Thursday, August 25, 2011

How to fix math education in the U.S.? So this is an article about how to fix the math education in the U.S. I am torn about the article. Things I agree with:
1. Students definitely learn better and retain more if the material is pertinent to them.
2. Whenever I have assigned real world problems (such as figuring out the difference between a 15 and 30 year mortgage) students definitely enjoy them.
3. Students definitely have difficulty applying abstract ideas of math to real world experience. For example, I have taught "math for cosmetologists" and "math for nurses" very applied math classes for those specific professions. The students have learned most of the material previously, however, they still have difficulty with the subject matter. And teaching more applied math (don't get me wrong applied math is very difficult as a field and not just for the ordinary person, believe me I would never minimize it as secondary to theoretical math) would definitely help the ordinary person understand how to utilize math and be more socially responsible.

things that maybe I don't agree with:
1. Math has been trying to teach math with word problems their whole life, don't you remember how much almost everyone in the class hates word problems?
2. If the students don't have a basic understanding of how to do the operations (which you learn in the "plug and chug" and theory part of math learning) you can't carry out applied math. Of course all the theory and properties aren't necessary to learn how to plug in an exponential function (for interest, for example) in your calculator, but if you spend no time teaching only for a specific problem with no attention to theory, the regular person will not be able to be creative and have the skills to translate from one problem to the next problem. They have enough difficulty with just changing coefficients of the exact same problem.
3. I do think that by default when you learn how to identify a problem, think of the possible ways to solve it, carry out a plan, and then check your answer you are learning problem solving. Of course you can learn problem solving in other disciplines, but with math it is always problem solving... you can't be passive in your problem solving skills and do well in a math class.

I have thought about allotting more class time to these real world problems (instead of assigning them as work outside of class), but I am always torn on the material that needs to be covered in the number of classes we have in a semester. Anyways, any thoughts would be appreciated.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Yearly update!

Happy Holidays! I hope you all have had a great 2010. A lot has happened to me during the past year. One big thing that happened was I finished school at Baylor College of Medicine. I am now a master of Structural and Computational Biology and Molecular Biophysics. Basically, for my research project, I was using microscopes to get data on the protein that binds the hormone testosterone, and then trying to organize it so that I can analyze the data mathematically. Since I have finished school I have moved back to Salt Lake City (into a cute little apartment downtown), where I am currently a math instructor at Salt Lake Community College. This last semester I taught intermediate algebra, college algebra, and math for cosmetology and barbering students. It was kinda fun, kinda challenging, and definitely a learning experience. I just finished my grades for the semester and I have my next semester lined up where I will continue to try and learn how to teach! We’ll see how it goes…

Besides a road trip from Houston to Salt Lake (hitting San Antonio, Big Bend National Park, White Sands National Monument, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Santa Fe, Taos, Durango, and cities and sites all along the way), I did a little bit of traveling this last year. I went to New Orleans for a bachelorette party, to San Francisco to be the maid of honor at a friend from college’s wedding, to Colorado to go to Rocky Mountain National Park and go river rafting with friends from grad school, Oklahoma City to visit a friend from college, Jackson Hole to be the support vehicle for my sister as she raced in the bike race Lotoja, and then traveling here and there and exploring around Houston.

Other happenings – I’ve been doing sports: ultimate Frisbee, softball, snowboarding (already twice this season!), and a little running and biking (the hills in Salt Lake are killer). I got a new niece, she is very cute! Found a sacred harp singing group. Found some new restaurants and went to some concerts, and then I’ve also just been hanging out with some good friends and family. All in all, a pretty good year! I hope yours was too! And I hope to hear from you about your happenings of 2010 and the big plans you have for the New Year!

Key to pictures: Texas shaped sugar cookies I made for my going away party; Old Timey photo with Dad and Sister in Durango, CO; Friends and I at Rocky Mountain National Park, CO; walking down the aisle at my friend's wedding in Sonoma, CA; wearing a sombrero from a restaurant in Houston; With friends outside another restaurant in Houston before I moved away; in my mask for my friend's birthday masquerade ball; my halloween picture as a wood fairy; with my new niece (and her mom and her sister); with my sister outside the arch of elk antlers in Jackson Hole; with my sister in the hotel in West Texas outside of Big Bend National Park; after my painting class with my creation!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

My body is amazing!

