula to improve student success in early courses, particularly students from underrepresented minority groups.

The nine universities joining the effort are California State University, East Bay; California State University, Fullerton; Kennesaw State University; Loyola University; Morgan State University; Ohio State University; the University of Maryland at College Park; the University of Oklahoma; and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Source: Inside Higher Ed

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Machine Learning Engineers and Data Scientists Report Highest Job Satisfaction Among Data Professionals | Customer Think - Technology

Results from the Kaggle State of Data Science and Machine Learning survey of data professionals revealed that job satisfaction varies widely across job titles. Data professionals who reported the highest level of job satisfaction were: 1) Machine Learning Engineers, 2) Data Scientists and 3) Predictive Modeler. Data professionals who reported the lowest level of job satisfaction were: 1) Engineers, 2) DBA/Database Engineers and 3) Programmers.

Photo: Bob E. Hayes
"Kaggle conducted a survey in August 2017 of over 16,000 data professionals (2017 State of Data Science and Machine Learning). Their survey included a variety of questions about data science, machine learning, education and more" reports
Bob E. Hayes, PhD (Business Over Broadway) scientist, blogger and author on CXM and data science (TCE: Total Customer Experience, Beyond the Ultimate Question and Measuring Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty).

Photo: Customer Think

Kaggle released the raw survey data and many in the data science community have analyzed the data (see link above). I will be exploring their survey data over the next couple of months. When I find something interesting, I’ll be sure to post it here on my blog. Today’s post explores the difference among data professionals on their level of job satisfaction.

The Value of Job Satisfaction 
Job satisfaction is useful metric to study in business, often used to monitor and manage employee relationships. There is much evidence supporting the utility of using job satisfaction as a way to manage your business. For example, employees who are satisfied with their job also perform better on the job and will likely stay on the job (lower turnover) compared to employees who are dissatisfied with their job. Additionally, satisfied employees deliver a better experience to their customers compared to dissatisfied employees, ultimately improving other organizational outcomes like productivity and profit...

Job Satisfaction Varies by Data Science Job Title 
Results showed that data professionals are satisfied with their current job (Mean = 6.8). I found that 75% of the respondents indicated they were satisfied (ratings between 6 and 10 inclusive). Nearly 1 out of 5 (19.4%) data professionals indicated that they were very satisfied (ratings of 9 or 10) with their job. A quarter of the data professionals said they were dissatisfied with their current job.

Results showed that job satisfaction varies significantly across job titles.

Source: Customer Think

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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Reality behind an Actuarial ‘Science’ Course… | Moneylife - Personal finance - Career

"Giri (my better half) always chides me for attempting to show things in poor light. But I cannot help it, can I? Even as I plan my annual trip to the US in February, I thought I must share certain happenings that will definitely be in the interest of the larger public" continues Moneylife

Photo: Moneylife
I know that Moneylife stands in the forefront when it comes to issues such as these, as part of its exemplary efforts in setting a new journalistic trend.
My nephew, who is based in Mumbai, was keen on his son pursuing a course in actuarial science. He sought my help, since he, somehow, believed that a seasoned academician like me will be of great help to him. I had already forewarned him about my activist instincts. Despite being a senior citizen, I have still managed to maintain my contacts in academia. It always helps. Thanks to social media networks, I have managed to stay connected.
As I began talking to one person after another, the real truth behind an actuarial science course started coming to light. It was, indeed, a shocker for me! Anyway, readers must have heard/ read about how an actuary is a most sought after person in the insurance industry and how actuaries draw huge sums of money as salaries and bonuses. Actuaries are responsible for using statistical methods to compute the amount of insurance premium. This is the main function of an actuary, though they have other roles like risk modelling, etc.
When I contacted Satish Nair (not his real name) through one of my acquaintances, he dropped a bombshell. Since pursuing an actuarial science course from India was next to impossible (I will come to it later), his daughter pursued a two-year actuarial science course from UK wiping out half of Satish’s  retirement funds. When she returned to India, hoping to land a plum job, there were no takers. After waiting for close to six months and twiddling her thumbs at home, Satish’s daughter managed to get a job in an insurance call centre (of all places) in Pune. Satish was fuming so much that if a kettle of cold water had been kept before of him, it would have heated up in no time.
So where is the problem? Why is doing an actuarial science course in India not such an exciting proposition? There are very few educational institutions that impart an actuarial science course in India. Of these, 50% offer courses that are not recognised by the industry. Gullible students get attracted to all the marketing nonsense being dished out by these institutions and end up wasting money, time and effort. Some of them end up ruining their career too.
Actually, there is a coterie that exists in an unofficial form. In one of the well-known institutes in India’s business capital that offers an actuarial science course, an outstanding student will take at least seven years to get a degree in actuarial science after his graduation—provided, he doesn’t lose interest halfway through the course.  
Source: Moneylife

