The United Kingdom was recently rocked by a furious controversy about the teaching of mathematics. Parents were enraged by a problem set in a national exam to assess the mathematical skills of 6-7 year-old children. Their complaint was the problem was just too hard for any child of this age to solve.
To me, this wasn’t the shocking part of the controversy. The real shock was that many of the parents complained that even they had difficulty Continue reading Can Mankind Survive Scientific Illiteracy? →
People who make a career in science, computers or otherwise, generally do so because they are naturally drawn to it. They find science fascinating and entertaining, and thus are usually very good at it.
This is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because it means they will spend most of their life doing essentially what they want to do; not everyone is so lucky. It is a curse because their instinctive understanding of science may cover up unsuspected misunderstandings, making it difficult to explain to others what they are doing and why it is important. Worse, these unsuspected misunderstandings may make certain aspects of the science to which they are naturally drawn less than pleasant, rendering them more of a burden than a pleasure. Continue reading Language Lessons from a Steam-powered Light Bulb →
Playwright and raconteur George Bernard Shaw is reported to have said, “The greatest problem with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.” This is true both for writing a text or giving a speech. Why? Largely because while grappling with mechanics of writing, we all too often lose sight of another important insight into effective communication enunciated by novelist and essayist Robert Louis Stevenson: “Don’t write merely to be understood. Write so that you cannot possibly be misunderstood.” Continue reading What Can Paragons of Literature Teach Us about Writing Better Computer Programs? →