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I am adding this thread because FZW Coach said there will be a meeting in August on this subject so I would like to get some discussion going about possible candidates that the players and coaches around the state would like to see. Lets keep this clean though.

My opinion on the matter would be something very close to a Pickrell product. I do not think it would be wise to constantly stray to different formats every year like the past two years. I mean the difference between Avery and Pickrell is amazing, and for players to adjust every year is not fair. I think there should be some consistency from year to year.


Thu Jul 17, 2008 11:05 am
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Ford08 wrote:
I think there should be some consistency from year to year.

hah, like that's ever going to happen.


Thu Jul 17, 2008 7:37 pm
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I don't know, I really like Pickrelll's questions. The only thing that made him unpleasant was the lack of mathematics. I really do not like Avery at all. I suppose we'll see.


Sun Sep 21, 2008 1:19 pm
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Math calculation is stupid. It shouldn't even be a part of quiz bowl.


Sun Sep 21, 2008 2:23 pm
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I see where you're coming from, but I still do like having math/calculations in the tournament. It gives us left-brainers something to go for. :)

The only complaint I heard about Shawn's questions was the lack of higher-level math (and math overall) and the fact that some of them were a bit too long (hmm...)


Sun Sep 21, 2008 3:58 pm
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BeholdIndecision wrote:
I don't know, I really like Pickrelll's questions. The only thing that made him unpleasant was the lack of mathematics. I really do not like Avery at all. I suppose we'll see.

Hey, first off the provider is officially Questions Galore.
Secondly, Shawn Pickrell had 20% math just like everyone else who writes for the MSHSAA format.
Also, math computation doesn't belong in good quizbowl for the very simple reason that it tests a fundamentally different skill than a pyramidal tossup.


Sun Sep 21, 2008 4:16 pm
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I wasn't saying I was bad at math. Quite the opposite I was very good at it, it's just not something that should be in quiz bowl.


Sun Sep 21, 2008 7:15 pm
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way to necro this thread.


Mon Sep 22, 2008 8:46 am
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I believe the competitions we attend are called Academic Competitions, NOT Quiz Bowl. Just because you personally have an aversion to math doesn't mean that the skills needed to solve quality academic math questions are second class. Math takes more skill than just reading and memorizing. A good math academic question often takes what educators call "higher-order thinking skills" (although I must admit it is limited by the 15 second time frame). If Academic Competition is truly set up to test how much our high school students have learned from both their in school education and out-of-school extensions, a core subject like math HAS to be included in the scope of competition.

On a side note: I would like to reiterate how unwise it is to try to make a math computation problem pyramidal. Math history, on the other hand, is fine.


Mon Sep 22, 2008 1:45 pm
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Playing semantics games doesn't actually strengthen an argument.


Mon Sep 22, 2008 7:29 pm
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Choosing to ignore a strand of education based on semantics also doesn't make "Quiz Bowl" better.


Wed Sep 24, 2008 1:25 pm
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I guess this is as good a time as any to have the math comp debate on this board.

Math computation does not make for good quizbowl (or Academic Competion, as long as we're talking about the same game) because the skill it tests is fundamentally different than the skill set tested by all other forms of good quizbowl questions. While good, pyramidal questions test deep knowledge in a variety of academic subjects (including math - no one, least of all myself, is arguing for the removal of math theory questions), math computation questions invariably come down to whoever happens to be blessed with computation speed that is 1/100th of a second faster than the math person on the other team. As computation speed is an innate skill, one that cannot really be learned, this is completely unfair and shifts the balance of the game in favor of speed rather than knowledge, which is completely backwards from what we want to be doing.

Math theory, on the other hand, should absolutely be included, and I would argue that math theory is woefully underrepresented in basically every high school or college tournament set ever written, with the possible exception of last season's PARFAIT.


