7/5/15

What does design mean to me?


Design gives heuristics for discovering an ideal harmony between form and function. To design is to seek out an equilibrium between point and counterpoint and to balance the credits and debits of our decisions. We prototype to refine and detail our judgements and, ultimately, to enrich and engage our creative process by establishing constraints and conditions: data collected is pointless unless it has a point, a purpose, and a position in our design. We search for symmetries between form and function by examining the steady states in the structure and regularity of our creative space. This multiplex of abstraction must be condensed into concrete acts and constructions. The coupling of the abstract with the concrete comes from a disciplined design, one whose problems have been understood and whose unknowns have been identified and captured using all tools under our control. My sense of design is informed by these considerations, but, in the end, it is the unique combination of an individual's intellect and intuition that brings about that fitting surprise we so desperately desire from our design.

7/3/15

7/2/15

Now you are ready to "get things done".

Collect what's "on your mind". Extract all that's trapped in your skull: put it on paper. Repeat until the signs you see become your thoughts. Now you are ready to "get things done".

6/28/15

Maybe that's all people want.

A few people had left without saying goodbye. A majority seemed to have enjoyed themselves enough to shake my hand. It wasn't a complete failure, but I couldn't help but hope things would go better next time. The need to be liked and favored in the eye of the public is unnatural to me, yet without it I'm destine to fail. Something about the miniature manipulations in casual conversation has always been off-putting to me. I wonder if other people notice the compulsive lies they let leave their lips. For most it must be easy moving like water over and around any of those pesky barriers put up by the facts.

Maybe I'm no better. Perhaps I'm as clueless of my own lies as they are. Wouldn't that be a laugh. If I am a lier like everyone else then my real problem is not lying well enough. Who's to judge me for being bad at lying even if that is the case?

I for one hope that I'm not alone in my internal conflict over the massive manipulation that is marketing. My publicist says that business is the show in show business. I'm not sure I know what she means, but it sounds good, I guess. Maybe that's all people want.

6/23/15

Translating the Common Core Math Standards for Mathematical Practice into English

If the title isn't a mouthful, then the "Standards for Mathematical Practice" are sure to fill more than just your mouth. The Common Core Math Standards are a point of contention amongst educators. Some accept them, some reject them, and others ignore them. Whether any one of these parties is in the "right" or "wrong" must be decided by considering what argument they have for supporting their position.

In general, standards are far from the environment in which education occurs. When a teacher stands in front of a classroom and presents their take on math they are not operating based on the principles set out by some governing entity. This is the same in any situation where laws are used as a tool for controlling human behavior. By setting out a standard it is believed, by some, that the behaviors needed to meet the standard will more readily be enacted in the relevant environment.

What is believed and what follows from the facts are often vastly different. In this case, it is clear that a law is only as effective at changing human behavior as it is at changing the environment so that the desired behavior is reinforced. In other words, if the classroom environment does not reinforce the behaviors described in the standard, then the standard is ultimately useless. This simple fact seems to have been forgotten by those who constructed the Common Core.

I am an expert in math, or as much as one can be in such a vast and ever developing slice of human knowledge. I have read the Common Core Standards for Math, and find them to be mathematically sound and conceptually valid. Sadly, that is where my pleasant feelings towards the standard end. If the purpose of the standard is to make a change in "student performance" then they have failed in an elegant way.

There is nothing about the Common Core math standards that is mathematically invalid. In fact, it is a wonderful summary of the fundamental topics that a student must be familiar with in order to operate in any basic science at the college level. If you want your child to be capable of performing in a technical profession, then you need them to know everything as set out in the common core. Anyone who questions that assertion is unlikely to have a familiarity either with math or with the content of the common core.

Where one can be critical of the common core is its language. Rather than writing in a way that is apt to change the educational environment it hides behind articulate abstractions, and leaves all but the collegiate level academics confused.

I will attack the most repeated part of the Math Standards: the Standards of Mathematical Practice.  I list them here for further consideration:

1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
4. Model with mathematics.
5. Use appropriate tools strategically.
6. Attend to precision.
7. Look for and make use of structure.
8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

So as not to seem arbitrary, they only listed eight standards rather than ten. Each of these statements makes sense, and  is actually a very well thought out description of the practice that is common among "mathematically proficient students", but why they are written this way is a mystery to me. If their goal is to get information into the hands of teachers and politicians that are capable of changing the environment in which education occurs then they have failed. Rather than belaboring this point, I will try to write here an alternate list of Standards for Mathematical Practice.

How to do Math Well
1. Practice solving problems.
2. Think about what you're doing while you're doing it.
3. Talk about and listen to what others have to say.
4. Math was not made to solve homework problems.
5. Think before you reach for your calculator.
6. Check your work.
7. Look for similarities.
8. Look for similarities between similarities.

To be honest, the last two points are as simply put as I could manage. The principle they're reaching for is very abstract, and is often only recognized after you've experienced the difficulty of solving many large math problems. You might disagree with my simplifications, but I challenge you to read the standards and produce better descriptions than what they have given. Remember, if the standards are to have an impact, they must make changes to the environment in which education is to occur. Overly technical specifications are very unlikely to impact the environment because they are unlikely to connect with the person reading them, and the person reading them is the only one who has the power to change the immediate environment in which education occurs.

In the future educational reforms would do well to reference universal laws of human behavior rather than specific modern studies which are unlikely to possess that timeless and impactful wisdom that has come to change the world. I'm talking about things that marketing agencies have spent decades developing. If it doesn't read well then it doesn't sell well.

6/15/15

Could this day get any worse?

A little red ant climbed up the side of the tree. I lost sight of him as he passed between the ridges of the bark. The kid in me remembered what it was like to follow ants. If you found a mound you might be lucky enough to see how they came and went. I found it soothing to watch them move about with such purpose; like the gears of a clock.

"It's time to face the facts. You haven't done anything for god knows how long. If you won't do something I will."

Little Red popped out from behind another bit of bark. He seemed to be circling back to where he'd come from. Maybe his mind changed or he thought better of going up the tree alone.

"I made an appointment with a doctor. You need help. This sitting around doing nothing has got to stop."

Why couldn't she understand? This wasn't where I was meant to be. I wasn't supposed to be like this, not by choice.

"You'll tell him everything that has happened and we'll find out what to do."

I'd lost him again. Could this day get any worse?