Making Curriculum Pop

COLLECTION: Can Nate Silver Save Math? + CAVEAT: He probably can't save the planet

This recent blog at Mind/Shift "Why Nate Silver Can Save Math Education in America" is the cause for this Nate Silver collection. For those of you that don't know about Silver he is the New York Times blogger that famously predicted almost everything in the '08 and '12 elections at his FiveThirtyEight blog.

The Mind/Shift article (with great hyperlinks and written by a HS student) states...

Just weeks after the election, Nate Silver’s Triumph of the Nerds, his renowned legacy and dedication to numbers, has the potential to telegraph an important message to kids: It’s O.K. to be a math nerd. Numbers can actually mean something in the grand scheme of things. We need more people who can number crunch and predict and prize math.
If parents and teachers use Silver’s groundbreaking work to talk to young people about civics, polls, statistics, and numbers, the power and beauty of mathematics, kids can experience this fascinating subject could be experienced in a whole new way.

For those that want to hear more from Silver here is a clip of him on the Daily Show after the election...


Here is a funny satire about Silver in the New Yorker "A Date with Nate:"

I watched you on MSNBC and HBO and on “Charlie Rose” and I can’t stop thinking about how you study polls and create probability models and predict elections and how you’re always right, which I think is so unbelievably cute, and I keep imagining you saying to me, “Emma, I think that there’s a 93.7% chance of me falling in love with you.”

And to temper all this fawning over Nate with an important counter-point. The Climate Change community was really bummed with his misunderstanding of Climate Modeling in his new book The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail — but Some Don't from Penn State climate scientist Michael E. Mann in the Huffington Post:

I was rather crestfallen earlier this summer when I finally got a peek at a review copy of The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail -- but Some Don't. It's not that Nate revealed himself to be a climate change denier; He accepts that human-caused climate change is real, and that it represents a challenge and potential threat. But he falls victim to a fallacy that has become all too common among those who view the issue through the prism of economics rather than science. Nate conflates problems of prediction in the realm of human behavior -- where there are no fundamental governing 'laws' and any "predictions" are potentially laden with subjective and untestable assumptions -- with problems such as climate change, which are governed by laws of physics, like the greenhouse effect, that are true whether or not you choose to believe them.
As discussed in detail by my co-founder, NASA scientist Gavin Schmidt, Armstrong simply didn't understand the science well enough to properly interpret, let alone, assess, the predictive skill of climate model predictions.


Additional follow up on this in this post at Think Progress - "Nate Silver's Climate Chapter and What We Can Learn from It"

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Replies to This Discussion

Thanks for sharing! I'm loving this new math revolution, I predict a change of attitude about math
in the next generation:-)

One can only hope, right?

Perhaps before we apotheosize Mr. Silver, the following math babe review of his book should be taken into consideration:

Nice addition Herr Goldenberg - that is why I dropped caveat at the end. That said, I do like this idea articulated in the initial blog... 

M.I.T. graduates, who are trained in science and mathematics, said in a survey regarding their daily use of math that most use nothing more than arithmetic, statistics, and probability.

Sol Garfunkel and David Mumford in a New York Times Op-Ed summed it up nicely: “Imagine replacing the sequence of algebra, geometry and calculus with a sequence of finance, data and basic engineering."

What say you on that point?



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