Wed Sep 24, 2008 2:19 pm
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How can you say that is what is going on here, coach? Whether you call it Academic Competition, Scholar's Quiz, or Quizbowl, if it is a game where buzzers are used to answer tossup questions it is the same thing, and within that activity there is an easily defined "good" way to run it. Math calculation does not adhere to this definition of "good" quizbowl (or academic comp, etc.) because of the following reasons:
It can not be written pyramidally - a good question is one that offers a number of concrete clues in descending difficulty that uniquely lead to an answer. Math calculation at its core is unable to do that because it is a question that can only give one real piece of information, its equation. Even if you try to give hints in a sort of pyramidal fashion, often these end up being worthless filler that either promote lateral thinking or just working out the equation and ignoring what is being read, both of which are not what should be happening with good questions. At its core they are buzzer beaters, and buzzer beaters are not compatible with good quizbowl.
Math computation is fundamentally unlike everything else in quizbowl, not only for the above reason that they are archaic buzzer beaters, but that it tests applied skills. If quizbowl were a game about applied skills, we would be asking players to analyze the causes of historical events or the use of language to characterize in the works of Mark Twain. We don't do these things because quizbowl is a game about factual recall, not analysis and application, and to change up what the game is for a single subject is not logically sound.
One other aspect of math calculation that makes it very problematic is that there is so little to ask. There are not many formulas that can be answered in reasonable time without a calculator by high schoolers. This forces question writers to rely on the same few problems with new numbers plugged into them. This allows for almost nothing beneficial to be gained once a player masters the basic tricks to the problems. In every other kind of question, across the board, there are potential clues to use that can educate players no matter how far along they are in their growth as a player and as a well rounded student. This is not so in math, where either you already understand the problem and have learned nothing, or you don’t understand the problem and will likely gain nothing from the experience.
Lastly, this idea that the purpose of quizbowl is to perfectly mirror a high school education is a myth. If it were the case, we would consider it acceptable to ask tossups on PE class, and there would not be popular culture. Also, this stance against math calculation is just that – a stance against calculation. There is nothing inherently wrong with including a math distribution as long as it asks about concepts from math and not computations. For instance, these are some questions asked at the Hunter Prison Bowl –
Quote:
FTPE, answer these questions about the properties of Pascal’s triangle.
[10] The third diagonal gives this series of numbers, of which the nth one is the sum of the natural numbers from 1 to n.
ANSWER: triangular numbers
[10] If only the odd numbers in Pascal’s triangle are shaded, the resulting pattern closely resembles this fractal, which consists of three smaller copies of itself placed in a triangular formation.
ANSWER: Sierpinski triangle or Sierpinski gasket
[10] If the numbers in each shallow diagonal of Pascal's triangle are summed, the resulting sequence of numbers is this one first described in the 1202 work by Leonardo of Pisa, Liber Abaci.
ANSWER: Fibonacci numbers or Fibonacci series

Quote:
A set of corporate practices developed by Motorola and practiced by 3M and Raytheon, among others, is named for this, implying exceptional quality and almost no manufacturing defects. The so-called empirical rule, or 68-95-99.7 rule, relates area to distance, which is expressed in terms of this quantity. The z-score is computed by subtracting mu from the individual raw score, then dividing the difference by this number, in a process known as normalization. For the Wechsler IQ test it is 15, while for the Stanford-Binet it is 16. It is the root mean square of the differences between each data point and the arithmetic mean. Also defined as the square root of the variance, it is denoted by the Greek letter sigma. FTP, in statistics, this is a measure of the spread of values in a random variable or a probability distribution.

ANSWER: standard deviation (prompt on “sigma” before it is mentioned and prompt on "six sigma" before "empirical rule")

While they may not be perfect, they certainly are math questions that adhere to better standards of what questions should be than a calculation would. There is nothing wrong with sprinkling questions like these throughout a tournament. All I would argue is that due to the relatively limited nature of things to ask about, the distribution for this would need to be reduced to reflect that, no differently than, say, social science or physics questions at the high school level. This game should not mirror the high school education, and once we recognize that we can easily proceed to making it a much higher quality game.


Wed Sep 24, 2008 2:39 pm
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I never truly get tired of this subject. I laugh a little more each and every time I see, math and the many named subject we all love in the same sentence.


Thu Sep 25, 2008 6:51 am
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As computation speed is an innate skill, one that cannot really be learned, this is completely unfair and shifts the balance from what we want to be doing.


I really have to disagree with this statement, since computational speed is a skill that you can easily practice--all you have to do is do more math problems (hence the point of homework). Computational skill is different from simple memory, but why does that necessarily make it illegitimate for Quiz Bowl?

After all, using the formal definition of Quiz Bowl from the QBwiki, good Quiz Bowl is meant to "primarily reward knowledge of a topic over speed." However, knowledge of math is reflected by speed--people who know more about math, including math theory, and who are better mathmaticians (not just people who memorize the terminology of math theory without understanding it) are generally faster at doing math as a result of doing more math. And so, why can't math be the one topic in Quiz Bowl which is tested by questions which do revolve around speed?