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Making a good career match | New Straits Times Online - Education

"AS Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) school-leavers close one chapter in their life and start another, they now face the daunting task of taking the next step — choose the right course of study" summarizes Zulita Mustafa, Specialist Writer at New Straits Times.

Nik Faiz Iskandar Nik Zahari conducting a motivational talk for SPM school-leavers.
Photo: New Straits Times Online

After a structured school system where students generally pursue either the science or arts stream, how best can they decide on the field of study and programme?

A profession should be chosen with great care and it should not be taken lightly. The decision is the first step towards determining the path the future will take.

Nurhanani Hazamah Anuar, 20, prefers sitting exams similar to those in secondary school and the Cambridge A Level (CAL) programme fits her requirements.

CAL is a 15- to 24-month programme and it is 100 per cent exam-based, so it is similar to SPM.

However, unlike SPM where students usually sign up for nine subjects, CAL allows a choice of a minimum of three subjects such as mathematics, further mathematics, chemistry, physics, biology, economics, English literature, law and accounting.

Nurhanani, a second-year student at Taylor’s College, said it has been a relatively easy transition from secondary school and she has also enhanced her soft skills and embraced the chance of being the secretary of the CAL Student Council.

“Being involved in the council allows me to improve my skills in communicating, critical thinking, problem-solving and collaborating,” said Nurhanani, a Bank Negara scholar.

She plans to pursue a degree in accounting and finance at a university in the United Kingdom.

Another CAL student Low See Nee, 20, said he was initially keen on the Foundation of Science course at the International Medical University but finally decided on the CAL programme at INTI.

“A relative, who is an emergency department doctor, advised me to pursue the A levels programme as it is internationally recognised and therefore allows me to keep my options open.

“Besides, my focus is not only on academic performance but also gaining a wider social network among students,” said Low, who plans to pursue the Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) programme at Monash University.

Antoine Xaverian Bonaventure, 20, has had his eye on a career in the field of science since secondary school, which influenced his decision to choose the Foundation in Science programme at Taylor’s University.

“It provides the most straightforward route to achieving my ambition to become a doctor. The curriculum integrates e-learning tools and interesting science projects so that students get exposure to basic human anatomy and physiology.

“The foundation programme helps me to become a well-rounded student who does not only excel academically but also in other areas.

“Since I plan to pursue the MBBS programme at Taylor’s University School of Medicine, the foundation course is the first step to reading medicine,” said Antoine.

A foundation in science programme focuses on science-related topics, concentrating on subjects such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology and information technology.

The course not only prepares one to pursue medicine but also pharmacy and dental studies.

Foundation programmes at a university provide an advantage in terms of placement of students in degree courses at the institution.

Source: New Straits Times Online

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Monday, January 22, 2018

From undisciplined to interdisciplinary | MIT News

"Math professor Philippe Rigollet, once a “not very disciplined” student, moves between computer science and statistics" notes Larry Hardesty, computer science and technology writer at the MIT News Office.

Originally from the small town of Cluny, in the Burgundy region of France, Philippe Rigollet made the move to MIT in 2014.
Photo: Bryce Vickmark

In 1996, when he was a high school senior in the small town of Cluny, in the Burgundy region of France, Philippe Rigollet applied to several of the two-year preparatory schools that most French students attend before moving on to university. His transcript reported a stellar math grade of 19.5 out of 20, but in the small space allotted for comments, his math teacher had written “fainéant.”

Rigollet translates that word as “slacker.”

