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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Happy New Year! Wish You A Great 2016!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my readers and subscribers for your support and I hope that you continue to support my eLearning News with comments, suggestions in 2016.

Math, the Universal Language?

Photo: Shamree Howard
Engineer’s Bookshelf
"If we could somehow speak in mathematics instead of English, how many miscommunications would we be able to negate?" writes Shamree Howard.

I was watching one of my favorite movies the other night, Contact with Jodi Foster. There are so many great quotes in this movie, and I find myself getting caught up in the “what if” about life on other planets. It’s also a movie that I can show to my friends and family where spectrum analyzers, frequencies, and math all come together. It gives them a small glimpse into what test and measurement equipment can be used for. 

One quote in particular stuck with me after the movie: “Mathematics is the only truly universal language.” I let that phrase roll around inside my head for a while because, fundamentally, I agree with this statement, but then again it causes me problems. 

I studied abroad in France during college and participated in two electrical engineering classes and labs. I was amazed to see the female-to-male ratio in the electrical engineering classes was 1:100, but that is another topic.

One class I participated in was a repeat of one I had completed in the US. I wanted to see how the teaching methods were different and assumed it would be easy to understand since I already knew the topic. The second class was completely new to me, and I was scheduled to take it when I returned to the US. Both classes were extremely hard for me to understand in French. Of course, there were words and symbols that were universal, or at least easy to understand, like “Ω” and “électronique,” but I spent most of my time in class flipping through my dictionary. How I wish I had had an iPhone with me at the time!

I once hosted a foreign exchange student from China, and too many times we said, "Thank you, Steve Jobs," because the iPhone and iPad translation applications have been invaluable. Our exchange student was very intelligent, and, as a freshman, her math skills were two levels above her grade level. However, she had trouble in her math class. 

Source: EE Times  

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Schilling students learn with internet

"For nearly six weeks, Schilling School third-graders have been using the Internet to connect with students in Missouri, Minnesota and Canada." inform The Lockport Legend.

Schilling School third-graders listen as a student from Missouri shares his thoughts about “Fish in a Tree” with the group on Dec. 31. 
Photo: The Lockport Legend

The students have practiced their reading and comprehension skills by reading the book “Fish in a Tree” together.

Fish in a Tree

Schilling third-grade teacher Tasha Ohotzke was among those to sign her class up for the project this year.

Each week, for nearly six weeks, students would gather around Ohotzke’s laptop for a Google Hangout with the other students.

Source: The Lockport Legend
For nearly six weeks, Schilling School third-graders have been using the Internet to connect with students in Missouri, Minnesota and Canada.
The students have practiced their reading and comprehension skills by reading the book “Fish in a Tree” together.
Schilling third-grade teacher Tasha Ohotzke was among those to sign her class up for the project this year.
Each week, for nearly six weeks, students would gather around Ohotzke’s laptop for a Google Hangout with the other students.

The Most Popular Online Course Teaches You to Learn

Photo: John Markoff
John Markoff, senior writer for The New York Times reports, "Critics say Massively Open Online Course, or MOOCs, are over-hyped. But defenders say they are reaching people in unexpected ways." 

The world’s most popular online course is a general introduction to the art of learning, taught jointly by an educator and a neuroscientist. “Learning 

How To Learn,” which was created by Barbara Oakley, an electrical engineer, and Terry Sejnowski, a neuroscientist, has been ranked as the leading class by enrollment in a survey of the 50 largest online courses released earlier this month by the Online Course Report website.

The course is “aimed at a broad audience of learners who wanted to improve their learning performance based on what we know about how brains learn,” said Dr. Sejnowski, the director of the Computational Neurobiology Laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif.
With 1,192,697 students enrolled since the course was created last year, “Learning How to Learn,” which is offered by the University of California through Coursera, an online learning company which has partnered with a number of universities, has narrowly edged out the more tightly focused course, “Machine Intelligence,” taught by Stanford University professor Andrew Ng, which currently has 1,122,031 students enrolled.

The similar enrollment figures are striking in part because the field of machine learning has become one of the hottest university areas of study in recent years. High technology companies are competing intensely in Silicon Valley and elsewhere for newly minted data scientists.

