## Posts tagged ‘job’

### Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes — in Job and Location

**A few days back**, I mentioned that I had a new job and had moved across the country, and I said I’d write more about that later. Well, it’s later.

After six wonderful years of developing a highly-rated, award-winning, interactive math textbook at Discovery Education, I’ve taken a new position at the **Math Learning Center**, a non-profit organization in Portland, Oregon. The Math Learning Center (MLC) is the publisher of *Bridges*, an award-winning elementary math curriculum.

The reason for the change? Well, actually, there are several…

- MLC is not-for-profit, so any money raised from curriculum sales is used to improve the materials and professional development offerings.
- The mission of the Math Learning Center is “to inspire and enable individuals to discover and develop their mathematical confidence and ability.” It’s pretty easy to get behind a goal like that.

- Last but not least, the MLC staff might be the friendliest group of individuals I’ve ever met. To boot, they’re bright, hard-working, and dedicated to the organization’s mission.

With all that, the decision to join MLC was a rather easy one. If you can’t tell, I’m pretty excited about the change. I’ll be the new Chief Learning Officer, affectionately known as the **CLO**.

Time out for a puzzle.

Can you fill in the blanks to form a 16-letter math term that contains the letters CLO in order? Hint: think about transformational geometry or turning off the faucet.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ C L O _ _ _ _ _ _

Relocating from Virginia to Oregon is a big deal. It’s nearly 2,800 miles — or 14 states, or 42 hours in a car — from our old house to our new one. Consequently, we hired a moving company to help with packing and shipping. When Lily from the moving company arrived, she asked if we had any “high-value items” to be transported, such as expensive jewelry or fur coats. (But not a real fur coat. That’s cruel.) I said that I didn’t think so, but then I asked what they consider a high-value item. Lily’s answer used a completely acceptable but surprising unit rate:

**anything over $100 per pound**

With that metric, it was suddenly obvious that we had several high-value items in our home. The first was a pair of diamond earrings that I had given my wife recently for our 15th anniversary. Since 5 carats = 1 gram, these small hunks of rock have a retail value of nearly $4,000,000 per pound, significantly above the moving company’s threshold.

The other high-value items were, well, *us*. The “value of statistical life,” or VSL, is a measure of the value of a human life. Its exact amount depends upon which federal agency you reference. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for instance, pegs the VSL at $10 million. That means that I’m worth approximately $50,000 per pound, my petite wife is worth nearly $80,000 per pound, and our twin sons are worth well over $100,000 per pound each.

Granted, our value density isn’t as high as diamond, but we’re still pretty darn valuable.

A cannibal goes into a butcher shop, and he notices that the market specializes in brains. He sees that the butcher is selling engineer’s brain for $1.50 per pound, mathematician’s brain for $2.25 per pound, and politician’s brain for $375.00 a pound. Flabbergasted, he asks the owner why the huge difference in price. The butcher replies, “Do you have any idea how many politicians it takes to get a pound of brains?”

In the end, neither the diamond earrings nor any member of our family were loaded onto the moving truck. A week later, we’re adapting nicely to Portland culture, and I start my job at Math Learning Center in just a few days. Wish me luck!

### Wait, Wait… I’ve Got a Math Question

“Not My Job” is a segment on the NPR game show ** Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me!** During the segment, host Peter Sagal asks a celebrity three questions, on a topic about which they likely have no clue. For instance,

- Cindy Crawford was asked questions about
*scale*models, not*super*models; - Rob Lowe was asked questions about brat
*wurst*, not the Brat*Pack*; - Stephen King was asked questions about the Teletubbies; and,
- Leonard Nimoy was asked questions about the
*other*Dr. Spock (you know, the celebrity pediatrician).

My favorite of these segments, however, was with singer-songwriter Will Oldham, better known by his stage name Bonnie “Prince” Billy. Sagal explained, “You sing mostly sad or mournful songs, interspersed with the occasional tragic one. And we were thinking, who’s the singer least like you? […] So, we’re going to ask you three questions about Ms. Doris Day, the sweet-faced, sweet-voiced singer most famous in the 50s and 60s.”

Oldham answered two of the three questions correctly, so he won.

As Sagal congratulated him, Oldham pretended that Doris Day was in the room with him. “Hey, Doris, you were right!” he said. “All the questions *were* about you!”

Now, that’s funny!

(As an aside, let me share with you a slide that I sometimes show during presentations about classroom technology:

Yep, that’s Doris Day in the 1958 movie *Teacher’s Pet*. Hopefully that image looks a little odd to you in 2015. Honestly, if you’re teaching math to adolescents and still using chalk and a wooden pointer, I’ll kindly ask you to consider a different career. There are other options for you. For instance, you could become a dentist and specialize in square root canals. But, I digress.)

So, back to the point.

The celebrity quiz contains three multiple-choice questions, each with three choices. If the guest answers at least two questions correctly, he or she wins. Which got me to thinking…

What is the probability that a celebrity guest will get at least two questions correct if she guesses randomly?

Brute force is definitely an option here. Write down all possible answer choice combinations, randomly decide which configuration will be correct, and then figure out how many of the possible combinations would yield a winner. Not pretty, but it works.

