Archive for September, 2017

Red Dye #40 makes a triumphant return.

September 28, 2017

To put it mildly, the dogs stopped eating the dog food.

As reported in the WSJ

In early 2015 General Mills reformulated iconic Trix cereal to make it all-natural – replacing Red Dye #40, Blue Dye #1 and Yellow Dye #6 with radishes, purple carrots and turmeric.


Besides producing a bland color, the juices and extracts gave the cereal a different taste.

Natural-ingredient haters flooded the company with calls, emails and social-media posts:

“I genuinely feel bad that my kids will never got to experience the old Trix cereal.”

“My kids think the color of the new Trix cereal quite depressing.”

“It’s basically a salad now.”

“My childhood fading away with the colors of Trix cereal.”

“Americans’ love affair with processed foods is enduring, however, despite a decade of finger-wagging from nutritionists, influential celebrities and trendy grocery chains.”

So, General Mills has decided to reintroduce Classic Trix, artificial flavorings and all, and will start selling it on supermarket shelves alongside the more wholesome version in October.

Here’s what other brands are doing …


iGens: “What, me read?”

September 27, 2017

In a couple of prior posts, we featured iGen – a recent book by Jean Twenge – a psychology prof specializing in “generational research”.

She says that Millennials  are yesterday’s news.

The new generation is iGen – born after the introduction of the Internet … and now living connected to their iPhones.

See Disruptive innovation: How the iPhone has shaped a new generation
the self-diagnostic How much of an “iGen” are you? and iGens: What makes them tick?

Prof. Twenge observes that the cultural and personal impacts of the “i” technology revolution are a mixed bag – some good and some bad.

One of the “bads” hits one of my hot buttons: reading habits.

Amazon link


One behavioral trend that Prof Twenge observes is that “iGen’ers also come to college with much less experience (than prior generations) reading books or even long magazine articles.”


iGens: What makes them tick?

September 26, 2017

10 defining characteristics driving cultural trends.


There’s a whole new generation out there, folks.

Last week, we intro’ed  iGen – a recent book by Jean Twenge – a psychology prof specializing in “generational research”.

She says that Millennials  are yesterday’s news.

The new generation is iGen – born after the introduction of the Internet … and now living connected to their iPhones.

See Disruptive innovation: How the iPhone has shaped a new generation
and the self-diagnostic How much of an “iGen” are you?

Prof. Twenge observes that the cultural and personal impacts of the “i” technology revolution are a mixed bag – some good and some bad.

Amazon link

More specifically, Prof. Twenge identified ten core “I” characteristics that shape iGen’ers …


Answer: Are you smarter than a 10th grader?

September 25, 2017

Here’s the ANSWER to to last week’s math challenge


Last week, we touted Chicago’s Noble Network of Charter Schools … specifically, its intensive math curriculum

And, we presented a challenge question (taken from the 10th grade curriculum) …


Noble Charter HS – Math Challenge Question

The rectangle shown below is divided into four green squares, seven gold squares, four orange squares, and one blue rectangle.

If the perimeter of the blue rectangle is 20 cm, what is the perimeter of the larger rectangle?

Explain your reasoning.

         Recommended: click to download and print PDF


Here’s the answer …. and a method for get it.


Question: Are you smarter than a 10th grader?

September 22, 2017

A math success story … and a challenge (for you).


Earlier in the week, we posted results of a report ranking U.S. high school students #40 in math literacy among developed nations.

A friend reminded me that those are averages … and there are some bright lights.

One such bright light is shining at Chicago’s Noble Network of Charter Schools.

Noble is comprised of a growing network of high quality public high schools located in Chicago’s communities of greatest need.

Noble has 18 campuses educating 12,000 students.

True to its mission, 98% of the students are minorities and 89% low income.


Here’s the kicker …

According to Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes:

Students at The Noble Network of Charter Schools receive the equivalent of nearly two years’ worth of math in each single year. Source

What kind of math are they working on?

Here’s a problem from the 10th grade curriculum …. try it.


How much of an “iGen” are you?

September 21, 2017

There’s a whole new generation out there, folks.


In yesterday’s post, we highlighted iGen – a recent book by Jean Twenge – a psychology prof specializing in “generational research”.

Millennials  are yesterday’s news.

The new generation is iGen – born after the introduction of the Internet … and now living connected to their iPhones.

Prof. Twenge observes that the cultural and personal impacts of the “i” technology revolution are a mixed bag – some good and some bad.

More on that in later posts.

Amazon link

Today, let’s take a short quiz to determine, putting age aside, how connected you are with the iGen ….


Disruptive innovation: How the iPhone has shaped a new generation.

September 20, 2017

A new book says that not all of the “shaping” has been good.


A week or so ago, when Apple celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the iPhone and launch of iPhone X, CEO Tim Cook boasted:

Having sold over one billion units and enabling millions of apps that have become essential to people’s daily routine …

The iPhone redefined how consumers live, work, communicate, and entertain.