The enrollment figures indicate that massively open online courses, or MOOCs, which in 2012 emerged as a potentially disruptive force that some believed might threaten the modern educational system, are continuing to evolve and gaining broad acceptance as part of an increasingly diverse marketplace for online education.
The Achilles heel of the MOOC phenomena has been that while enrollments have been huge, the number of students who actually complete courses for credit has remained low. That has led traditional educators to argue that the new technology would fail because students are generally less motivated to complete coursework online.
The completion rate — or “stickiness” — of the “Learning How to Learn” course has been above 20 percent, said Dr. Sejnowski, roughly twice the average for most MOOCs. He said the course is now attracting about 2,000 new students a day from 200 countries. The course was created after the two researchers met at the National Science Foundation-financed Science of Learning Center at the University of California at San Diego, which Dr. Sejnowski directs.
Dr. Oakley, a professor of engineering at Oakland University in Michigan, acknowledged that although only roughly 50,000 of the more than one million enrollees in her course had actually received a certificate for the course, certification was the wrong metric to understand the impact of the new form of online education. 

Source: New York Times (blog)

Inside A Chinese Coding Boot Camp

Photo: Matt Sheehan
"Can "mass innovation" help China vault over the middle income trap?" summarizes Matt Sheehan, covers China for The WorldPost.

Students take part in a coding class at Uplooking's Beijing headquarters. 
Photo: Courtesy of WYZC

In this fluorescent-lit classroom in northwest Beijing, a bespectacled Chinese man who calls himself Shrek is doing his part to haul China’s economy into the 21st century. He is the founder of a coding boot camp and online education platform that trains thousands of young Chinese to program Apple Watches, maintain Oracle databases and build Android apps -- the very skills that China’s leaders hope will vault the country toward a high-income economy.

The country’s traditional sources of growth, cheap exports and massive infrastructure spending, are sputtering -- and economists warn that if China doesn’t move up the value chain, it could fall into the notorious “middle-income trap.” Transitioning away from these mainstays of economic growth will be wrenching for China's industrial rustbelt, but Chinese leaders are banking on "mass innovation" to pick up the slack. China's Premier Li Keqiang has spent two years exhorting the country’s youth toward “mass entrepreneurship,” frequently rhapsodizing on the power of innovation to provide high-paying tech jobs and to upgrade traditional industries.

Government-orchestrated mass mobilizations are part of the Maoist DNA of modern China. But how can an education system that rewards rote memorization and a government that prizes stability above all else train a new generation of innovative coders intent on disruption? That’s where Shrek comes in. (His real name is Qie Xiaoye. He chose “Shrek” because his wife’s English name is Fiona and his personality matches the gentle green ogre.) 

“The biggest advantage is that the government doesn’t understand this industry, so they don’t strangle it,” Shrek told The WorldPost. “If the government starts getting involved, it will just suck the life out of it.”

Shrek, aka Qie Xiaoye, founded the coding academies Uplooking and WYZC. 
Photo: Courtesy of WYZC

Standing outside the official education apparatus, coding schools like Shrek’s aren’t burdened by tightly-controlled curriculums, stodgy ideology, or high-stakes testing regimens. The goal is simple: teach the students the skills they need to get a job in China’s new tech boom.

That includes students like Wang Ruyi, an insatiably curious 22-year-old who hails from China’s poorest province, Guizhou. Wang grew up in a remote village where ownership of a water buffalo signaled a family’s economic standing. His father dropped out in third grade and his mother never attended a day of school.

But after earning a bachelors degree in computer science from a local university, Wang enrolled in an iOS development course at Shrek’s Beijing coding academy, Uplooking. Wang speaks quickly, riffing on topics ranging from Chinese philosophy to the power of code to unlock deep human mysteries.

“What if we found the code that created the world? Of course this is super far away, but it’s this kind of thought [that inspires me],” Wang said. “I’m curious about the whole world, and it’s this curiosity that drew me into this industry.”

That kind of curiosity is often squashed in the rat race that is China's public education system. Chinese students devote their middle and high school years to preparing for gaokao, the country’s grueling college entrance exam. Preparation for the test can be all-consuming, and robs many students of both a social life and a passion for learning.

