Sharing news and commentary about education, careers, investing, and life.

Sharing news and commentary about education, careers, investing, and life.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

EI: Do Not Invest Here

You probably should not invest in this company. Not for a reason like flawed logic (if anything, Sham makes many strong points and I like his overall style) but because a great investment idea isn't shared on a public forum like a blog.

If it were a great idea, Sham would be buying up shares and shares of the company, rather than sharing the idea. Even the great Buffett doesn't disclose the companies he's actively investing in... he only discloses after a certain period because it's required by the SEC. But Buffett gets a delay on required disclosure when he's still buying shares of companies... so what this all tells me is that even if Sham is being nice and sharing a good idea, it's definitely not a great idea. And that means you probably shouldn't invest in Ternium Steel.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Are Our Brains Wired For Math?

Strong piece from The New Yorker. A quote and then my quick thoughts below:

"Dehaene has spent most of his career plotting the contours of our number sense and puzzling over which aspects of our mathematical ability are innate and which are learned, and how the two systems overlap and affect each other. He has approached the problem from every imaginable angle... And he has weighed the extent to which some languages make numbers more difficult than others. His work raises crucial issues about the way mathematics is taught. In Dehaene’s view, we are all born with an evolutionarily ancient mathematical instinct. To become numerate, children must capitalize on this instinct, but they must also unlearn certain tendencies that were helpful to our primate ancestors but that clash with skills needed today. And some societies are evidently better than others at getting kids to do this. In both France and the United States, mathematics education is often felt to be in a state of crisis. The math skills of American children fare poorly in comparison with those of their peers in countries like Singapore, South Korea, and Japan. Fixing this state of affairs means grappling with the question that has taken up much of Dehaene’s career: What is it about the brain that makes numbers sometimes so easy and sometimes so hard?"

Great points all around. And the point that children must unlearn certain tendencies that were helpful to our primate ancestors but clash with skills needed today is something that I had personally not thought of until this article. Make sure to click through to get to more of Dehaene's interesting research.

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Thursday, March 6, 2008

How To Lie With Statistics

Abnormal Returns writes about how to lie with statistics... but that's not exactly the point in the post! And regardless, here's a phrase I like to repeat: statistics don't lie, people do!

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Augusta Views: Group Work

I'm not a fan of group work in school & I haven't encountered many people who are. I don't have anything against the idea; in fact, I whole-heartedly support the intentions behind it. Unfortunately, there is a disconnect between those intentions and the reality of what I've learned from such experiences.

I can only assume that group work is a part of our educational career because it's an inevitable part of the "real" world. But, in my mind, the two situations are too different for it to be an effective exercise. In school, individuals know that ultimately their success or failure is dependent solely on their performance. (At least this is usually an assurance attached to group assignments in the classroom, no doubt from years of student-driven uproar.) Outside the realm of education, however, such guarantees vanish. Everyone depends on one another to accomplish the task at hand, thus the individuals' success or failure is inextricably tied to that of their groupmates.

Why the difference? If we're meant to learn about collaboration and delegation, why is the incentive to do so removed from the equation? If my only motivation is to do my allocated part of the project or task, why do I care about the quality of the end result?

This frustrates me especially because I've experienced both sides. I've worked in groups outside of the realm of education & it's been an enjoyable experience, something to be proud of. I've also been a part of groups in an educational setting and felt embarrassed at the end for how poorly it turned out.

Perhaps I've got it backwards. Now that I consider it, I can see how my very same argument could be applied in the converse manner, i.e. that the "real world model" offers less incentive to individuals than the "classroom model" does. I suppose it could be my nature to be more motivated & to feel more ownership toward a group project when we're all in it together, so to speak.

Thoughts? Anyone care to offer the counter-argument?

There's lots more to read & discuss at the full blog: click on through!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Today Is Jonathan Sharma Day

My friend Sharma recently was part of a team that won a pretty prestigious space award. You'll notice we refer to him in the previous post, but here are just a few of the additional links of him in the news:

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Space Vs. The Environment

...Ask some vaguely green people what's the single biggest thing they can do to tackle climate change, and most will respond with a guilty smile: "yes, I know, I should stop flying."
A few brave, selfless souls do just that. But the rest of us are far too used to cheap, quick getaways to kick the habit completely...