I chalked it up as marketing hype, but then …

I started reading a recently released book (coincidence?) called iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood.

The author is Jean Twenge, a psychology prof with a specialty in “generational differences” who is credited with coining the newest generation “iGen”.

mazon link

Prof Twenge agrees with Cook’s basic claim that the iPhone has redefined life.

But, she argues, not all of the redefinition is positive … specifically highlighting the decline in in-person social interaction and a sharp rise in mental health issues among iGens.

Let’s start at the beginning ….


More distressing news on the math front …

September 19, 2017

Last week, we praised algebra, logic and Latin as basic learning skills.

In praise of math, logic, and Latin … say, what?

Yesterday, we reported that U.S. high schoolers math scores are continuing to drop … and that the U.S. now ranks #40 among developed countries.

Ouch: U.S. math scores continue to drop

Now there’s discouraging news out of California: Algebra is under siege.


In 2009, the California Community Colleges system began requiring demonstrated math competency at the level “typically known as Intermediate Algebra … or another mathematics course at the same level, with the same rigor.”

What was the result, and what do educators plan to do about it?


Ouch: U.S. math scores continue to drop

September 18, 2017

U.S. now trails 39 countries …


The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) recently released its 2015 survey results for math “literacy” … and, the results aren’t pretty.

The average for 15-year-old U.S. students slipped to 470 on the PISA scale … down about 3.5% from 2009 … ranking the U.S. #40 among developed nations (see list at end of this post) … 20 points lower than the average of the 35 OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries.

The scores differential versus the OECD countries is roughly equal for the average, 25th percentile and 90th percentile … refuting claims that “our” best are head-to-head competitive with the the rest of the world’s best.




Digging a bit deeper into the numbers ….


Do you carry your iPhone in your pocket?

September 15, 2017

Frequently causes a problem  … with an easy fix


I was at near-panic stage a couple of night’s ago.

I tried to insert my battery charger into the lightning connector port (pictured below) like I always do … but it wouldn’t go in all the way and the phone wouldn’t charge.



Oh no.

What to do?

First I tried another charger cable … figured that might be the problem since I sometimes buy accessories from OEMs instead of Apple.

No luck.

Then started to wonder where to take it for repairs:  Verizon (where I bought it)? Apple store (since it’s a iPhone)?

Concluded that it would be an out-of-warranty repair at the Apple store.

That can’t be good.

Then I decided to Google the problem …


Free college for all?

September 14, 2017

Idea falls flat with voters


Interesting article in left-leaning Politico: Teflon Don confounds Democrats

Based on research, conducted by private firms and for Democratic campaign arms, Politico analysts have concluded:

Democrats tried attacking Donald Trump as unfit for the presidency. They’ve made the case that he’s ineffective. They’ve argued that Trump is using the presidency to enrich himself. They repeatedly claim that his campaign was in cahoots with Russia. None of it is working.


And, many of the proposals Democrats are pushing fall flat in focus groups and polling.

Many of the ideas party leaders have latched on to in an attempt to appeal to their lost voters — free college tuition, raising the minimum wage to $15, even Medicaid for all — test poorly among voters outside the base.

Of course, the results re: free college tuition caught my eye …


#11 – Why I’m lukewarm to climate change…

September 13, 2017

Reason #11 – Celebs who “never let a serious crisis go to waste.”


For the record: I’m neither a denier nor a zealot …  so, according to British writer (& phrase-coiner) Matt Ridley, I’m a “lukewarmer”.

And, I’ve personally had the eyes of 2 hurricanes literally pass right over my house, so I’m aware of their devastating potential.

I have friends and family in Houston and scattered around Florida. They and other hurricane victims have my deepest sympathy.

Moving on …


Earlier in the summer, I posted a series The 10 reasons why I’m lukewarm to climate change…

Last night’s celebrity phone-a-thon for Harvey & Irma victims prompts me to add to the list.


Reason #11- Celebs who ““Never let a serious crisis go to waste.”

The quote is generally attributed to Rahm Emmanuel – former of Obama chief-of-staff and currently Mayor of murder- riddled Chicago.

Last night, the credo was put into action.

At 8 o’clock, I tuned in the see the semi-finals of my favorite TV show: America’s Got Talent.

Imagine my disappointment when I saw that the show was being delayed (to past my bed time) for a celebrity fund-raiser.

OK, I figured … let’s watch an hour of pros sing and dance.

Cue the first act: Little Stevie Wonder … err, I mean Stevie Wonder … err again, I mean Steven Wonder … whatever.


Pre-ambling his ditty, Mr. Wonder preached:

“It just loves. As we should begin to love and value our planet.”

So far, so good.

Then the pivot:

Anyone who believes that there is no such thing as global warming must be blind or unintelligent.”