“You grind it out for 12 years,” Wang told The WorldPost. “Lots of people get to college and if they don’t have their own goals they just let themselves go. … The guys just play video games all day, the girls just get made up and go out.”
Wang spent his undergrad years skipping class to travel or work side jobs, and he emerged with a degree in computer science but few practical skills. He says virtually no one in his home province of Guizhou could teach him iOS, and so he made the journey to the capital and enrolled at Uplooking.

The crash course in iOS development had him in class all day, and sometimes writing code into the wee hours of the morning. For his final project, he built a reading app for military news.
Read more... 

Source: Huffington Post

Monday, December 28, 2015

Now, join the virtual classroom

"WizIQ, a new-age startup, is creating a shared economy for teachers" summarizes Financial Express.

Photo: WizIQ

Online  With elevated internet penetration, the concept of online education, virtual classrooms and digital tutorials are now the considered norm.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious vision of Digital India promises to connect citizens to services digitally. And WizIQ is one of them. Offering a dynamic platform for educators and teachers spread across geographies, Gurgaon-based WizIQ is one such platform that is playing the aggregators’ role perfectly. It is an open-forum where people from diverse locations can come online and take virtual classes based on course module that is specific and not pre-defined as per the renowned traditional Indian education system.

Photo: Harman Singh
As an aggregator of education, WizIQ allows people flexibility, time-conservation, cuts down the logistic issues as well as saves money and time that goes wasted in starting a course from the scratch when all one needs to understand might involve a single chapter. Started by Harman Singh, this new-age startup offers a plethora of features that enable providers to set up their branded academy within minutes, without upfront investments in server infrastructure or development efforts. For instance, WizIQ Mobile Application for Learning provides a fully-integrated, social and easy-to-use platform with a mobile app for online learning to match the online academy.

WizIQ Virtual Classroom provides all the features and tools needed to simulate the face-to-face classroom experience, with real-time audio-visual communication, polling functions, video and text chatting, breakout rooms, interactive whiteboards, and screen sharing to enable peer collaboration and synchronous learning.
Read more... 

Related link
WizIQ - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Source: Financial Express

Sunday, December 27, 2015

PBS On: How smart is today’s artificial intelligence?

Photo: Bob Gourley
"The video at this link and embedded below captures a 9 minute summary of Artificial Intelligence produced by PBS."  according to Bob Gourley, co-founder and Partner at Cognitio, the publisher of and
Photo: CTOvision (blog)

'It includes good research and video of computers and robots (and even an interview with Ray Kurzweil).

How smart is today's artificial intelligence? 

Source: CTOvision (blog) and PBS NewsHour Channel (YouTube)

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Is On Its Way To Success!

"After last week a team of researchers showed that AI is on its way to success, this week tech companies invest into artificial intelligence." continues Apex Beats.

We already have very smart phones, high-quality operating systems which allow us to browse the internet, play games, pay our bills, or watch TV. We also have virtual reality. It comes in headsets and we can enjoy running away from our real reality for a while. What’s more we’ll soon be having self-driving cars. And finally, we have artificial intelligence to top it all off.

Artificial intelligence is something that until a while ago it seemed to be out of our reach. Now, as scientific breakthroughs seem to happen every other day and technology moves so fast that if you blink you might lose the launch of a newer, better device, it’s about time that we get our hands on the artificial intelligence that seemed so far off.

Recently, a team of scientists conducted some tests and managed to make a computer program learn in the way humans learn. This development means that AI could soon reach its true potential. Which means it should represent a good investment for tech companies.

This is why Amazon Web Services, YC Research and Infosys are donating $1 billion to the OpenAi project. However, it looks like the donations are some sort of charity for science, as the companies expect nothing in return besides results, of course. They are looking forward to the day in which OpenAI changes our world as we know it.

Artificial Intelligence is however a pretty new field of expertise and scientists still cannot say for sure what sort of impact it could have; whether it will be negative or positive and at what level. As they aren’t sure of the benefits or the harm AI could bring to humanity. This is why they will always make their work public.