Thu Sep 25, 2008 8:36 am
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The logic that "if you know more about math, you are going to be faster at computation" is highly fallacious. All throughout last year, Grant Gates was pretty much the only person on our team who solved the math problems. However, there were multiple points in practice where a math computation would be read and Brandon and I both would have a clear understanding of how to solve it immediately; we just were unable to actually plug the numbers as quickly as Grant. More importantly, we had an almost 100% rate of incidence where I, not Grant, would be the one answering math questions on concepts. Until you can explain away why these things would be happening, which is quite contrary to your theory, then I will not buy it.


Thu Sep 25, 2008 10:53 am
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I'm always torn on this issue because I got a lot of my points in high school through math questions and I know that math is significant, but I agree that math computation is not a part of good quiz bowl. As has been said before, there are a very limited number of things you can ask in 15 seconds, and once you've mastered those it's basically a buzzer race between you and the people who also know the concept being asked about.

Math is important, but it doesn't match the way any other subject works in quiz bowl. Where are the questions like:

If n is initially 0, what is the value of n after the execution of the following C code:
for(i=0; i < 10; i++)
{
n += i;
}

Yes, I know that's would be a lot for the moderator to say and be understood by the players, but it's basically the same as a math computation - process-based, not knowledge-based.

And of course there's the whole issue of math not being pyramidal.

And to back up Charles' point about math knowledge versus being able to do math - I can do math very well but I'm pretty bad at math terminology questions. It's just the way my mind works: in all calculation-related courses, I just want the equation so I can answer the problems; I don't really think about the theory behind them. Sure explains why I'm going into Computer Engineering...


Thu Sep 25, 2008 11:26 am
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ScoBo1987 wrote:
Math is important, but it doesn't match the way any other subject works in quiz bowl.

This is dangerously close to the sports vs. quiz bowl argument that seems to go with the anti-MSHSAA posts.

I mean, sure, math isn't pyramidal. But the point has been raised - why can't math be different, just like why can't quiz bowl rules be different than sports rules?


Thu Sep 25, 2008 11:54 am
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I'm confused. I would think the argument analogizing math comp. with the quizbowl v. sports debate would handily go in favor of not having math computation, as follows: Math computation is fundamentally different than good quizbowl, and thus they shouldn't be used in the same place. Sports are fundamentally needing different rules than quizbowl, thus quizbowl should be run differently than sports, preferably not by an athletic organization. In either case the points you are trying to make are fairly inconsequential and unrelated to the heart of the discussion. It appears to me that the real way to advance the argument that math computation is wrong would be to respond to my above points. It is not to bring up minor, somewhat irrelevant analogies. If posters continue to try throwing up small bits of mud to see what sticks to the wall, I know I won't be responding to it anymore because that is not the point of this discussion.


Thu Sep 25, 2008 12:07 pm
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You can't get fast at math from practicing, at least not fast like Me, Grant, and Ravi. Though I can't speak for the other two, I can say that I never spent time practicing math, it just comes naturally to me and I can quickly do it in my head. Judging from their similar speed I imagine they are the same way.


Thu Sep 25, 2008 1:15 pm
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Yeah, Grant came into his first practice able to do problems insanely fast along with already being known for being good at math by a bunch of people in the school, and from knowing his family I've learned that he was a lot more advancecd with that stuff at the age of three than most.


Thu Sep 25, 2008 2:56 pm
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Charbroil wrote:
However, knowledge of math is reflected by speed--people who know more about math, including math theory, and who are better mathmaticians (not just people who memorize the terminology of math theory without understanding it) are generally faster at doing math as a result of doing more math.

I'm actually majoring in math, and I can vouch for the fact that this is simply not true in general. While you can practice routine calculations for years and improve somewhat, you're never going to overcome the natural speed that some people happen to be blessed with. In fact, many of the people you would define as "good mathematicians" are horribly slow at doing the relatively routine calculations that computational quizbowl questions require, because that's simply not what high-level math is about - plugging in numbers is far, far secondary to actually knowing what the concepts are about and being able to apply them.