So I decided the other day that my body (and everyone's) is pretty amazing. This came about after an injury. You may ask, "How does your body not working properly provide evidence to the wonder that is your body?" Well, just like the scientific technique of knock-out mice gives you information on how we work.

Wait, just a minute, don't let me lose you yet... knock-out mice are a very cool and sophisticated biological experimental technique to see what genes do what. A quick bio summary - basically in our bodies (and the bodies of mice and other animals) our DNA determines everything about us - to whether we have blue eyes or brown, to whether we have 4 legs or 2. And in each of us, every cell in our body has the same DNA. That means that the DNA in our eye cells are the same as the DNA in our stomach cells - what determines an eye cell from a stomach cell is which genes in our DNA are turned on and off. If a gene is turned on, it produces proteins which can turn on or turn off other genes or signal to other parts of the cells to work as they should work. There is a very tight regulation of this protein synthesis. When some genes are turned on when they aren't supposed to turn on or turn off when they aren't supposed to turn off, diseases often occur. A knock out mice, takes a gene that a mouse normally has, and turns it completely off. So the protein that affects the whole cell and how it functions never gets made by that gene and can therefore greatly modify how certain cells work. Hopefully, I haven't lost you yet, but to make a knock out mouse is difficult, so you have to have a good idea what the gene does before you knock it out, so you aren't wasting your time for years making the mouse. However, sometimes the knockout gene influences systems that you don't suspect. Some proteins are involved in many different pathways to make our bodies run properly, such as the one that binds testosterone (it is called androgen receptor) that can be important in sexual development and maintenance and in development of muscle mass.

Anyways, taking all that information to heart, let me get back on my original thought: my body is amazing. The other day (May 8) I went snowboarding (yes, I went snowboarding in May, and the snow was pretty good, and it was beautiful and sunny, and I could have gone back down to Salt Lake Valley and gone golfing if I had wanted). It was super fun, however, I fell because as someone was trying to pass me on a narrow bit of the trail, they lost control, fell down in front of me, not giving me room to adjust and they tripped me. It was kinda a hard fall. I bruised my thigh and my shoulder was a little strained. My shoulder was feeling pretty good, but doing a simple thing of taking off my shirt one night a few days afterward I pulled or strained a muscle so badly that I couldn't move my arm and I was in incredible pain for a few hours - yes, there were tears. I iced it and tried to go to sleep. Anyways, for the next few days, I was so shocked at how many things my shoulder did in everyday life. I knew how important it was by all the pain I felt whenever I tried to move my arm to do mundane things, like moving my fingers to type on the keyboard, lifting my arm up to rest on the desk while I typed, moving my arm in the casual way that it swings when I walk, lifting my arm above my head to undress or dress, to pull up my pants, to pull my knots tight when I tie my shoes, to almost every movement of my arm in any direction whatsoever is very highly dependent on my shoulder.. very highly dependent. I had never realized so obviously how important every little part of my body is and how much it really is amazing. I was basically my own version of a 'knock out mouse' in that I wasn't able to use a part of my body for a time being (however, with knock out mice it is permanent) and I realized how much I loved and depended on that part of my body. Considering what our bodies can do, I am pretty amazing. It kinda makes me feel guilty for not utilizing it to its full capacity. I want to know the limits of what my body can do, and then I want to work past them to reach new heights. Also, realizing how your whole body is a cohesive work, that every part is critical, then it is easier to have a better body image. In addition to realizing that all of your body works together and as a whole it is amazing, then realizing how amazing it is, you want to protect it and keep it healthy and that can be a motivation in itself to live a healthier lifestyle, which will result in a better body image.

Anyways, I just thought I would share my thoughts on my appreciation for scientific techniques and the abstract idea of being a 'knock out mouse' and helping me be thankful for an injury. I can think of how my injury helped me realize how great my body really is. I need to appreciate it and be grateful for it a little bit more :). Hope you all can learn how amazing your body is (though preferably without the injury)... just look at yourself and say, my body is amazing and sense how true that statement is :)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Today is a good day, and this is how you gauge success!