Speaking of combinations, here’s a joke that just has to be shared:

Courtney Gibbons’s comics used to appear at Brown Sharpie, but then she got a job.

### So Teach Your Children Math…

According to CareerCast, three of the four best jobs in 2014 are in STEM fields: mathematician, statistician, and actuary. And the other — tenured university professor — might very well be a STEM career, too.

The worst job? Lumberjack, with a median annual salary of $24,000, a bad work environment, high stress, and a dismal hiring outlook.

Even though they’re on opposite ends of the best job spectrum, math folks and loggers have a lot in common. Both appreciate natural logs.

I learned this at http://www.lumberjack.com, which has a few interesting tidbits. But not enough to keep me interested, so I logged out.

And we all know that the grass is always greener, which is why some mathematicians opt for a life in the forest…

A math professor had enough of academic life, so he decided to become a lumberjack. He was hired by a logging firm, and he was told that he’d need to cut down 50 trees a day. On his first day, he was handed a chainsaw, and he went into the forest. When he returned to the office at the end of the first day, the foreman asked him, “So, how many trees did you cut down today?”

“Six,” replied the mathematician.

“That’s not enough,” said the foreman. “You’ll have to do better. Get up earlier tomorrow.” So he did, and again he went into the forest with a chainsaw. He returned at the end of the day, sweaty and exhausted. “How many’d you get today?” the foreman asked.

“Twelve,” replied the mathematician.

So the next day, the foreman went out to the forest with the mathematician. He started the chainsaw, started to cut, and explained to the mathematician what he was doing. When he finished, he said, “And that’s how you cut down a tree. Any questions?”

“Yeah,” said the mathematician. “What the hell was all that noise coming from the chainsaw?”

### Turn the Page

After eight fantastic years as the Online Projects Manager at NCTM, it’s time for my next chapter. On Monday, I become the Director of Mathematics for Discovery Education, leading a team that will build digital math techbooks for K‑12. I’m looking forward to building something great. As I mentioned during my interview, “I’m not coming to Discovery to create a textbook; I’m coming to create a *movement*.”

Leaving is such sweet sorrow. I’ll miss my friends and colleagues at NCTM, and I’m sad that I’ll no longer be creating resources for Illuminations. On the upside, my departure brought three stories worth sharing.

**A Day Off**

My last day at NCTM was February 28. That evening, I mentioned to my sons that I would not be going to work the next day. “Do you know why not?” I asked them. Alex suggested, “Because it’s Dr. Seuss’s birthday?” I love that! Celebrating the birth of Theodore Seuss Geisel certainly seems like a great reason for a federal holiday, but the truth is that I was just taking some time off between jobs.

**Lesson Learned**

The east coast was hit with a snowstorm during my time off, and both the NCTM and Discovery offices were closed. Had I been employed by either organization, I would have spent a day at home with pay. Instead, I spent an upaid eight hours designing the Vennebush Family Flag and playing Uno, Swish, and Qwirkle with the boys, while my gainfully employed wife dialed in to back-to-back-to-back conference calls. Moral: Check the forecast before quitting a job prematurely.

**A Parting Gift**

One of my colleagues at NCTM gave me a broken calculator. (And, no, this isn’t just a cheesy, elaborate set-up for a silly math problem.) The calculator used to be a normal, fully functioning, scientific calculator, but now it can’t add, subtract, multiply or divide without making an error. The good news is that the error is very predictable. The following video shows the results when using the calculator for four basic arithmetic problems.

The following (incorrect) results are shown in the video:

- 310 + 677 = 982
- 13 × 15 = 190
- 512 ÷ 64 = 3
- 75 – 10 = 60

And after the last problem, continual presses of the equal key should repeatedly subtract 10, but instead it shows consecutive results of 45, 30, 15, and 0.

Can you discern the pattern?

### Back to Pencils, Books, Dirty Looks

The fall semester is underway. Here are some jokes for you, no matter your level.

For professors…

Mathematical conferences are very important. They demonstrate how many faculty a department can operate without.

For graduate students…

Why is grad school like a hot bath?

Because after you’ve been there for seven years, it ain’t so hot anymore.

For undergraduates…

An undergraduate student said to his statistics professor, “You know, I hate being a full-time student and mooching off of my parents. I’d really rather have a job.”

The professor says, “You’re in luck! I just heard that the President of the University is looking for a bodyguard and chauffeur for his beautiful daughter. You’ll be expected to drive her around in his Mercedes, accompany her on overseas trips, and satisfy her sexual urges. He’ll provide all meals and supply all of your clothes. You’ll be given a two-bedroom apartment above the garage, and the starting salary is $75,000 per year.”

The wide-eyed student says, “You’re kiddin’ me?”

The professor replies, “Well, yeah… but you started it.”

And for high school kids…

“Why don’t you work on your math homework with Sarah anymore?” a mother asks her daughter.

“Would you do your homework with a lazy slug who just copies all of your work?” says the daughter.

“Well, no, I suppose I wouldn’t,” says the mother.

“Yeah, well, neither will Sarah.”