Here's a more relevant example. I'm sure I know more about math than Spencer or Ravi or Grant, just because I've been around longer and have taken more classes and absorbed more clues. However, let's say that, for whatever reason, my team squared off against their team in a Missouri-format match, with ten math tossups, most if not all of which are computational. It is entirely possible, probably even likely, that all of these questions are going to go to the other team, because from what I've seen of them they have a fraction of a second better computational speed than I ever had. How is this appropriate? Why do math questions have to be fundamentally different than every other type of quizbowl question, where we are admitting we don't care who actually knows more about the type of problem being asked, and only care who can crunch the numbers 1/100 of a second faster?

Also, to Alex - the reason math questions shouldn't be different is because having forty good tossups doesn't mean much if the other ten are simply speed checks, as math calculation questions are. A team can answer as many as nine more regular, pyramidal tossups as their opponent and still lose because the ten math tossups in the game were decided by a split second in favor of the other team. If this is not fundamentally opposed to what we are trying to do in a quizbowl match, I don't know what is.


Thu Sep 25, 2008 3:06 pm
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Excellent post Matt - that has to be one of the best posts I've seen regarding the never-ending math debate.


Thu Sep 25, 2008 3:14 pm
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I agree with Jeff. And, Matt, that definitely makes sense and puts it in more perspective. I don't think I was as concerned with the math in general as in the argument against it. Now that it's phrased this way and in this light, it definitely fits in with the whole mentality.

My quiz bowl skill level = Very good
My quiz bowl theory level = Novice (but improving thanks to this place and being around Charlie so much)


Thu Sep 25, 2008 3:56 pm
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Good points. I personally think I know as *much* math as Kevin, but I'm *really* slow at math.

What about science calculations though? I can see them as more pyramidal, if done right, but my "theory" is a bit bad.


Thu Sep 25, 2008 5:34 pm
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Give an example of a "pyramidal" calculation problem of any kind.


Thu Sep 25, 2008 6:19 pm
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Yeah, science calculations run into the exact same problem as math calculations.

As for "pyramidal calculation," while it is theoretically possible to do, you can't really fill a whole tournament with them, especially one requiring as much math as a Missouri-format event does. There are only a limited number of calculation problems that can be made legitimately pyramidal.


Thu Sep 25, 2008 6:31 pm
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Regarding the way NAQT does Math, it's not good. You get the question within the first couple of lines and then know how to do it, but trying to work it while the moderator is still reading explaining how to do it is incredibly distracting.


Thu Sep 25, 2008 6:52 pm
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NAQT math computation is not pyramidal, and according to Rob Hentzel, it's not intended to be (see Fred Morlan's interview). Some examples of actual pyramidal math computation questions can be found in this thread on hsquizbowl, but they're next to impossible to write well, and the number of things on which they can be written is so small that it's probably an actual impossibility to fill a tournament with good pyramidal math computation.


Thu Sep 25, 2008 8:16 pm
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I would contend that the only possible pyramidal math comp. questions would be tossups on numbers. Things like what NAQT does or other so-called "pyramidal" math comp questions boil down to exactly what Jeff has outlined.


Thu Sep 25, 2008 8:20 pm
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Hmm...in terms of personal experience, all of the talented math players that I've encountered have also been the people who do the most math (mostly for school, but some for math competitions, etc.). Thus, I still don't agree that math computational speed is something that is impossible to improve--if that was true, then what's the point of homework?

And incidentally, that emphasis on whether math speed can be practiced isn't just a matter of throwing mud and seeing what will stick--if math speed can be practiced, then that makes it a much more legitimate Quiz Bowl skill because it's not just a test of someone's inherent ability.

Also, about what Spencer said about how "you can't get fast at math from practicing, at least not fast like [him], Grant, and Ravi," I don't know about Spencer or Grant, but my math expert, George, practices intensely on math all the time to get better at it--and since he practices for timed competitions, I'm going to assume it makes him faster as well. And since he and Ravi participate in many of the same competitions, I'm going to assume Ravi does the same.

Incidentally, about Matt's point about how a lot of the good mathmaticians he knows can't do the routine calculations in Quiz Bowl quickly, are these high schoolers or college students we're talking about? If they're college students, is it possible that they can't beat out good high schoolers in math because the math the good mathmaticians focus on isn't what high school emphasizes, but what college emphasizes (theory rather than computational ability)?

If so, then doesn't that simply argue for a division in math questions between high school and college questions? After all, if people who are better at math at the high school level are usually faster (as has been my experience), then speed based questions seem to make sense on the high school level.