Read more here. Hat tip goes to my good friend Jonathan Sharma, who you'll notice is doing big things.

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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Cell Phones For Learning

Here's a new program that's putting special cell phones in the hands of students in NYC. Hat tip to Freakonomics and this recent post. A summary:

Education officials began doling out cellphones to 2,500 students on Wednesday as part of a closely watched experiment to try to change the way teenagers think about doing well in school. The pilot program, at three Brooklyn middle schools and four charter schools, is part of an effort by Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein to motivate students to perform better academically — and reward them when they do.

Each student is receiving a Samsung flip-phone in a package specially designed with the program’s logo. The phones come loaded with 130 prepaid minutes. Good behavior, attendance, homework and test scores will be rewarded with additional minutes. Teachers and administrators will also be able to use a system to send text messages to several students at a time, to remind them, say, of upcoming tests and other school information.

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Tax Rate Graph

Thanks to Greg Mankiw for the pointer!

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Monday, March 3, 2008

Perspective on Life

I like reading Ben Casnocha's blog almost every day but this recent post on the curves of life was more interesting than the usual high quality posts he shares with readers. Money quote:

But all life need not be measured by a single rise and fall. “You can maybe have a second curve, and a third curve,” Handy explained. The trick, he said, is that “you have to choose the next curve before the first curve peaks so that you have enough resources coming in to experiment...because it always takes about two years from the beginning of a new curve until the point where it transcends the peak of the old."

Now I don't fully agree with the "about two years" regarding the beginning of a curve to the point where it transcends the peak of the old, but regardless it is an interesting perspective on life and raises quite a few important questions.

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Sunday, March 2, 2008

Oh Pennies

Here's a unique story about students protesting their shorter lunch breaks using pennies. While it's definitely not a big deal story, I do think that *if* the students are still being respectful then their means of protest is actually creative. However, if students are being disrespectful while doing their protest, they're merely making themselves look even more foolish. Oh well, something to read on a slow Sunday like today...

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EI: Notes on Warren Buffett Meeting

Students from Emory and UT Austin had a Q&A with Warren Buffett and here are some notes on the highlights. Definitely worth 10 minutes of your time.

And here's the link to Warren Buffett's most recent letter to shareholders (2007).

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Saturday, March 1, 2008

Quick Update on Harvard

Hey folks, just checking in after the HBS admit weekend - it was great! Saw a class in action, learned about the school, met some interesting people, and already made some great friends.

An video example of the case method at Harvard can be found here. That's what I saw in action!

Anyways, hope everyone is having a good weekend. We'll be back to our regular posting on Monday.

A bit more on the case method:

The Case Method

Although HBS uses a variety of learning techniques, our primary form of instruction is the case method, an interactive process in which students and faculty teach and learn from each other.
HBS cases are firsthand accounts of actual management problems that stem from a variety of interdependent factors and span all aspects of business. Each case is bounded by the constraints and incomplete information available when the decision in the case had to be made. Placing themselves in the role of the case protagonists (managers), students perform analyses and recommend a course of action -- without knowing the outcome of the decision at hand.

Rooted in an understanding of how managers learn, the case method is a gradual process that requires engaging in action in order to learn from experience. The facts and figures in a case are only the beginning of this process, serving as a springboard for dynamic discussion in the classroom.

As such, the case method relies on the active intellectual and emotional involvement of every student. As students derive generalizations across multiple case analyses, these generalizations are constantly explored and tested using evidence from specific cases. This in turn strengthens each student's ability to address any number of specific issues, which is the true value of this learning method.

Rather than teaching "to" students, HBS faculty facilitate shared learning by helping students teach themselves and each other -- in essence, by preparing students to take charge of their own learning and development. As a result, HBS students have a dual responsibility to both learn and teach, with the faculty's guidance and support.

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