The AI is also controversial because there are people who think it could pose a threat to humans. After all the sci-fi movies showing us how robots are a lot smarter, it’s quite hard not to fear the rise of artificial intelligence.

Until the rise of AI, many scientists and tech people including Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking believe some sort of regulations should be imposed at a national or worldwide level, to make sure all research will be under control.

Source: Apex Beats

One more learning centre for teachers

Photo: Rishikesh Bahadur Desai,
"Buoyed by the success of the Teachers Learning Centre in Hallikhed-Bujurg village, the Azim Premji Foundation will set up a second such centre in Chitaguppa village in Bidar district." inform Rishikesh Bahadur Desai, Principal Correspondent, The Hindu.

A local committee, comprising eminent citizens, members of educational institutions and other civil society groups, has been formed. The centre will come up inside the premises of the government school in the town in a few months.

The centre in Hallikhed-Bujurg has successfully conducted over 100 training sessions for teachers in a year. 
While headmasters have been trained in leadership qualities, subject teachers have been trained in languages, science and mathematics and humanities.

The foundation has identified resource persons across the State for each subject. They regularly visit the centre and speak of recent advances in the subjects. They also train teachers in efficient teaching methods. 
While some give lectures, others show video clips or use multi-media tools.

These classes are usually held on week-ends.

“The most important achievement of the centre, however, is in creating a platform for exchanging ideas,” says Uday Kumar, coordinator of the centre. Teachers gather at the centre after school hours, read magazines, surf the Internet and share their class room experiences. This happens every day.

“While other professionals like doctors, engineer or lawyers form associations and routinely meet, teachers have been deprived of this for long. We are very happy to get one where we meet and discuss,” Rajkumar Arya, a member of the mathematics group, said.

The foundation’s activities in Hyderabad Karnataka have improved the quality of teaching in government schools, cemented the fraternity among teachers and made the teaching-learning process more attractive for students, says Umashankar Pairodi, programme coordinator for the region.

Source:  The Hindu

Saturday, December 26, 2015

5 deep learning startups to follow in 2016

Photo: Jordan Novet
Jordan Novet, VentureBeat staff writer based in San Francisco reports, "So much has happened this year in the world of deep learning, that trendy type of artificial intelligence that entails training artificial neural networks on large data sets and then getting them to make inferences about new data."

Above: Part of the Vuno team.
Photo: Vuno
There have been technical breakthroughs, acquisitions, funding deals, open source releases in the field, and even the establishment of a nonprofit research lab backed by the likes of Elon Musk and Peter Thiel.

All of the startups I included in my roundup “5 deep learning startups to follow in 2015” (as well as others, like Clarifai) have made progress of some kind this year. Now, as we wrap up 2015 and get ready for 2016, a different set of deep learning startups are top of mind for me.

Here they are:

Deep Instinct 
Here’s a startup that’s trying to use deep learning to get big in the antivirus software market. Deep Instinct officially launched last month. Chief technology officer Omid “Eli” David, who received a Ph.D. in computer science at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, is a longtime computer chess researcher who published a paper (PDF) on deep belief networks for malware classification earlier this year. Deep Instinct’s investors include UST Global and Blumberg Capital.

Source: VentureBeat

Why Upskilling Is Crucial To Survival In Small Business

Photo: Cathy Anderson
Cathy Anderson, The Huffington Post summarizes, "Anyone who leaves a job to start a small business knows that instead of wearing one hat at work you need to start wearing 50."

Small business owners and their teams need to upskill constantly to do all the tasks themselves. 
Photo: | m-gucci via Getty Images

You cease to become a single-task employee and become the manager, the bookkeeer, the marketer, the HR manager, the development manager and the chief dishwasher.

Joe Powell from Seek Learning said being involved in all facets of the business usually required upskilling, whether it was informal learning from peers and mentors or more formal courses such as those offered by Seek.

“There are many different triggers that may prompt someone to feel it’s time to upskill,” he said.

“It could be the realisation that they are missing a skill critical to the current success of their business -- so it’s really about gaining that knowledge as soon as possible.

