Friday Link Love

A few fun/interesting things from the last few weeks:

Social Networking in Its Oldest Form — BBC (video)

A man in Canada has released several thousand bottles into the ocean, and received thousand of responses from all over the world.


Women Own 1% of the World’s Property: Occupy That — Huffington

Maybe it’s because girls and women:

  • Don’t get to go to school when their brothers do
  • Get married off (don’t worry, at a good price)
  • Are deprived of food when it’s scarce
  • Aren’t allowed to own anything themselves
  • Don’t inherit
  • Aren’t paid for their labor
  • Are property. Duh.

I’m reading Ashley Judd’s biography right now (really, it’s good) and through her advocacy work she has met women all over the world who are subjected to sexual slavery and engaged in prostitution because there are not other viable options. The stories will make your skin crawl, yet she somehow manages to see hope.


Generation Gap: How Age Shapes Political Outlook — NPR/Pew

Interesting stats; I’ll let them speak for themselves.


The Way We Teach Math and Language is All Wrong — Freakonomics Blog

If we learned our first language like we usually learn second languages, it might look like this. A young child says, “I am hungry.” The parent replies, “Wait! Before saying am, you first must learn to conjugate to be in all persons and number, in the indicative, imperative, and subjunctive moods, and in the past, perfect, and future tenses.” After a few months, or maybe weeks, of this teaching, the child would conclude that it has no aptitude for languages and become mute. And human culture would perish in a generation.

If we taught math or science like we normally teach languages…oh, wait, we do! (And I believe, although with less direct knowledge, that we teach most subjects this way.)

Caroline has had a harder time with math this year, not because she doesn’t understand the concepts, but because of the wording of some of the questions, and perhaps, the way it’s being taught. We’ve been playing with the Kahn Academy videos.


What is God? — Andrew Sullivan

My heresy – and I concede it – is in rejecting the traditional view of the atonement issue. For me, Jesus’s death was not the downpayment on our salvation. He was the way, the truth and the life. His horrifying crucifixion was not some unique necessary sacrifice. It was a commonplace punishment in his time. What singled him out was the manner of his death, his refusal to stop it, his calm in embracing it, his forgiveness even of those who nailed him there, with that astonishing sentence, “Father, forgive them. For they know not what they do.”

I don’t read that as an affronted “they don’t know they are executing the Godhead himself”. I read it as “they are so consumed with fear and the world and violence and power that they require forgiveness and mercy, not condemnation”. It is this very composure, this sadness born of indescribable empathy, this inner calm and stillness, that convinces me of Jesus’ saturation with the Godhead. He was not the human equivalent of an animal sacrifice; he was the light of the world, showing us by his example how we can be happy and at peace and in love with one another and God itself.


Lots more there.


6 thoughts on “Friday Link Love

  1. Mary Beth says:

    The Ashley Judd bio was amazing; I just finished it too. While finishing the choccies you sent! Thanks.

    I learned about Joan Didion’s Blue Nights here & have just finished that one as well.

    Happy reading & Linking.

  2. Khan academy is amazing. It can even be done “off-line” on a Lynux laptop like the one we took this summer to East Africa (for teachers in Primary School).

  3. Rachel says:

    I’ve been getting on soapboxes more and more often about how math — especially higher math — is taught. If you want someone to learn, say, geometry or trigonometry or whatever, you don’t try to get people to memorize a bunch of formulas. You teach someone how to design and build an amazing bridge, then give them the math as simply the tools that help them create.


    I’d originally been skeptical of Khan academy, because the videos I looked at seemed dry (I’m not a big fan of watching someone write on a blackboard.) However, I keep coming across it as an example of a great new way of looking at education. MaryAnn (and Robert Braxton), what aspects of it do you like the most?

    • MaryAnn says:

      Your approach (which I’ve also heard elsewhere) reminds me a little bit of the quote: “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery

      Now granted we’ve only done the multiplication videos, but Caroline likes them because they explain multiplication in a very intuitive way. I was giving her some basic problems the other day in the car—she hasn’t memorized her times tables yet but the way she was thinking out loud about the problems showed me that she understood *what multiplication is* in a very natural way. So I’d give her 6×4 and she’d figure out that 6×2=12, and since 4=2×2 she could just double 12 to get the answer.

      The videos are also good because you can listen to them as many times as you want/need in order to get a concept. You can’t rewind a teacher in a classroom of 20 students. And there are practice problems that are based on your level.

      Also, we don’t use the computer that much with Caroline, so being on the computer is enough of a novelty that it will get her motivated to do math, when I know she’d balk if I asked her to sit down with me and do some work one-on-one.

      It’s not a panacea, but I think it’s a cool adjunct to what she’s getting at school. Here’s an article I liked:

      • Rachel says:

        The Antoine de Saint-Exupery quote is one of my favorites. I followed links to (available as free Creative Commons download) and found this excellent description in the forward:

        “Mathematicians see mathematics as an area of study in its own right.
        The rest of us use mathematics as a precise language for expressing relationships
        among quantities in the real world, and as a tool for deriving
        quantitative conclusions from these relationships.”

        I did see that Wired article; it’s one of the ones that started me rethinking my initial aversion. I’ve been doing a lot of volunteering in second and third grade classes and have been working hard to explain how multiplication is counting sets of things, but it’s a lot easier one-on-one than trying to explain to 30 kids in a class. I liked the idea of using Khan to get the basic idea, then going over questions etc. with the teacher.

  4. My excitement was in the specific context of dusty Kibwezi, Kenya, where textbooks are a rarity in the Primary School. The elementary tapes I was watching had to do with the concept of “carry” in arithmetic operations. I have my own way of understanding that process. My own father (a carpenter house builder) taught me to do math “in my head” and so what really intrigues me about Khan is that there are three or four ways of explaining what is going on. As an adult who likes math, I can “grasp” the other explanations (“get it”) although those ways of explaining seem a bit strange to me. What I concede (and what excites me) is that “my way” of conceptualizing may make as little sense to someone else as other ways of explaining make (little) sense to me. It is important in my view that the several ways of explanation may include (at least) one that turns on a light bulb for the particular student. To me it is sort of like preaching a sermon with two or three (not just one or zero) illustrations, one of which may “grab you” (your heart) while another may be the one with which I connect most closely. It does not bother me that the video is “boring” or takes a long time. As an elementary school student I did much of my math work in solitude as a solo. My seventh grade teacher, Mrs. Frances Thomas, seeing that California Achievement scores were at ninth grade level or above, gave me the Albegra textbook and said to me “while I teach all the other two dozen or so students their regular seventh-grade math, you do your own study from this Algebra book at your individual desk.” My personal philosophy is that when a child / learner is ready, give that person the tools and resources and let them go — as far and as fast as they are able. Our one offspring was studying high school geometry in seventh grade, college level math at TJHSST and graduate level as a Princeton undergraduate. He loved to do dining room table “math problems” as a young student (verbal problems).

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