And, if theory based questions are the best test of math skill/knowledge on the college level, then college questions should focus on math theory.

Of course, that opens up another issue of how high school teams should be allowed to compete at collegiate tournaments, etc. rather than focusing on poor quality high school tournaments to their detriment because I seem to be creating a false divider between high school and collegiate tournaments.

However, just because it's not fair that high schoolers can't compete above their level, that doesn't mean that high school questions questions have to reflect collegiate ones, since 1/ I'm going to guess that relatively few college students play at high school tournaments, and 2/ high schoolers interested in college competitions are more than capable of learning the theory to compete at that level, while those who aren't can simply stick with math calculation, which I'm arguing does reflect math knowledge for the overwhelming majority of high school Quiz Bowl players.

And since testing knowledge is what Quiz Bowl is about, then math computation seems to work rather nicely for that at the high school level.

************************************************

Or, in short (since my post got a lot longer then I hoped):

Math computation speed does reflect math knowledge for high schoolers in my experience, since the people who are generally "the best" at math are also the fastest. Thus, math computation questions seem to make sense for high school Quiz Bowl, if not for college quiz bowl.


Fri Sep 26, 2008 9:02 am
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Quote:
You can't get fast at math from practicing, at least not fast like Me, Grant, and Ravi. Though I can't speak for the other two, I can say that I never spent time practicing math, it just comes naturally to me and I can quickly do it in my head. Judging from their similar speed I imagine they are the same way.


I agree with what's been said regarding math computation's inappropriateness and overabundance in quizbowl generally. It's not going away any time soon with MSHSAA, though, so I just wanted to note that it is indeed possible to get fast at math from practicing it. One of the problems with math calculations is that there are a limited number of types of questions to ask and a limited number of answers available when questions have to be worked in 15 seconds. Most calculations will not involve complex fractions or similar messy answers, and most question writers repeat the same types of questions over and over since Missouri requires so many questions.

NKC's teams (up until recently, it seems) have been weak in math. When we prepared for the state championship in '98 and '99, we knew we would be up against Ryan Manual of Blue Springs, one of Missouri's strongest math players ever (an pretty good at other stuff too). Since we had a clear advantage in the humanities, we worked those silly math calculations for weeks in practice. It was pure torture, and may have set us back somewhat in our prep for nationals. We got the patterns down, knew the likely answers, and became quite quick at anticipating where these questions would go. We knew that if we weren't lightning fast, Blue Springs would answer the questions correctly. When we played them, I often rang in before all of the necessary information needed to solve the problem was given. Based on the patterns and probabilities (they weren't likely to have more than one question per round where the answer was “one,” for instance) I was able to guess the correct answer more often than not, which rattled other teams to no end. Obviously if you're naturally speedy at math, you don't need to resort to these kinds of gambles. It does further demonstrate, however, why computational math does not fit with quizbowl as a whole. If a team is weak in literature, they would be ill-advised to buzz in immediately and guess Hemingway, but for a team weak in math it's not a bad strategy.


Fri Sep 26, 2008 9:23 am
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I think this discussion may have gotten slightly off track, but I'll address Charles' concerns anyway.

Quote:
Thus, I still don't agree that math computational speed is something that is impossible to improve--if that was true, then what's the point of homework?


This is, indeed, exactly the point of this whole discussion. I'm fairly confident that no teacher I have ever had assigned a selection of homework problems with the goal of "increasing computation speed." The thing is, computation speed is a pretty meaningless skill. Homework problems call for math computation because it's the most effective way to practice one's knowledge of the theory behind the computation. The aim of any math class that's worth anything (whether it be at the high school or college level) is to learn the theory behind the math, and not computation speed. The speed itself is not really even remotely useful in any arena other than competition, and I'm arguing that it shouldn't be useful in quizbowl either for similar reasons.

Quote:
Also, about what Spencer said about how "you can't get fast at math from practicing, at least not fast like [him], Grant, and Ravi," I don't know about Spencer or Grant, but my math expert, George, practices intensely on math all the time to get better at it--and since he practices for timed competitions, I'm going to assume it makes him faster as well. And since he and Ravi participate in many of the same competitions, I'm going to assume Ravi does the same.