“It’s certainly not a one-off process either – as business continues to evolve, so too do the ways operators need to work and the reality of this can mean constant upskilling -- formal and informal -- to ensure your business is successful in the long term.”

Resources are often scarce for small business owners too, and Powell said this was why many undertook courses.

“As they’re running their own business, the more they can do themselves, the less they’re paying for someone else to do for them, which often helps manage the cash-flow and expenses of a small business start up,” he said.

“For small business owners there is so much they need to be across, and it’s unrealistic for them to think they can know it all so it’s important to consider; what can I outsource? What would I be happy to keep doing if I can gain more skills in that area?”

Powell said courses didn’t have to be a three-year degree -- short courses, diplomas, certificates and even volunteering could lead to a better-run business. And studying online can help time-poor startups too -- freeing up valuable time to actually plan and run the business rather than sit in a classroom...

Here, three business owners reveal how they retrained themselves in order to run their business.

James Wakefield Co-founder of InStitchu.

James Wakefield went from being an Associate Adviser in Macquarie Private Wealth at Macquarie Bank to co-founding a men’s tailor business after having trouble filling his own corporate wardrobe.
“We were tired of searching for high quality affordable business attire and it turned out we weren’t the only ones,” he said. “One day a mate of mine and (co-founder) Robin’s came home with a tailor made suit from Thailand, and we both realised that we could do something about it and leverage the internet to bridge the gap between high-end tailors in Asia and consumers all over the world.”...

Sebastian Pedavoli, co-founder and creative director of Proxima.

Launching a digital creative company was a logical move for Sebastian Pedavoli, who was previously a graphic designer and project manager for a small creative agency. But soon after he learnt there were skills he lacked.

“About six months into starting my first digital creative company I realised I needed to upskill,” he said.
“The idealistic vision I had of running my own business was quickly coming apart once I realised what was involved in actually keeping all the balls I was juggling in the air.

“I knew my craft well and where I brought value to the business. But it’s the areas that you know exist but don’t have a great deal of knowledge in like sales, bookkeeping and staff management, that start to stack up and consume your time.”...

David Fastuca, Chief Designer Officer & Co-founder of Locomote.

So many business owners fall into an industry they never expected. Just ask David Fastuca.

Before he launched corporate travel company Locomote, he and his cousin Ross Fastuca were in the multimedia and web design business.

“We knew we wanted our business to be related to technology and design; with Ross being majored in multimedia design and myself in communication design, we’ve always been interested in simplifying and enhancing the way people interact with technology.

“Locomote was our opportunity to create a great user experience and seamless interface, unlike any other platforms already out there.”
Read more... 

Source: Huffington Post Australia

The Complete Package: A Modern-Day Student's Path To Success

"In the OECDs annual Education at a Glance report for 2014, researchers found that it is becoming more common for students to attain at least a secondary education across most regions of the globe, but they also found it’s becoming ever more common for students to then pursue a tertiary higher education." inform Study International Staff.

Education at a Glance 2014
Education at a Glance: OECD Indicators is the authoritative source for accurate and relevant information on the state of education around the world. It provides data on the structure, finances, and performance of education systems in the OECD’s 34 member countries, as well as a number of partner countries.
Reference: OECD (2014), Education at a Glance 2014: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris.

The publication collects data from 34 OECD countries, as well as some non-OECD regions, including Brazil, Russia, Argentina, China, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Latvia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.

The report showed that roughly eight out of 10 young adults (aged 25-34) within the surveyed countries had completed upper secondary education. As for practical education  and experience, attainment levels were comparatively lower, with roughly three in every 10 adults having attained it. But the report points out that these levels have risen 10 percent across all OECD countries since the year 2000, demonstrating the sharp rise in not only practical education, but a modern, blended education - where students are able to develop a well-rounded skill set of academic knowledge and practical experience.

The debate on practical skills versus theoretical knowledge is one that has been progressing almost as long as taught education itself. Whilst the benefits of a theoretical, academic education can be seen through the successes of the scholars of history, it is also the practical and applied education that has changed our society & culture in so many ways and influenced how we live today.

Historically one may have had to choose which school of thought to belong to, but the more society progresses it is becoming increasingly important to realise that education does not have to be purely theoretical, or purely practical, but that a mixture of the two is the most beneficial for the young people of today, and in turn society itself.