He made a lightning-fast pivot from the hurricane disasters to climate change.

Conveniently, ignoring a few facts …


Is financial stress making Americans dumber?

September 12, 2017

Connecting some research “dots” suggests that may be the case.


A recent survey says that 40% of respondents or their immediate family ran into a major unexpected expense last year.


That’s a problem since most Americans (63%) don’t have enough budget-cushion or savings to cover an unexpected $1,000 expense (think, medical bill, house or car repair).

According to the poll, only 37% said they would be able to take the money directly from savings; the rest said they would try to cut expenses (24%), use their credit cards (15%) or borrow money from friends & family (15%). About 1 in 10 had no idea what they’d do.

Predictably, those with higher incomes were most likely to say they would be able to tap savings for emergencies or divert some discretionary spending.

75% of people in households making less than $50,000 a year and 2/3s of those making between $50,000 and $100,000 would have difficulty coming up with $1,000 to cover an unexpected bill.

Even for the wealthiest 20% — households making more than $100,000 a year — more than 1 in 3 say they would have  some difficulty coming up with $1,000. Source


Obviously, the threat of a large, unexpected expense is emotionally daunting to most Americans.

“It definitely adds stress to everyday life. It hangs over you.”

To make matters worse, there is some evidence that the financial stress may impair “cognitive functioning” – that is, dent a person’s IQ.


In praise of math, logic, and Latin … say, what?

September 11, 2017

Classical educators argued that these disciplines are the building blocks of reasoning, problem-solving and critical thinking.


The courses that I teach contain a heavy dose of problem-solving skills.

Early on, I assert my belief that that problem-solving skills can be taught – and, more importantly, learned – and set about to prove the point.




I’ve been doing some summer reading on the topic of reasoning & problem-solving and learned:

“For twenty-six hundred years many philosophers and educators have been confident that reasoning could be taught.”


There are 5 clues of “authentic” intelligence …

September 8, 2017

For openers, high IQ and bilingual aren’t on the list.


Interesting piece that I spotted on the DailyMail


Everybody tries to act smart, right?

You know … long words, dramatic pauses, furled brows, grasped chins.



Psyche researchers dismiss most of these antics as shallow fakery and have identified 5 behavioral traits that authentically mark true intelligence.

Test yourself ….and start using the markers to smoke out faux-smarties.


Quick: how many 3’s in the block of numbers?

September 7, 2017

Let’s test our cognitive skills today..


This summer, I’ve been reading up on storytelling and data visualization.

Hit pay dirt with a book called  Storytelling with Data: A Data Visualization Guide for Business Professionals.

One of the topics is how to leverage pre-attentive attributes – visual cues that can influence what information catches a reader’s eye on a slide or chart … think: “shiny objects”.

To demonstrate the concept of pre-attentive attributes: Observe the block of numbers below … how many 3’s are there in this block of numbers?


And, the answer is …


Global IQ: What are the 10 most populated countries?

September 6, 2017

Today, a lesson in world geography and data visualization…


Below is a great visual from Tableau … countries are displayed as as bubbles … with each bubble proportionate based on each country’s population.

The 10 most populated countries are numbered.

OK, name them … in order.

Should be easy for well-educated, news-following, world travelers … right?



Need a hint ?

The bubbles are color-coded based on region:



Ready to check your answer?


Evidence? Who needs evidence?

September 5, 2017

Comey intended to let Clinton walk before interviewing her or 16 other key witnesses


With all of the attention directed at Charlottesville and Hurricane Harvey, you might have missed this one.

According to the Washington Post and multiple other MSM sources …

The Office of the Special Prosecutor (Mueller) turned over to the Senate Judiciary Committee (Grassley) transcripts of interviews with a couple of Comey’s key lieutenants: James Rybicki, Comey’s chief of staff, and Trisha Anderson, the bureau’s principal deputy general counsel for national security and cyberlaw.

The pair gave corroborating testimony that Comey was planning to exonerate Clinton long before the FBI had completed its investigation.

Specifically, three or four months before Comey’s infamous July 2016 press conference, he drafted and circulated an outline of what he eventually said.

That’s before the FBI interviewed Clinton (a session that Comey didn’t even bother to attend) or 16 other key witnesses – -some of whom were granted immunity for their testimony and allowed to trash their own electronic devices without the FBI taking a peek at them.


There are several curious aspects to this revelation ….


Digital amnesia: Is Google dulling your memory?

September 1, 2017

First, some background …

The tests I give my students always include some questions that can reasonably be tagged “memorization”.

Some students are repulsed by them and shout the cultural refrain: “Don’t memorize anything that you can look up.”

The apparent thinking: You’ve only got a limited amount of space in your brain, so don’t clog it with an overload of information … only store the stuff you can’t look-up.


What’s wrong with that argument?