Practicing math all the time will probably improve one's speed marginally, but it's never going to be enough to overcome someone with a greater gift for calculation speed. Computation speed will always be a test of one's ability much greater than a test of one's knowledge, and no amount of practice will change this.

Quote:
And since testing knowledge is what Quiz Bowl is about, then math computation seems to work rather nicely for that at the high school level.


Math computation questions under the quizbowl format will always be, at their core, a test of who can crunch numbers fastest, not who actually has a greater knowledge of the problem at hand; the problem with this is that "the person who can crunch numbers fastest" and "the person who actually knows more" are frequently not the same person. This is the exact opposite of what we want to do in good quizbowl.


Fri Sep 26, 2008 10:42 am
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Hmm...in terms of personal experience, all of the talented math players that I've encountered have also been the people who do the most math (mostly for school, but some for math competitions, etc.). Thus, I still don't agree that math computational speed is something that is impossible to improve--if that was true, then what's the point of homework?

And incidentally, that emphasis on whether math speed can be practiced isn't just a matter of throwing mud and seeing what will stick--if math speed can be practiced, then that makes it a much more legitimate Quiz Bowl skill because it's not just a test of someone's inherent ability.

Dude, if teachers were testing you on how quickly you could calculate in your head, I have supreme doubts that they would be so willing to allow calculators. The other point to counter that is that teachers in my experience have expected students to show their work, with the reasoning being that they want students to prove they understand the workings of what they are being taught. I've never been to a math class that intentionally taught you how to calculate answers quickly in your head. Thus, I find that argument to be invalid. And you seem to miss the point of the whole mud throwing thing, which was more directly aimed at Dzurick's old post about comparing this to MSHSAA's involvement in quizbowl, which at its core had nothing to do with the matter at hand, along with any other irrelevant arguments being made about the matter.
I don't feel like digging through the rest of your points beyond noting that I don't think you fully understand the issue, and I still have yet to see a successful refutation of any of my points stated earlier.


Fri Sep 26, 2008 11:07 am
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Sure you can get a little faster from practicing the things that come up, but I really doubt you will be able to consistently beat people like Grant and I who are just naturally fast unless you actually are anticipating answers, in which case the question is obviously terrible. You are probably right about people who are faster generally being the "best" at math, but that's not the point.


Fri Sep 26, 2008 1:18 pm
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ashkenaziCD wrote:

One other aspect of math calculation that makes it very problematic is that there is so little to ask. There are not many formulas that can be answered in reasonable time without a calculator by high schoolers. This forces question writers to rely on the same few problems with new numbers plugged into them.

The problem here is not that there is so little to ask, but that there are so many question providers that lack a real knowledge of math and of the wealth of math topics and intricacies that can be explored. Cutting and pasting homework problems from the same few specific question types in ANY subject is an insult to that topic, yet this seems to be the strategy used by many question providers when it comes to math. In my opinion, no question provider should be allowed to write math questions unless someone on the writing staff has a true comprehensive understanding of math through at least Calculus.

On another front, no matter how pyramidal questions in any other topic area are, doesn't a certain amount of speed factor into who gets the credit for the question in academic competition? I agree that math theory and even math history could become more important focuses in competition than they currently are, but just because there is more focus on speed in math doesn't negate its importance to academic competition.


Fri Sep 26, 2008 2:30 pm
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Post 2008\2009 State Question Provider
FishyFreshman wrote:
You are probably right about people who are faster generally being the "best" at math, but that's not the point.

That is actually precisely my point. The result of a Quiz Bowl match is supposed to reflect which team knows more about the topic. Thus, if computational questions do discover who's the "best" at math, then they work for the purposes of Quiz Bowl. After all, if the individuals who win computational questions are also the "best" at math--the "best" in this case assumed to mean do the best in math class--then they should also generally be the best in math theory, since as Matt put it:

Quote:
The aim of any math class that's worth anything (whether it be at the high school or college level) is to learn the theory behind the math,


Now, of course, if computational speed and mathematical knowledge are usually divorced from one another, then math computation does lose its usefulness in Quiz Bowl. Whether they are or are not is really the crux of the problem, but since neither of us can really state categorically one way or the other, I don't really feel like arguing the point any longer.

Incidentally, I get Matt's point that computational speed really isn't the focus of mathematical education and that it's not really a useful skill, but I think it's still a fairly good barometer of mathematical talent for most people. That being said, neither of us can really prove that one way or the other, so I guess it comes back to my previous paragraph's point.


