J Walking

J Walking

Feisty daughter, proud Papa

I’m not sure I should be as pleased by this as I am. But I am.
One of my daughters is learning pre-algebra. She’s 12 and loquacious and isn’t a big fan of her math teacher.
Yesterday, the teacher was explaining “correlation” and said it was the same thing as “cause and effect.” Laura raised her hand, and when called upon, said the following:
“Actually, Mr. X (name withheld for fear of the off, off chance he discovers this blog entry), I think the two are rather different. For instance, I am getting older. Gas prices are rising. The two seem correlated but there is obviously no cause and effect.”
I love that. I love her backbone. I love how she told the story. I love that she was basically respectful. I am proud of her for standing up for herself.
The teacher apparently stammered something or another and moved on. She has a test today on this topic. If the teacher grades her wrong, half of the Kuo family (including my 85-year-old scientist Dad) will spring into action and go after the teacher. (Lovingly, of course).
This actually reminds me of a time when I was in second grade and we were learning about prime numbers. I got into an argument with the teacher. Zero, it seemed to me, was a prime number. I was assuredly wrong, she explained. I came home and told this to my father. He wasn’t happy.
The next day reports swirled around the school that he was in my math teachers classroom writing astonishingly explanations – math proofs? – on the board showing how it was possible I was correct (though, I think, the consensus is that zero is not a prime number). Dad went to Stanford and CalTech and was a geophysicist with a special love for math. He was proud of me. I hear my teacher wept. I called him tonight and said he might get called into action one more time. “Who has the plane ticket?” he asked. Mr. X beware.

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posted December 6, 2007 at 8:09 am

You’re right to be proud. /I was in college before I heard “correlation is not causation” from a statistics professor and your daughter figured it out on her own.

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posted December 6, 2007 at 9:55 am

Sounds like you have a brilliant girl!

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posted December 6, 2007 at 11:33 am

I love this, and her example was perfect. Thanks for sharing the story.

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Charles Cosimano

posted December 6, 2007 at 11:50 am

The answer is simple. There is a difference between correlation and coincidence. The teacher should be fired.

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Larry Parker

posted December 6, 2007 at 12:59 pm

I wouldn’t go that far — the teacher might have misspoken or relied too much on set curriculum from the school district and not thought it out himself (teachers are human too) — but one thing is certain:
David, your daughter is truly on her way now. When the student can match wits with the teacher — and has the confidence to do so accurately and the grace to do it within their respective authority roles — she is ready to soar.

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Laura in WA

posted December 6, 2007 at 1:34 pm

Sounds like you have a smart girl there! And, unfortunately, a teacher who is either very misinformed (anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of statistics should know that correlation does not equal causation) or who just got lazy with her wording because she didn’t realize her students were actually paying attention! In any case, she should have swallowed her pride and corrected herself when your daughter pointed out that she’d said something wrong.
I hope she aces her test!

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Laura in WA

posted December 6, 2007 at 1:50 pm your post and realized the teacher was a man, not a woman…

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