Retired Teacher's Thought

The Story of Joan

An attempt to learn about the real estate business brought me in contact with Joan, a middle aged women who had been a million dollar salesperson in her first year. She was well dressed, attractive, very ambition and had a talent for selling. Joan was famous for her answer to a question from  prospective buyers who were aghast when they saw a foot of water in the basement of a home they might buy. “Well, think how lucky you are to know about the water. Now you can bid $3,000 lower and fix the problem for $1,000. Joan was correct; they bought and were very happy with the property. This was the middle 1970's when new starter homes were small, about 1,000 square feet, had one bathroom, three bedrooms, and cost about $40,000. Larger home s is one of the items the middle class now  purchase with productivity gains made over the last fifty years.

Joan wanted to be a real estate broker, but fail the test because of her poor mathematical skills. Math required for the license was using formulas, a little geometry, and multi-step word problems. Some of this was necessary for commercial developers but for what Joan wanted to do, little math was needed. She didn't want to split the commission. But testing is a way to limit supply of brokers thus keeping broker/manager salaries high.  As her tutor, much of what I did was build her confidence that if she did the easy questions and missed the few difficult questions, she would still pass. Needless to say, she passed the exam.

Joan was one of the most confident people I've encountered in many years of education. She went to school before testing sapped the vitality out of people who were not above average in both mathematic analysis and verbal understanding.  Interpersonal intelligence, easily the most important in the real world way isn't considered important by our academic educators. 

The Rest of the Story

Joan had a secret to her success. She belonged to the Friday 7:00 AM Howard Johnson Breakfast Club. Two or three plus salespeople from ten or so local real estate companies met, talked a little business, and created a network, a monopoly. If you needed something for sale at one of your competitors, you called your friend from Friday morning and they would call you. The more people you helped, the more people who would help you.

I once had the world's greatest house listing in A+ condition at a great location, and price correctly. Two or three sales were stopped by parents coming to visit their children and they stopped the sale. I had guaranteed the owner who was leaving for Venezuela that it would be sold and he was nervous, but not me. With two weeks to go I called Joan and agreed to split the listing commission and it was sold the next day. Some people think Joan should go to college, I think school should be designed to maximize special intelligence of people like Joan.

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Battlefield Reflections of a
Life-Long Statistic Teacher

Teaching Statistics to Open Enrollment
Evening College Students by

The Normal Curve Rules for a
Flipped Classroom for Statistics Using Excel

Introduction: After years of traditional teaching I switched to the programmed type text Quick Notes Statistics and its companion Excel Statistics Lab Manual which had all the problems and their data sets written in Excel so much of the calculation requirements were removed as an obstacle to learning. Many students were familiar with the text as they had used Quick Notes Financial Accounting and/or  Economics Interactive Class Notes with Links in previous courses. These books had concise two-page outlines per learning unit with practice problems with complete solutions.

Methodology: Class one began with a 30 minute overview of material covered on the first on a disk take-home or in-the-lab computer exam. We then adjourned to the lab with some of the better students leaving to study the lectures on their own and do required work at their leisure while the  others joined me in the lab learn to use Excel to calculate measures of central tendency. Lectures for a few nights were short previews as labs sessions with me and a few students helping with procedures. The class before the computerized test using Excel was a comprehensive 30 minute or so review where I again saw the better students and after the review a few students were off to the lab to finish their computerized  lab set due before the test. The test was on a disk and also on the lab server. This procedure was followed for tests on probability, on hypothesis testing and on correlation plus regression.

Result: 1) Being an honor system take-home or in lab computer exam resulted in the same grade distribution as for a traditional in class test where students did calculations. A large note card/cheat sheet was allowed.

2) Using computers, more material was easily covered with less work and anxiety. 

3) Only the better students learned more, much more. Students for open enrollment college classes had for 35 years divided into four groups.

Group one learned central tendency but got lost on probability. They completed the course requirements but never really learned much. They passed with low grades because of my easy grading procedures.

Group two calculated some probability functions. Hypothesis testing was poor for them as they ran into trouble deciding which Excel menu procedure to use for each of the eight different problems on the take home/lab exam. I had warned them that over 35 years grades always went down with each tests and but many were still disappointed. Some of these adults worked really hard but having to choose between finite and normal distributions, large and small samples and then between one sample and two samples eventually led to mistakes.

Group three often got the statistic correct but then had difficulty determining to accept or reject the no change null hypothesis. All the studying in the world doesn't help because they had never really understood what hypothesis testing was all about.

Group four had one final hurdle to explain what the answer meant. They had correctly accepted or rejected the null hypothesis but what did it mean? They needed to write in the analysis section that the new procedure was faster or had less defects or the new diet was better/worse or else it was back to group three and a B grade. Less than six from a class of twenty-five got almost everything correct and got a 4 points on almost every problem. A very few indeed got everything correct.

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copyright 21st Century Learning Products  

All Rights Reserved 

edited and written by Walter Antoniotti



Teach Students to Read,
 Do a Little Basic Math and
Get Out of the Way

"Computerized work has also made knowledge more abstract and more reliant on data. In the late 1970s, Ford Motor Company began to use computer-controlled fuel injection systems in place of mechanical carburetors. Ford soon experienced heavy warranty expenditures because many technicians, not understanding fuel injection, would tackle a problem by "throwing parts at it"—replacing one component after another in the hope that something would work. Ford responded by requiring that warranty repairs could only be made by technicians who had passed a training course on repairing fuel injection systems. Half of the technicians who took the training course failed, many because they could not read well enough to understand the technical manuals. They knew how to repair mechanical carburetors because they had watched other mechanics do it. Watching other mechanics could not teach them to use computerized tools to test electronic components."

