Saturday Morning Mathematics

Saturday morning Owen and I were having some fun with math (Marcus helped by turning an otherwise orderly counting process into more of a Monte Carlo process). We started by counting the change in his piggy bank: 1363 pennies in various denominations. While putting the change back in the bank, Owen paused and said, "Daddy, do you know what 37 plus 16 is? It's 53!" I figured he got pretty lucky since we normally do double-digit addition on paper, not in his head. Assuming it was just a fluke, I asked him what 55 plus 13 was. He paused, and I thought he was stumped. Then, after about 10 seconds he exclaimed, "Oh, I know! It's 68!" Well, I'll be!

So I grabbed the camera as we proceeded down the stairs:

I'm pretty amazed at his ability to compute in his head. I think he has a real talent for visualizing numbers and manipulating them spatially (if that's the right term). My mom often recounts the story of me, when I was 5, telling her how many quarters were in two dollars, then three and four dollars. But Owen also has an amazing memory, which is something I lack. I often joke that I have a good processor and fast RAM, but a faulty hard drive (I'm doubly hamstrung because I don't do a good job of keeping notes). Owen's hard drive is like a vault.

Sorry to boast on my boy, but I'm definitely one proud father. As long as he's interested in playing math games, I'm more than happy to oblige. Of course, he may grow up and want to enroll in theater school. If he does, I'll support him fully. But for now, I'm gonna enjoy all the math and football.

jcom said…
Wow what a smart kid! Lemme know if he's looking for a summer REU.
blissful_e said…
Awesome!! Go Owen!!

On the Height of J.J. Barea

Dallas Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea standing between two very tall people (from: Picassa user photoasisphoto).

Congrats to the Dallas Mavericks, who beat the Miami Heat tonight in game six to win the NBA championship.

Okay, with that out of the way, just how tall is the busy-footed Maverick point guard J.J. Barea? He's listed as 6-foot on NBA.com, but no one, not even the sports casters, believes that he can possibly be that tall. He looks like a super-fast Hobbit out there. But could that just be relative scaling, with him standing next to a bunch of extremely tall people? People on Yahoo! Answers think so---I know because I've been Google searching "J.J. Barea Height" for the past 15 minutes.

So I decided to find a photo and settle the issue once and for all.

I then used the basketball as my metric. Wikipedia states that an NBA basketball is 29.5 inches in circumfe…

The Long Con

Hiding in Plain Sight

ESPN has a series of sports documentaries called 30 For 30. One of my favorites is called Broke which is about how professional athletes often make tens of millions of dollars in their careers yet retire with nothing. One of the major "leaks" turns out to be con artists, who lure athletes into elaborate real estate schemes or business ventures. This naturally raises the question: In a tightly-knit social structure that is a sports team, how can con artists operate so effectively and extensively? The answer is quite simple: very few people taken in by con artists ever tell anyone what happened. Thus, con artists can operate out in the open with little fear of consequences because they are shielded by the collective silence of their victims.
I can empathize with this. I've lost money in two different con schemes. One was when I was in college, and I received a phone call that I had won an all-expenses-paid trip to the Bahamas. All I needed to do was p…

The GRE: A test that fails

Every Fall seniors in the US take the Graduate Records Examination (GRE), and their scores are submitted along with their applications to grad school. Many professors, particularly those in physics departments, believe that the GRE is an important predictor of future success in grad school, and as a result many admissions committees employ score cutoffs in the early stages of their selection process. However, past and recent studies have shown that there is little correlation between GRE scores and future graduate school success.
The most recent study of this type was recently published in Nature Jobs. The authors, Casey Miller and Keivan Stassun show there are strong correlations between GRE scores and race/gender, with minorities and (US) white women scoring lower than their white male (US) counterparts. They conclude, "In simple terms, the GRE is a better indicator of sex and skin colour than of ability and ultimate success."
Here's the key figure from their article: