Warranties, part 2: Warranty for You

In the previous post we discussed whether it’s ever a good idea to buy a product warranty such as AppleCare. To answer this, we used something called expected value. For instance, if an $829 iPad has a 5% chance of failing --- and assuming AppleCare will cover the problem if it does --- we say […]

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Warranties, part 1: An AppleCare a Day

  Apple just released the new iPad, and buyers across the country are asking the same question: Should I buy AppleCare?   When you pay $829 for a 64GB 4G iPad, paying another $99 to protect it may seem like an easy decision, and for many consumers it is. After all, it would be a […]

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Le Pont de Javert

I was obsessed with Les Misérables when I was a kid. I still had the Zeppelin posters, and my first CD was Black Crowes' Shake Your Money Maker. But that didn't stop me from wanting to be Gavroche, the little Parisian kid who brags about what "little people can do" before outing Javert as a spy. […]

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Socrates & C-3PO

If you’ve opened a newspaper lately, you may be under the impression that teachers are a dying breed. A New York Times article highlights how school districts across the county are increasingly turning to virtual education, while The Nation is even more blunt: How online learning companies bought America’s schools. Indeed, it seems like it’s […]

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Jen Headlines

In addition to the Golden Rule, Confucius described the concept of jen. According to Wikipedia, jen is the "the good feeling a virtuous human experiences when behaving rightly, especially toward others." It's related to kind-heartedness, generosity and benevolence, and the higher our jen, the happier we'll be. In his recent book Born to be Good, […]

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Under the Hood: Mod Cryptog

Sometimes the outtakes are the best part of a movie. As anyone who's taught a Mathalicious lesson knows, we structure our lessons in acts (see Dan Meyer, This American Life, playwrights, etc.). The goal is to create a narrative that flows so naturally that it seems almost effortless, as though the conversation existed already and […]

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Common Sense: There's No App for That

An article in this morning's New York Times explains how after investing $33 million in technology, a school district in Arizona has seen almost no improvement in test scores. Duh. It's no surprise that we as a society have a sort-of blind faith that technology is able to solve all of our problems. Yet while […]

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WAMU Commentary: Keeping Math Real

First broadcast on WAMU 88.5, August 22, 2011. Click here to listen. In the coming weeks millions of students around the country will head back to school. They’ll buy spiral notebooks and number two pencils. They’ll get locker combinations and class schedules. And they’ll sit in math class, open their textbooks and encounter something like this: […]

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WaPo Editorial: It's all about the boring content

First printed on Valerie Strauss' Washington Post blog, The Answer Sheet on August 14, 2011. Click here for original. A 2006 New York Times article described a 4-year-old boy who presented with a persistent fever and brown spots on his skin.  Doctors concluded it was leukemia and ordered a painful round of chemotherapy.  It turned out […]

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Keeping It "Real?"

In a recent blog post, Dan Meyer describes his discomfort with the expression "real-world," writing I understand what it means. I know it's code for something that basically everybody understands. But I'm not comfortable with the implication that if the mathematics won't help you build a deck or make payroll or beat the odds at a card […]

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