“They were really looking for slackers in those preparatory schools,” Rigollet says. “They didn’t want people who were burned out at the end of high school and couldn’t push it, because it was much harder.”

“Slacker” is not an epithet that people tend to associate with MIT professors, and Rigollet was tenured in the Department of Mathematics last year. He is also part of MIT’s Institute for Data, Systems, and Society. But in high school, Rigollet says, “I was not very disciplined about learning stuff I didn’t want to learn.” 

Fortunately, there’s a lot that he has wanted to learn. His work is notable for its interdisciplinarity, moving back and forth between the fields of statistics and computer science and bringing insights from each to the other.

Rigollet was born in a rural French town with a population of only 365. His mother was a speech therapist, and his father taught grades two through five at the local elementary school. The 30-odd students in those four grades shared a single classroom, and during math class, Rigollet’s father would pose questions to each group in turn.

“That’s where I got used to being good at math,” Rigollet says. “I would try to listen to the harder questions from the upper class.”

The community was predominantly agrarian — “Raising chickens was a big thing,” Rigollet says — but his parents had a side line in door-to-door sales of health, beauty, and home-care products for Amway. Starting when Rigollet was 4, the family would attend Amway workshops in the U.S. for a week or two almost every year.

“That balanced out somehow the fact that I had a pretty limited perspective from where I grew up — the fact that I got to visit the United States,” Rigollet says.

“Going to the mall, having Taco Bell, it was just a dream for me.”

It also explains why, despite being educated entirely in France, Rigollet speaks such fluid, idiomatic English. “My first full sentence was ‘Can I have change for the game room?’” he says.

Mathematical freedom
On the strength of his placement exams, Rigollet earned a spot at a prestigious preparatory school in Lyon, which specialized in math and physics. He still had difficulty making himself learn stuff he didn’t want to learn, however: He excelled in math, but in physics, “I was just getting by,” he says.

“In physics, the rules were set a little too strongly for me,” he says. “Math allowed you more to have your own proof or your own way of thinking. It’s funny, because some people look for structure in math, and I’m looking for freedom. In what I’m doing now, I choose the model I want, and I do the math I want, and I do the description I want of these things.”...

For a statistician with an interest in computer science, however, a department of operations research and financial engineering was never a perfect fit. So in 2015, Rigollet moved to MIT. There he has continued to pursue parallel research tracks in pure statistics and machine learning. Some of his earliest work at MIT concerned statistical methods that could be used to optimize both the design of clinical trials and the targeting of ads to web users. More recently, he’s been investigating statistical techniques for interpreting data produced by the imaging technique known as cryoelectron microscopy, whose inventors were awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Source: MIT News

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Millikin math majors discuss plans for future careers | Millikin University

A mathematics degree prepares graduates for a number of rapidly growing positions, such as a mathematician, teacher, scientist, technology professional, engineer, statistician and more. 

Photo: Millikin University

According to, as of 2015, some of the top 10 fastest-growing positions in the United States are in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), showing how important a math degree can be when it comes to developing a career.

Recently, a few Millikin University mathematics majors shared their career aspirations and discussed the importance of applying knowledge they've gained.

Among the students was Ryan Sikora, a junior from Hickory Hills, Ill., who is studying mathematics actuarial science. Sikora, who passed the Society of Actuaries' Exam P (Probability) on his first attempt in September 2017, chose actuarial science to assess risk in insurance, finance and other industries and professions.

"I've put so much work in the studies I've been doing now, and seeing all that hard work pay off has been incredible," Sikora said. "The reason I chose math and particularly actuarial science is that growing up, I was a good numbers guy. It just made sense to me. My senior year in high school, I took my first statistics class and just fell in love with the material."

Millikin's Department of Mathematics prepares actuarial science majors for two Society of Actuaries' exams, as well as two of the Validation by Educational Experience (VEE) requirements of the Society of Actuaries. The pass rate on the exam Sikora took is about 30 to 40 percent, and most students have to take it more than once to get a passing score.

"When our students do actuarial science they take a lot of business courses and many of them get a finance minor," said Dr. Joe Stickles, chair of the Mathematics Department at Millikin. "Being a math major gives you the skills to be able to succeed in almost anything that is science-related, business-related, because it teaches you how to think."