“Bias against [any particular type of] education is dysfunctional,” writes Mark Phillips, professor emeritus of secondary education at San Francisco State University. “[Our children] should have the opportunity to be trained in whatever skills their natural gifts and preferences lead them to."

More and more, employers across the globe are seeking qualified employees with a good balance of academic prowess, practical knowledge and specialised skills, such as those gained from universities of applied sciences. The practical, applicable guidance students at these institutions receive, paired with the rigour of the academic curriculum they study, not only increases participation in a highly skilled workforce, it also allows companies to take advantage of new technologies, and pushes improvements in productivity across the whole nation’s economy.

Photo: Study International News

Many universities across the world, especially applied science institutions in Europe, are heavily investing in practical training alongside ironclad academia – a method that has been shown to greatly improve rates of youth employment, and in turn improve a country’s economic and social status...

Sebastian Vasile studied Mathematical Engineering at Inholland University of Applied Sciences, one of the most popular Universities of its kind due to its unique and culturally diverse location in central Amsterdam. The University also offers undergraduate programmes in Aeronautical Engineering, International Business Innovation Studies, International Music Management, Media and Entertainment Management and Tourism Management. Sebastian claims the work placement opportunities hugely swayed him in the process of deciding which university he should go to as he knew the experience could see him into a career virtually anywhere in the world.

"I am currently doing my individual project internship," says Sebastian, "which requires me to work at a company as part of the programme curriculum. The job revolves around mobile development. Besides that, I did have a part-time job during my third year of studies, where I worked as a web developer.

"Although at times it was a challenging, it did not hinder my school activities and performance as I always aimed to put school as my main objective. Overall, I can state that because of information gained in school, as well as some extra work experience, I was able to find a job and an internship rather easily."

Read on to learn more about some of best Universities of Applied Sciences that Europe has to offer, providing students with the highest quality academics and industry standard experience…

Inholland University of Applied Sciences is an ambitious institution with over 29,000 students, 26 research groups, more than 110 nationalities, and approximately 1,800 employees. Those who study at Inholland University of Applied Sciences can be assured of a top-quality professional education, both in content and norms and values. Over several campuses across the Netherlands, Inholland offers a wide variety of programmes, with 6 bachelor programmes taught in English, in all fields of study from mathematic engineering  to tourism management. Courses are geared towards the needs of the professional field, resulting in top-quality degrees and in-demand graduation tracks. The majority of the English taught programmes are located at the Amsterdam campus, the perfect place to study due to its central location in Europe, cultural diversity, thriving social scene, unique character and student-friendly community atmosphere.

Munich University of Applied Sciences is a modern, service-orientated University in one of the most liveable cities in the world. It is also the largest applied sciences institution in the whole of Germany. With over 17,800 students, around 500 professors, 750 lecturers and 660 staff, the School is committed to its own guiding principle, to transform knowledge into know-how and learners into leaders.” Course offerings are multifaceted: 14 departments in the areas of technology, economy, social studies and design provide teaching in over 70 study courses. Study courses can also be individually designed, providing a multifaceted approach that guarantees you individuality as you maximise your strengths and implement your ideas.

Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Finland’s largest university of its kind, educates the professionals of tomorrow in the fields of culture, business, health care and social services, and technology. The School is home to 16,500 students, 1,080 members of staff and 67 degree programmes - 15 of which are in English. The School is the most popular University of Applied Sciences in Finland in terms of applicants and the second most popular in terms of attractiveness, with 6.3 first-choice applicants per study place for the year 2014. Metropolia aims to be Finland's best ranked university of applied sciences.

Over the past few years the IMC University of Applied Sciences Krems has built up a strong international reputation and now has over 2,500 students from all over the world. Through a combination of academic and business expertise, IMC opens up excellent domestic and international career opportunities for all of its graduate students. An international approach and practical focus are the School’s leading priorities. University level education tailored to professional requirements demands a solid academic background, and in order to equip them for the challenges of working life, IMC Krems students have the opportunity to study abroad or complete an internship with one of its 1,000 partner businesses worldwide.

