Monday, February 02, 2015

No math gene: Learning mathematics takes practice (??)

Dear me! We do have some nonsense below. A study making claims about genetics that in fact has no genetic data is the first surprise but the way they interpret their numbers is also remarkable.  It is an extreme example of a common tendency among  Leftists academics:  The tendency to conclude what they want to conclude regardless of what the numbers say. Academics are almost all Leftists so they just KNOW what the truth is, and who cares about evidence? It is reminiscent of the way some climate scientists interpret temperature changes amounting to only hundredths of one degree as catastrophic.

What these authors found was that ability at different mathematical tasks correlated at around .50.  To anybody else that would be a high correlation but they report it as if it were  no relationship!  I could easily go on to criticize other aspects of the study (e.g. sampling) but what they in fact found was only a small departure from what others before them have found so there is no point.  The results are entirely in keeping with there being a "mathematical gene" or complex of genes.  The only slightly surprising thing about the study is the dogged refusal of the authors to face the facts. But as Leftists that is really no surprise at all.

Excerpt from a report in below followed by the journal abstract.  The original article appeared in an "author pays" journal so it is a bit surprising that seized on such rubbish.  I guess that they are Leftist too.

New research at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim could have an effect on how math is taught.

If you want to be really good at all types of math, you need to practice them all. You can't trust your innate natural talent to do most of the job for you.

This might seem obvious to some, but it goes against the traditional view that if you are good at math, it is a skill that you are simply born with.

Professor Hermundur Sigmundsson at Department of Psychology is one of three researchers involved in the project. The results have been published in Psychological Reports

The researchers tested the math skills of 70 Norwegian fifth graders, aged 10.5 years on average. Their results suggest that it is important to practice every single kind of math subject to be good at all of them, and that these skills aren't something you are born with. "We found support for a task specificity hypothesis. You become good at exactly what you practice," Sigmundsson says.

Nine types of math tasks were tested, from normal addition and subtraction, both orally and in writing, to oral multiplication and understanding the clock and the calendar.

"Our study shows little correlation between (being good at) the nine different mathematical skills, Sigmundsson said.




H. Sigmundsson et al.


Individual differences in mathematical skills are typically explained by an innate capability to solve mathematical tasks. At the behavioural level, this implies a consistent level of mathematical achievement that can be captured by strong relationships between tasks, as well as by a single statistical dimension that underlies performance on all mathematical tasks. To investigate this general assumption, the present study explored interrelations and dimensions of mathematical skills. For this purpose, 68 ten-year-old children from two schools were tested using nine mathematics tasks from the Basic Knowledge in Mathematics Test. Relatively low-to-moderate correlations between the mathematics tasks indicated most tasks shared less than 25% of their variance. There were four principal components, accounting for 70% of the variance in mathematical skill across tasks and participants. The high specificity in mathematical skills was discussed in relation to the principle of task specificity of learning.



The Smart Way to Stop Illegal Immigration

The new Congress has come ready with some fresh ideas for immigration reform. Freshman Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., said in a recent interview, “We have to start with a secure border, we have to start with a guest worker program.” Gardner is right to link border security with a guest worker visa program. The former cannot be achieved without the latter.

Gardner’s comments are an under appreciated bit of common sense in an immigration debate stubbornly stuck between the polar opposite demands for nearly unlimited border security from the populist Right and unconditional amnesty from the progressive Left. Neither position will stop illegal immigration.

Doubling down on enforcement by itself won’t work. Since 1992, there has been an almost 500 percent increase in the number of Border Patrol agents and patrol hours spent along the Southwest border. In 2014, apprehensions — a proxy measure of the number of illegal crossers — were little more than a fourth of their 2000 peak of 1.6 million. Last year’s apprehensions were almost 100,000 fewer than they were forty years ago in 1974.

Texas Republican Rep. Mike McCaul’s new Secure Our Borders First Act would amass dubious technologies at the border — fences and other security gimmicks that will have little impact on an already trivial flow of unlawful immigrants. Instead of beefing up security, a guest worker visa program could decrease illegal immigration even further. History provides a prime example.

In 1953, there were about 2 million illegal immigrants from Mexico in the United States. By 1955, the number had fallen 90 percent and the cross-border flow nearly ceased — all while the number of Border Patrol agents actually dropped. This turnaround was achieved by the expansion of the so-called “Bracero” guest worker visa program.

After the expansion, Mexican workers learned that they could get a work visa easily. The visa allowed American farmers to legally hire migrant workers with minimum government oversight. Border Patrol helped by handing illegal immigrants a Bracero visa at their worksites. Many times, Border Patrol even brought the workers to the border so they could take one step into Mexico and immediately into the U.S. legally — a process dubbed “walking around the statute.”

Once Mexican migrants realized it was simple and cheap to get a visa and American farmers realized they could hire all of the legal migrant workers they demanded, the illegal immigrant market virtually disappeared. At this point, Border Patrol and immigration enforcement focused on those few illegal immigrants that remained — a job made much easier, because Bracero shrunk their numbers so dramatically.

Bracero was ended in 1965, due primarily to opposition from labor unions. As a result, the number of illegal immigrants shot up after that year. This deprived American businesses of a legal way to hire migrants, and migrants of a safe and legal way to enter, ushering in the modern age of illegal immigration.

Enforcement is vital but it is merely an expensive band aid without a functional guest worker visa program. The government can’t get a handle on illegal immigration without a guest worker visa program to legalize much of the flow. A large and lightly regulated guest worker visa will drive would-be illegal immigrants into the legal system — an option that currently does not exist for them.