Today has been a good day so far. Ultimate frisbee does this to me. There is just something about being outside on a beautiful day, with friends, running, and playing a game. I have been thinking a lot about how to gauge success lately and I think many people think of prestige and financial success when they think of having a successful life. Though I know I do that too, there are a lot of ways to have a successful life: being happy, having a good perspective, as simple as if you 'fail' then you get up and keep trying. Days when I feel happy I feel invincible, I remember that I have good friends (all over the country, in other countries), I meet new people all the time, people seem to like me, I have so many opportunities, I am very capable, I can take on challenges and find fulfillment in them, I have a wonderful family who love me and will always help me out whenever they can, I know God loves me, and on good days I even look in the mirror and say, "Damn, I'm sexy!"

Once in a job interview many years ago I was asked, "How do you define success?" and I responded, "If you are happy doing what you are doing." I think I've thought that will happen when I find my passion and figure out a way to make it my living. I like a lot of things, and can even be passionate about some ideas and causes, but I don't think I have a "passion." This has often been troublesome for me. And I think this may have been where I got caught up when deciding if I am a success nowadays. However, I forgot there are so many reasons and different ways to be happy doing what you are doing. And having good friends and family definitely make it easier to be happy. And I am very grateful for all of you. Also I think key to finding this happiness in what you do is that you have to try your best. I am reminded about this commercial I saw years ago during the Olympics. Since it is the season of the Olympics (which I LOVE) I am often reminded of it. Basically the premise is there is this guy, and it is footage from like the 1960s, and he is in the weight lifting competition. Anyways, the narrator says, "People say that coming in 2nd is the first loser." And then the man in the commercial makes the lift, drops the weight and is jumping up and down with pure joy and happiness. And then the narrator says, "I guess nobody told that guy." I love this commercial so much. Just thinking about it now gets me a little teary eyed. But I think that if we remember to try our hardest and always try and improve ourselves, not concern ourselves about people who may be worse or better than you, but actually just continually trying your best, you can't do anything but be happy. And by my definition of success that I gave years ago in that interview, being happy doing what you are doing is the gauge of success. Anyways, those are just some thoughts I've had lately. Oh and if you haven't been watching the Olympics then you should because, so often this acknowledgment for your hard work and the pure joy of accomplishment is so evident. It is basically impossible not to love the Olympics (in my opinion anyways). Have a good day!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

So it has been a long time since I have written in this blog... I keep having thoughts about what to write in it. For example, I have had lots of thoughts about how to gauge progress after you don't have real tangible goals of graduating from college, getting married, or whatever. Like when we are younger we have lots of goals that we can make and keep in short amount of time, however, as we get older the standard by which we compare whether our life is a success or not has to change. And I have been trying to think of how I want to assess my life. I know that a full blog could be written about this... but I don't think I'm going to go into it right now....

Then I've thought about sharing thoughts I've had from a number of books I've read. Like I just read The Stranger by Albert Camus. It is a very interesting book. I don't really know if I like it, but it definitely is a book you have to think about. Asses what you think about trials of law, death penalty, how you view yourself, if we have to wait until we are near to death to regain the passion that we may have lost while we were becoming adult and really live again, etc. I am actually going to have a little chat with my friend who loves this book, so I may add a post about this later... maybe.

But what really was my motivation for writing the post today was actually just to repost a blog I had written on myspace a couple years ago. I went on a date tonight and I actually had an experience that affirmed the long held belief that on a first date you shouldn't interrogate your date to know if they have long term compatibility. I think that first dates should pretty much be there to see if you really are attracted to the other person... once you start asking what your date's ideal significant other and commenting on how you fit or don't fit that... it is kinda turning into a bad date. Anyways, when I was put on the spot to explain what I wanted in a partner and which ones I would and wouldn't compromise on, I remembered this post. I unfortunately couldn't remember all the bullets explicitly, cuz I wasn't planning on being tested on my first date. I thought that if I enjoyed this person's company that each would present themselves in a natural progression.. But I went back to look at this post, and, damn, I really do want an amazing guy! Too bad I haven't met him yet. Anyways, I am going to repost it here, cuz I don't go to myspace very often, and really, even though I intrinsically know what I want, it is nice to read it so explicitly every once and awhile. Also if you know of someone... let me know ;)