Read more... 

Additional resources  

Education at a Glance 2015

Education at a Glance: OECD Indicators is the authoritative source for accurate information on the state of education around the world. It provides data on the output of educational institutions; the impact of learning across countries; the financial and human resources invested in education; access, participation and progression in education; and the learning environment and organisation of schools.
Reference: OECD (2015), Education at a Glance 2015: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris.

Source: Study International News

Friday, December 25, 2015

Don't freak if you can't solve a math problem that's gone viral by Kevin Knudson

Photo: Kevin Knudson
"They're easier than you think." according to Kevin KnudsonProfessor of Mathematics, University of Florida.

It's been quite a year for mathematics problems on the Internet - three questions have been online everywhere, causing consternation and head-scratching and blowing the minds of adults worldwide as examples of what kids are expected to know these days.

Photo: Flickr / Robert Couse-Baker

As a mathematician, I suppose I should subscribe to the 'no such thing as bad publicity' theory, except that problems of this ilk a) usually aren't that difficult once you get the trick, b) sometimes aren't even math problems and c) fuel the defeatist 'I'm not good at math' fire that pervades American culture.

The inability to solve such a problem quickly is certainly not indicative of a person's overall math skill, nor should it prompt a crisis of confidence about the state of American math aptitude.

When is Cheryl's birthday?  
In April, the Internet erupted with shock that 10-year-olds in Singapore were asked to answer the following question on an exam. 

The logic puzzle from the Singapore and Asian Math Olympiads.

Except that it wasn't for elementary school students at all; rather it appeared on an Asian Olympiad exam designed for mathematically talented high school students. What's more, this isn't even a math problem, but a logic problem. It's true that students tend to learn formal logic via mathematics (plane geometry in particular), so it is common to see problems of this type in mathematics competitions.

When I was in junior high, we spent a good deal of time on these puzzles in my language arts class, and I met them again when taking the GRE prior to entering graduate school (the test contains a whole section of them). If you're stumped, check out a solution to the problem.

Vietnamese eight-year-olds do arithmetic 
A month later, we heard about a third grade teacher in Vietnam who set the following puzzle for his students. Place the digits from one to nine in this grid, using each only once (the : represents division).

A puzzle for Vietnamese children. VN Express
This reminds me of the (probably apocraphyl) story of one of the greatest mathematicians in history, Carl Friedrich Gauss. Legend has it that when Gauss was seven or eight, his teacher, wanting to occupy his students for a while, told the class to add up the numbers from 1 to 100. Gauss thought about it for 30 seconds or so and wrote the correct answer, 5,050, on his slate and turned it in. 

The puzzle above has a similar feel. It's really a question about knowing the order of arithmetic operations (multiplication/division, addition/subtraction, in that order). Beyond that, it just takes trial and error; that is, it's kind of just busy work. Someone who knows some algebra might be able to generate some equations to gain insight into how you might find a solution. 

Another approach would be to open up a spreadsheet program and just try all the possibilities. Since there are nine choices for the first box, then eight choices for the second, and so on, there are only (9)(8)(7)(6)(5)(4)(3)(2)(1) = 362,880 possible configurations, of which only a few will give a valid equation. This can be programmed with very little effort. 
Read more... 

Related link  
This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Source: ScienceAlert 

The African Origins of Christmas by Anthony Browder

Photo: Anthony Browder
Historian, author, and educator Anthony Browder summarizes the African origins of Christmas.

The African Origins of Christmas

QUESTION: What are the African origins of what is often now considered to be the “Christmas” or “holiday” season?

ANTHONY BROWDER: Generally what we consider to be holidays were in fact holy days in Africa, specifically in [ ] Egypt, [ ] culture and civilization. And these holy days were timed to coincide with the relationship between specific celestial phenomenon. The heavens, stars, constellations, the sun and planet earth. And that relationship literally affects everything on the planet. And because there was a specific impact on the way that the earth's relationship to the sun, as it revolves around the sun, affects everything on the earth, there's specific times for certain holy celebrations were, were organized.