Fri Sep 26, 2008 5:11 pm
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Post 2008\2009 State Question Provider
Charbroil wrote:

Incidentally, I get Matt's point that computational speed really isn't the focus of mathematical education and that it's not really a useful skill, but I think it's still a fairly good barometer of mathematical talent for most people. That being said, neither of us can really prove that one way or the other, so I guess it comes back to my previous paragraph's point.

Oh poppycock.

I was one of the fastest players in my day in MO at computational math. It's one of the main reasons I won so much my senior year. Guess what happened when I went to college and had to take calculus that wasn't easily answered in 10-15 seconds? Oh yeah, I got an awful grade despite my best efforts.

Computational math is more or less based on memorization of little tricks, not actual knowledge of the subject, its precepts, or its theory. It is NOT the reflection of knowledge by and large.


Fri Sep 26, 2008 6:33 pm
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Post 2008\2009 State Question Provider
Quote:
That is actually precisely my point. The result of a Quiz Bowl match is supposed to reflect which team knows more about the topic. Thus, if computational questions do discover who's the "best" at math, then they work for the purposes of Quiz Bowl. After all, if the individuals who win computational questions are also the "best" at math--the "best" in this case assumed to mean do the best in math class--then they should also generally be the best in math theory

Except they don't! Didn't you hear me before? Whenever math computation came up, Grant would get it. He is naturally much faster at computation than I was, and while he did practice it to speed up, the reason he was able to do that with some success was because from at least when he was a toddler he was much more attuned to it. Brandon and I would both make the exact same connections many times that Grant did to figure out what was needed to solve a problem (which is ultimately the point of math, and if somehow quizbowl were able to test that instead of computation, I would be OK with it), but were never as naturally skilled at it as him and thus took much longer to actually work through the problems without a calculator.
Then, when it came time to answer math theory, which according to you Grant should have been equally dominant on, he tended to be clueless. I would be the one answering those questions almost without fail. How do you explain that away? So far unsuccessfully, and even if your theory is right 90% of the time (which I would contend it probably isn't), it has at least one counterexample I can easily cite, which according to the logic I learned in math class is enough to disprove a theory.

Quote:
The problem here is not that there is so little to ask, but that there are so many question providers that lack a real knowledge of math and of the wealth of math topics and intricacies that can be explored. Cutting and pasting homework problems from the same few specific question types in ANY subject is an insult to that topic, yet this seems to be the strategy used by many question providers when it comes to math. In my opinion, no question provider should be allowed to write math questions unless someone on the writing staff has a true comprehensive understanding of math through at least Calculus.

On another front, no matter how pyramidal questions in any other topic area are, doesn't a certain amount of speed factor into who gets the credit for the question in academic competition? I agree that math theory and even math history could become more important focuses in competition than they currently are, but just because there is more focus on speed in math doesn't negate its importance to academic competition.


I would say that no matter which way you slice it there is still very little to ask that is considered answerable enough by enough teams to make it worth asking (because if your math goes dead from being very hard, its essentially made itself worthless). What could question writers possibly be asking other than what is already commonplace in the game without either having them go far beyond 15 seconds to do, involving too many unwieldy numbers, or consisting of things that only maybe 2 people per tournament will actually understand how to do. Your statement about question writers potentially being unqualified just brings up again the fact that as long as we have a format like MSHSAA's being used, it will be impossible to find question writers who are qualified and worth paying (see HSAPQ's new statement about why they will not write for tournaments that want math computation). What you are asking for can't be filled by pretty much any good question writers, nor any of the awful question writers who decide to try tackling it anyway. Also, you should be getting a rear-full of hard calculus this year with Questions Galore unless they suddenly rein that in. Tell me how that works out for you.
While yes, there will always be a certain aspect of speed in any game involving buzzers, that doesn't condone buzzer race-inducing questions. The whole point of a pyramidal question is to allow many clues at different difficulties to allow someone who knows more about the subject to have a shot at answering it. While this still does make speed a factor, it becomes much less of a factor than any question that intentionally forces a buzzer race by containing few too clues, which is what math does. Take these examples:
A One Liner wrote:
Who is the Nigerian who wrote Things Fall Apart?
ANSWER: Chinua Achebe