Dr. Stickles added, "Some math majors go on to law school because law is very logical, so choosing a math major to go to law school is a good choice. Philosophy is a good choice, but also psychology. Psychology programs love math people because they don't have to teach them all of the statistics."...

Dr. Stickles noted the importance of exposing Millikin mathematics majors to different experiences so that they are able to make changes and have the foundation to do anything they want to do.

"We're very big on getting our students to be able to do things independently," Dr. Stickles said.

Source: Millikin University

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Career Spotlight: Inside Actuarial Science | Knowledge Wharton Highschool

"How’s this for an unexpected new-year trend: actuarial science" inform Knowledge@Wharton High School.

Take, for instance, a January 2018 headline from News24, South Africa’s largest digital publisher. Takalani Bambela from Limpopo’s Tshivhase Secondary School near Johannesburg achieved the region’s top score in math and science on his matric exam. Matriculation or matric is a term commonly used in South Africa to refer to the final year of high school and the qualification received on graduating from high school. Bambela told News24 that he plans to study actuarial science at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, adding, “With actuarial science, I will be able to use the mathematical skills which I would have attained … to help local businesses assess and manage the risks that they will encounter along the journey of their businesses. This will result in local businesses growing … then there will be more inflow of money into our country resulting in our economy growing.”

A world away near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the U.S., Michelle McGrath, a senior at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School, is on a similar career track. McGrath, who was recently accepted to the University of Pennsylvania, also plans to study actuarial science. “I discovered my desire to be an actuary when I enrolled in AP Statistics my junior year of high school,” says McGrath, who this year is tackling AP Economics to further explore her interest in business. “I liked that there were a lot of real-world applications that we explored in statistics, which is not common for many math classes. I always knew that I wanted to major in something relating to math in college. Once my teacher mentioned being an actuary to the class, I explored the aspects of the job and thought it’d be the perfect major for me.”

From Johannesburg to Philadelphia and beyond, actuarial science is in demand these days. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that employment of actuaries is projected to grow 22% from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. And actuaries often rank high on lists of top STEM careers, top-paying jobs and even best jobs for women.
Read more... 

Source: Knowledge Wharton Highschool

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Sunday, January 21, 2018

Two exciting books to help build strong girls | Science Book a Day

It’s a scientific fact: Women rock! 


Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women by Catherine Thimmesh and Illustrated by Melissa Sweet.

Girls Think of Everything:
Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women

In kitchens and living rooms, in garages and labs and basements, even in converted chicken coops, women and girls have invented ingenious innovations that have made our lives simpler and better. Their creations are some of the most enduring (the windshield wiper) and best loved (the chocolate chip cookie). What inspired these women, and just how did they turn their ideas into realities?

Features women inventors Ruth Wakefield, Mary Anderson, Stephanie Kwolek, Bette Nesmith Graham, Patsy O. Sherman, Ann Moore, Grace Murray Hopper, Margaret E. Knight, Jeanne Lee Crews, and Valerie L. Thomas, as well as young inventors ten-year-old Becky Schroeder and eleven-year-old Alexia Abernathy. Illustrated in vibrant collage by Caldecott Honor artist Melissa Sweet.

Women In Science by Rachel Ignotofsky.
A illustrated gift book profiling 50 famous women scientists from the ancient Greek mathematician, philosopher, and astronomer, Hypatia, to Marie Curie, a physicist and chemist.

Women in Science:
50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World

A charmingly illustrated and educational book, New York Times best seller Women in Science highlights the contributions of fifty notable women to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) from the ancient to the modern world. Full of striking, singular art, this fascinating collection also contains infographics about relevant topics such as lab equipment, rates of women currently working in STEM fields, and an illustrated scientific glossary. The trailblazing women profiled include well-known figures like primatologist Jane Goodall, as well as lesser-known pioneers such as Katherine Johnson, the African-American physicist and mathematician who calculated the trajectory of the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon.

Women in Science celebrates the achievements of the intrepid women who have paved the way for the next generation of female engineers, biologists, mathematicians, doctors, astronauts, physicists, and more! 


Source: Science Book a Day

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