  1. Intellectually stimulating. This means they are smart, can challenge me, think of new conversations to talk about, trust me enough to talk about anything with me, are open to philosophical discussions, political ideas, books that we read alone and together, like to learn, like to teach me what they learn, etc. Also what can help here is that they have at least a bachelor's degree in something. It shows that they value education and work towards a goal and even though I know it isn't a foolproof way to show that someone is smart and I know people who are smart who don't have a BS or BA but it's a good, easy way to sift through the people. But the first part is more important than the second part of this bullet.
  2. Same values and standards as me. This pulls in views towards the church. Lots of my values and standards stem from my association with the church, however, they aren't based solely on the church. However, I think there is a higher probability of overlap and likelihood of less contention (in our own lives and when raising children) if they are of the same religious persuasion and they place value on similar weights to the aspects that the church teaches and want the same standards in our lives. Also they need to have high standards in terms of self improvement, how we can help the environment around us, etc, and how we can always work harder to improve those aspects to a higher standard.
  3. Active. I love playing. Playing sports, working out, adventuring, traveling, etc. I don't think I would be happy with someone who doesn't also want to have adventures, play sports, go snowboarding, and up for learning more new active things. Plus it will help us both be healthy. Being healthy is a good bullet, but I'll add it here. He has to like to try new foods, like flavor in his foods, be ok with not always eating meat, realize that good healthy food is tasty too - and def doesnt have to taste like a cardboard box. It can be really tasty, esp if you put any sort of effort in preparation. Which would be fun if they are also into cooking food. I would love to share cooking and having good food with them - trying out new restaurants, trying new food, looking for recipes, and eating healthily with my future ideal man.
  4. Wants to be with me. And he makes me feel like he wants to be with me. He makes me feel that I'm special and that he thinks that his life has improved since he met me. Also, what goes along with being my equal, is that there will be times that I need support and he needs support, and he needs to want to be with me when I'm having a hard time, and not get so frustrated with me that he just leaves when I need him most.
  5. Thinks that I am an equal. That he thinks I'm an equal intellectually, logically, strength (maybe not actual physical strength, but that I can hold my own, - even physically, and that I'm a strong individual in general), etc. And that he is ok that I will be better than him in some things, just like I will try and be ok that he is better than me in some things.
  6. Will be a good father. He has to love kids. He has to be good with my nieces and nephews, for example. He has to know how much I love kids and want to be an integral part of our children's lives. Playing with them, encouraging them, will teach them to be good members of society, etc. Needs to know that family is important, and that our future family will probably be the most important thing in my life, and I'd expect him to share that opinion.
  7. Will judge people on the individual traits instead of their group stereotypes. Basically this is my 'he can't be homophobic, racist, sexist, etc' and if he does have some prejudices concerning these groups, that he is at least as good of a person to take each individual he meets and lets them supersede the stereotypes. And I think that living your life based on your prejudices (which we all have) and not letting individuals speak for themselves, is a very bad way to live your life, and not something I ever want to teach my kids. You should love the person for who they are, and not treat them differently when you find something out about them that you may not like.
  8. I am physically attracted to him. I mean most people can be 'growers', you know the type that you might not find drop dead gorgeous, but as you get to know them, and they are the person you want to be with, their looks grow on you and you think they are so sexy! But I have to be physically attracted to him, and him to me. And they have to be up for sexual experimentation and sex games and sex books etc. Because I am all up for making it 'playing' instead of always just sex or whatever. And if they are sorta a sex prude, then I don't think I'd be happy with him long term.
  9. He has to like to laugh. He has to like funny movies, he has to like to be silly, he has to like my lame-o jokes, he has to just be a cheery person and like to laugh, he can't be serious all the time.
Anyways, that is the list that I made a few years ago, I can't really see any major changes or additions to that list.. Like halfways through this post I thought, "What am I doing opening myself up to such vulnerability on an online media," but I think I'm going to continue on with posting it, so enjoy this little window to my soul - while it lasts anyways ;). And maybe I will post another blog entry before 5 months pass....