By making students read what the system wants and not what the student wants means too many students never really learn to read. Reading is key and what they read is irrelevant. Teaching General Science for students who don't like science was like me taking Gym; it was a waste of time. The idea that you taking CIVICS or studying US History makes someone a good citizen is ridiculous. Let students read what they want and let the computer interpreter and direct toward their studies. Can you imagine all the money we spent educating these mechanics and they couldn't read. Algebra was not the problem. The term of a senator versus a house member wasn't the problem. They couldn't read!

Dancing with Robots“ by
Frank Levy and Richard J. Mundane,
is right and in one respect
and wrong in another.

"It is important to put these trends in perspective. American schools are not worse than they were in a previous generation. Indeed, the evidence is to the contrary. Results from the NAEP long-term assessments show that most American students now master foundational skills as defined 40 years ago—for example, reading well enough to follow directions.

Today’s education problem stems from the increased complexity of foundational skills needed by a minority of today's jobs. They also come from the changes in family income and family structure that leave a significant portion of American children unprepared to learn when they enter school. We need to help this later group with life skills. Maximize reading skill teach adding and subtracting of whole numbers and money.

It is impossible to increase the number of people with the ability to master advanced skills . Just maximize a student's special intelligence encourage them to develop foundation skills and reward their success.

Educating the Class of 2034


Education Manifesto


Education Libraries


Epilogue: The Cost of a Misdirected Education

My Keene State College 1990 Economics 101 class was given data showing that average college graduates make much more than high school graduates. They had seen it before. That is why most of them were in college. Then I showed them median income of college graduates. They were disappointed with the lower number. I explained how some really high earners make the mean higher than the median. Then I showed them data indicating the bottom quarter of college graduates earned about the same income as high school's top-quarter. They became even more unsettled. Then I gave them the lowest income statistic of all,  median income for those with just a bachelor's degree. No professional degree and doctors in this group. From the back of the room I heard  "you mean they are ripping us off.  No I said: its selling something many incorrectly feel is best for everyone.

It took about twenty years but I pleased to report that because of the Great Recession mass media coverage of the decreasing economic return from a college education is no longer sporadic . But like any unwelcome news, parents, teachers, and politicians will be the last to react properly. The collateral damage has been immense. We've lost an entire generation of young American males. This will continue unless some responsible people in the mass/social media helps make an educational system that improves the well-being of all students . Here is the collateral damage of our love affair with college.

College graduates who can't find a job and college dropouts owe over one trillion dollars in outstand college loans and are finding they do not have the skills to earn a positive economic return from their investment.

Disgruntle U.S. graduates and dropouts got little from their investment of money and many years in school.

But some took the path less traveled. 

My fourteen year-old nephews announced he wanted to attend a neighboring carpentry high school. Four years of getting up early and getting a ride from his father to grandmother's house where he waited for the school bus to take him to a new, strange school. At fourteen! After school he walked home from grandma's. No one told him from what to do; he just didn't like academics and decided on a vocational education. Now a successful small contractor, his biggest problem is convincing his wife they don't need a new Volvo every two years.

His younger brother was much more academic but found school a waste of his lazy but conniving mind. He dropped out of school in the 9th grade and  eventually went in the military. Returning from Gulf War 1 he eventually found a good unionized job in the corrections industry working for Massachusetts.  That's BIG BUCKS MASSACHUSETTS!. No one had to tell him that investing in a 401K in addition to the state retirement plan was a good idea. He also bought car mortgage insurance a year before an illness made him unable to pay said liability.  

Epitaph: Many of our best and brightest did make a proper investment in college and there are enough of them to maintain our nation's well-being. Imagine a country where the school system maximizes all kinds of all Special Intelligence rather than trying to maximizing the math/verbal intelligence of everyone including those whose learning disabilities require special attention. See

Older Generations Accumulate, Younger Generations Stagnate
from http://www.businessinsider


More Interesting Thoughts


" The mind is not a vessel to be filled , but a fire to be kindled." 
Plutarch from The Week Magazine 11/02/12 p199

Obama Wants to Enhance Early Years  Education The Economist Magazine 2/9/13
Here is some data.


"Finland on top (it scored direly in the OECD study). At least 98% of children aged five or six are in pre-school education there. Finland also dominates the overall league tables for education performance, so perhaps the scope for improvement is slight. Other enthusiastic providers of pre-school education like Sweden, Norway, France and Belgium and Denmark do not score particularly highly on attainment in later education, whereas Japan, which combines early-years provision with a fiercely competitive exam culture, excels. So too does South Korea, where the state until now has provided under half of pre-school places. So pre-school is no panacea, says Andreas Schleicher, who oversees the OECD’s big triennial PISA report on educational attainment. “Drilling children” in early years does not lead automatically to learning gains, he says."

Editor's Note: I'd trade two more years of early childhood education for two less years of high school education in a second. Academic kids not mature enough to leave home for college could so or go to a junior college or work for a while, maybe as workers in a vast public/private pre-school industry.