Amnesty has similarly failed to control illegal immigration — even when combined with more border security. The 1986 Ronald Reagan amnesty did both in spades but did not create a guest-worker visa. The number of illegal immigrants shot up after Reagan’s amnesty because the labor market demanded more workers but there was no legal way for them to come.

Bracero wasn’t a perfect guest worker visa, but its example shows how the opportunity for legal migration can crush illegal immigration. Gardner was right to link border security with a guest worker visa program. In practice, a functional guest worker visa makes border security possible. It’s high time Congress recognizes that.



Finally Someone on the Left Gets It: It’s Not “Violent Extremism,” It’s Radical Islam

You won’t hear me say that often, but when someone is right, they’re right.

Iraq War veteran and current Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-2) didn’t mince words in explaining how she feels about the Obama Administration’s insistence that we only refer to terrorists as “violent extremists” and not radical Islamists.

Secretary of State John Kerry has recently been on a PC trip of late doubling down on the Administration’s preferred euphemistic nomenclature, “violent extremism,” to describe those radical Islamists who are terrorizing, beheading, enslaving, and slaughtering thousands upon thousand around the globe in the name of Islam.  Secretary Kerry recently said groups like ISIS and al Qaeda are “nothing more than a form of criminal anarchy–nihilism, which illegitimately claims an ideological and religious foundation.”

As the Washington Times reports, Representative Gabbard has had enough:

"This is not just about words," the Hawaii Democrat told Fox News' Greta Van Susteren. "It's not about semantics. It's really about having a real, true understanding of who our enemy is and how important that is, that we have to understand what their motivation is and what their ideology is — the radical Islamic ideology that is fueling them."

Ms. Gabbard took umbrage with Secretary of State John Kerry's recent assertion that the criminal conduct of terrorists with the Islamic State and al Qaeda is "rooted in alienation, poverty, thrill-seeking and other factors," which she said is flat-out wrong.

"If that's really the cause, then the solution would be just to give them a trophy, give them a hug, give them a good-paying job, $10,000, and a skateboard so they can go and get their thrills and say, 'OK, great, they are going to be happy and they won't be fighting anymore,'" she said. "That's not the case. … We've got to look at what their ideology is and how that's fueling these tragic attacks that keep on occurring."

Representative Gabbard gets it. You cannot defeat an enemy that you refuse to name.

We’re no more in some esoteric war against “violent extremism” than we are against pink flying unicorns.  The fact of the matter is that there is a radical Islamic dogma that thousands of terrorists around the globe have committed their lives to.

It’s not “nihilistic,” which ironically means, “Rejecting all religious and moral principles in the belief that life is meaningless.”  Radical Islamic terrorists are exactly the opposite.  Theirs is an unyielding, dogmatic adherence to a particular interpretation of the Islamic religion where there meaning in life is to kill the infidel and bring about an Islamic state here on earth.

Representative Gabbard merely points out the deadly naivety of the Administration’s political correct blindness to the truth about the enemy we face.

Thankfully some on the Left, including Representative Gabbard and Bill Maher, are starting to get this.  But it is going to take more than a handful on the Left to right the ship on this issue before it’s too late for America’s foreign policy and the world.



Freedom of religion is under attack in the District

America was founded on freedom of religion.  But this freedom is under attack in Washington, DC. Two newly signed bills could set a precedent for other local governments to intervene in the religious beliefs of Americans.

The Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act: The bill forces pro-life employers in the District to cover elective, surgical abortions in their health plans.

The Human Rights Amendment Act: This bill forces educational organizations into promoting and condoning lifestyles, orientations, or belief that go against their religious convictions. Under the Human Rights Amendment Act, a religious school could be forced to host a gay pride day, “coming out” day, or support a student group dedicated to furthering LGBT activities.

Here’s the good news: Congress can stop this violation of liberty.  Congress has the power to overturn any law made in Washington, DC. In order to stop this, lawmakers must introduce and pass a disapproval resolution for the two bills.



Memo To Obama: Man Up And Tell Bibi To Stay Home

An excerpt from the anti-Israel libertarian Justin Raimondo below. He seems to think it meaningful that Leftists (Indyk, Foxman) are critical of a GOP-run Congress.  I would be surprised if they were anything else.  But they are making a big noise about the issue so that does get attention

Sneaking around behind the President’s back to invite a foreign leader to address Congress – specifically for the purpose of undermining how the chief executive conducts US foreign policy – would normally be regarded by patriotic conservatives with unmitigated horror. Imagine, for example, if a Democratic Congress had invited Daniel Ortega to address the assembled solons back in the 1980s, when President Reagan was (covertly) funding and supporting a contra movement to overthrow the Sandinista regime. Heads would’ve exploded all across the political spectrum, not just on the right. While this example is somewhat more dramatic than House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – for the specific purpose of undermining the nuclear talks with Iran – it isn’t by much.

The Boehner ploy has split the pro-Israel community down the middle, with such stalwarts as the Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman denouncing it as “ill-advised” and former US Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk – founder of the staunchly pro-Israel Saban Center at the Brookings Institution – saying:

“Netanyahu is using the Republican Congress for a photo-op for his election campaign, and the Republicans are using Bibi for their campaign against Obama. Unfortunately, the US relationship will take the hit. It would be far wiser for us to stay out of their politics and for them to stay out of ours.”



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