Friday, August 21, 2009

Summer to date!

So I went to Julie and Julia tonight. It was a pretty cute show. It made me excited to take on new challenging tasks, made me want to blog (you are getting the benefits of that now), and I learned why guys dread going to 'chick flicks' with chicks... Holy crap. So I was sitting next to this woman (there was 1 seat between us) and she would audibly, "awww," whenever something cute, sad, romantic, etc was on the screen. I don't know how this isn't incredibly annoying to a normal person! And Julie and Julia wasn't like romantic comedy/chick flick. But it was in that it was about women taking charge of their life and the protagonists in the movie were two females, and both were in relationships, but holy crap, don't aww, so loudly that I can hear you 2 seats away. I mean you should enjoy the story and smile and laugh and maybe even aww a couple of times, but when you do it every 5-10 mins, it isn't endearing, it doesn't indicate that you think it is cute, just indicates that you are an annoying woman who I never want to sit next to in a movie again.

Anyways, it has been quite the summer for me. Actually I think this may have been one of the first movies I've seen in quite awhile. I've been travelling a lot. When I would talk with my parents my dad would ask, "Where are you going this weekend?" I went to Portland for a conference and my sister, nephew, Mom and Dad met me and we had a little vacation in Portland and Astoria. This is a picture of my sister, nephew, and I doing an amazing jumping shot at the Oregon Coast. Over the 4th of July one of my best college friends came to visit. She is going to be a veterinarian in the army, so she was in Texas doing her training.
Also I went to New Hampshire for a super great wedding of Caitlin. It was so much fun, probably one of the best day long wedding celebrations I've been to. Here is more of the Scrippsie reunion!Then I went to Tacoma, WA, for the wedding of Kristen. Thrower Pride. It was such a classic wedding, I swear it could have been in a movie! And I got to go to Mt. Rainier National Park. Then I went to New Mexico for another conference, where I got excited for math and bio again and met up with some of my friends who live in New York. I've decided I have an affinity for men who study physics.. They are pretty great :). THEN I went to my 10 year hs reunion in Salt Lake and visited with my family and friends there. It's been a pretty great summer. It is kinda enjoyable to sit at home, sew (I'll post a picture of my dress when I've finished it), cook (I made delicious malted chocolate brownies the other day and watching Julie and Julia made me wanna go look through my cookbooks), do work (one day I will graduate, I even had a discussion with my bosses that was really fun and made me think that I liked grad school!) Anyways, things are going well and I just wanted to give y'all an update! OH and if you didn't know my little sister was famous! She found a Burmese python in our driveway and was on the news and in the newspaper and tells all about her experience on her blog ( - sorry I'm not cool enough to figure out how to make a link. AND she is coming to visit me over Labor Day, so excited!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

My life is motivated by fun!

So a few years ago I took the color personality test and I pretty much was a blue, with a lot of red and then yellow came in on a close 3rd and I had basically no white personality traits. My friend told me he suspected I was a blue or yellow (blue is emotional and caring, red is driven and aggressive, whites are passive peacemakers, and yellows are motivated by fun, basically is the classification). He was mostly a yellow. I have decided I am very much driven by fun, maybe I'm more yellow than I had originally thought. I think I do everything else I do so that i can go out and have fun. One of the big things that I find super fun is going outside and enjoying the outdoors and exploring and having new adventures. Which i did recently when I went camping at Inks Lake State park near Austin. Five friends and I went there on friday evening and came back on Sunday. We went to longhorn caverns - which is a cave formed by fast moving water, only 1 in 20 caves in the world are created this way. We went on a hike. We went canoeing (I'm wearing my cowboy hat that i bought at the rodeo). We even went cliff jumping. It was a pretty great weekend! I love the great weather and the ability to go out and play... you should come along sometime!