So this season, this winter season, is a time where we're approaching the winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year. And we have celebrations now, Hanukkah, festival of lights. We have Christmas, with Christmas lights. These lights refer to the fact that on the winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year, day in which in the Northern hemisphere we have 19 hours of night. And then the winter solstice expands from four days, December 21-24. And then after that four-day period of time, then the sun is born on December 25. That is, the length of the day begins to increase by approximately one minute per day.

And that time frame was viewed in ancient Africa as the birth of the sun, the S-U-N. In other cultures or traditions, that tradition came down to us as the birth of a savior, who is viewed as the son, the son of God. But many of the traditions that we now find in Christianity, for example, the birth of Jesus on December 25, the birth of Jesus in a stable, all refer to specific phenomena that were happening in the heavens, and were acknowledged by Africans in Kemet, in the Nile valley, over 6,000 years ago. 

QUESTION: How is any of this known? 

BROWDER: We know this because we can look up in the sky at night and we can see specifically the constellation of Orion dominates the nighttime sky. And the constellation of Orion was known to the ancient Egyptians as Sahu. That was the constellation associated with a primary deity by the name of Asar or Osiris. He was the lord of resurrection. And according to the story, Asar was murdered by his brother. And after his death, his spirit came and impregnated his virgin wife, Auset, who then nine months later gave birth to their son Heru on December 25.

Now, this story sounds familiar because it's a story, it's an African story, that's over 6,000 years old. Haru was born on December 25, the same birthday as his father. He was born to avenge the murder of his father and restore his father's kingdom. So this is a story, this is a myth that was a metaphor to help explain specific phenomena that were happening in heaven. So the priests in ancient Kemet were aware of this phenomenon, and they in turn created rituals that will allow the people to maintain a certain system of order.

After foreigners came in to Kemet, they adopted many of the traditions of the Nile valley, and they adopted many of the personalities and changed their names. So Asar was renamed Osiris, Auset was renamed Isis, Heru was renamed Horus. And then that story is a story that is later modified after the Romans conquer Egypt in 30 BCE, took Egypt away from the Greeks. And they then took these same personalities and they were known to their people as the Madonna and child, the black Madonna and child. And ultimately when Rome began to establish Christianity as the state religion, they then took this story of Asar, who is known as the lord of resurrection, and his son Heru, and morphed them into the religion that we now know as Christianity, with the birth of Jesus on December 25.

So we can break this, this phenomena down to precise detail. Because December 25 is the birth of the sun, S-U-N, when the length of the day begins to increase by approximately one minute per day. At the moment of the birth of the sun, the constellation of Orion is in the constellation known as Sagittarius, or which was known in ancient times as the stable of Aegeus. So it was said that the sun was born in a stable. There are three stars in the belt of Orion, which makes this constellation so readily identifiable. And those three stars point to the Eastern star, which we now know today is Sirius. Sirius is the star system that was associated with Auset, the wife of Asar and the mother of Heru.

So in ancient times in Kemet, those three stars in the belt of Orion, or Sahu, were known as the three wise men, or the three kings. The Eastern star, or Auset, rises in the east around the time of the birth of the sun on December 25. And at the same time that Eastern star is rising, it is rising in the constellation of Virgo, the virgin. And so it was said then that the son is born of a virgin because the constellation Virgo is halfway above the horizon, literally being bisected by the horizon. So the son was said to have been born of a virgin.

So this was a metaphor, if you will, for a celestial phenomenon that determined specific things that were happening on earth. Others appropriated this knowledge and then incorporated it into their religious system, and changed the names of these original mythological personalities. So now know beyond the shadow of a doubt that the celebration of December 25 as the birth of Jesus was a celebration that did not come into existence until at least 350 years after the birth of Christ. It was a result of conferences and meetings that were held by Constantine and Theodosius in order to hammer out the basic traditions of what would be the official state religion of the Holy Roman Empire. And no minister, no theologian today worth their salt can tell you with honesty that Jesus was born on December 25. Nobody knows the date that Jesus was born. The date was appropriated because for thousands of years prior to the birth of Jesus that date, December 25, had been celebrated as the birth of the sun, S-U-N.
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Source: The Real News Network and TheRealNews Channel (YouTube)