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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Math Is Hard


Here's a problem with the social sciences; one of many. They are called "soft sciences": meaning they can only suggest statistical probabilities, not hard facts or "laws."

But this means they require some fairly sophisticated mathematics: statistics is not simple.

And the folks who go into the social sciences are usually not very math-minded.

This alone, with all the best intentions, can make many of the field's findings dubious.

"Education" has sadly, tragically, defined itself as a social science. In order to qualify, you must these days take social science courses at a supposedly postgraduate level. Yet a solid grounding in statistics is apparently not involved. Indeed, from my own experience, the slightest understanding of statistics--and that is about my own level, the slightest understanding--would tell you that almost none of the research in the field of education is statistically valid.

Although I am far from a math whiz, I know how to bell-curve marks. But I never learned this in any education courses. I learned it from a colleague who studied postgraduate math. And, frankly, I have never yet met a teacher outside of math and the hard sciences who knew how to do this--something that seems like a basic teaching skill. In fact, I have more than once encountered incomprehension, including from supervisors, at the proposition that you could give a test for, say, fifteen marks, and nevertheless use it to assign a mark out of twenty.

Welcome to the social sciences. If you can do math, you go into the hard sciences. If you can write, you go into the humanities. If you can do neither, you become a social scientist.

But the funding is good.


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