That is a question with almost no leeway for anyone to have true knowledge of Chinua Achebe's works to get any points over someone who has just done rote title-author memorization.
2008 PACE Nationals wrote:
16. Jonathan finds that his bicycle is still standing in this author’s "Civil Peace," and Nwibe runs through town naked in "The Mad Man." Sam’s dictatorship in Kangan is opposed by Chris and Ikem in his most recent work, while T.K. Winterbottom feuds with Ezelu in another of his novels. He created a character who commits suicide after killing a court messenger, because the rest of Umuofia will not join his revolt against the British. For 10 points, name this author of Anthills of the Savannah who created Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart.
ANSWER: Chinua Achebe
<Letzler>

This obviously is a much better tossup, allowing someone who knows different titles and plot details to buzz in before someone who only knows "Things Fall Apart." I think we can agree that objectively this tossup will have a much higher likelyhood of rewarding a deeper player, and thus if that is our goal in quizbowl, we should be emulating it in all of our questions. Just because there is the chance that 2 teams who only know "Things Fall Apart" would buzzer race doesn't change the fact that it does reward knowledge. Thus, saying that because this question may have a buzzer race between people of limited knowledge (which is the players' faults, not the question's) cannot possibly begin to mean the one liner above it is just as acceptable. With your ideas about buzzer racing, you would then have to agree that the one-liner I've given above is also at least equally acceptable to the PACE tossup below.


Fri Sep 26, 2008 9:25 pm
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Post 2008\2009 State Question Provider
It occurs to me that it is virtually an impossible discussion that I am trying to have if the party I am trying to discuss with has very little appreciation for math as a whole. I know not all share the love I have for math, but that doesn't make it any less important in academics. All I am trying to say is that in nearly every tournament we attend there seem to be a couple narrow areas of math that are overemphasized and several that are neglected almost completely. Just like there should be a good distribution of science questions (not 50% in Chemistry, like we've seen in rounds before), there should also be a nice balance of differing math topics and types of problems.

On the topic of Questions Galore and Calculus, we played at least one tournament on their questions last year and the Calculus questions were ok (from what I remember). Overall I wasn't pleased with the quality of the questions, but hopefully things will be better this year.

As for the Achebe question, it would be obvious to me that the second question is of better quality (although many coaches would unfortunately disagree with me). However, this still doesn't eliminate the possibility of a buzzer race ensuing at points in the question even between two teams that possessed deeper knowledge. Speed is just a part of the competition any way you slice it. Personally, I like that it is. I have been on both sides of the speed issue (blowing a team away and getting blown away). In the 50 toss-up and rebounding bonus format, I think things usually even out and the better team wins in the end.


Mon Sep 29, 2008 3:11 pm
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Post 2008\2009 State Question Provider
FordATeam/CC wrote:
It occurs to me that it is virtually an impossible discussion that I am trying to have if the party I am trying to discuss with has very little appreciation for math as a whole. I know not all share the love I have for math, but that doesn't make it any less important in academics.

While I won't speak for Charlie, I can tell you that I am coming from the exact opposite point of view. I appreciate math, and my view is that math should be held to the exact same standards as other types of questions (e.g. they should be relevant, accessible, and reward the most knowledgeable team). However, since it is my opinion that computational questions do not live up to these standards, for the reasons I have outlined earlier in this thread, I feel that computational questions do not have a place in good quizbowl.

Quote:
As for the Achebe question, it would be obvious to me that the second question is of better quality (although many coaches would unfortunately disagree with me). However, this still doesn't eliminate the possibility of a buzzer race ensuing at points in the question even between two teams that possessed deeper knowledge. Speed is just a part of the competition any way you slice it. Personally, I like that it is. I have been on both sides of the speed issue (blowing a team away and getting blown away). In the 50 toss-up and rebounding bonus format, I think things usually even out and the better team wins in the end.


Speed will always be a part of quizbowl, and this is something that can never really be changed without compromising the quizbowl format, I agree. I also don't think it's entirely desirable to do so. However, one of the tenets of good quizbowl is that the effect of speed on the outcome of a game is minimized, and the opportunities for the team with better knowledge to earn points first is maximized. Computational questions don't do this; there are only a limited number of ways to make computational questions pyramidal, certainly not enough to fill a whole tournament with pyramidal computation questions.

I have more to say on this subject, but I have to run to practice; I'll continue this post later.


Mon Sep 29, 2008 3:42 pm
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Post 2008\2009 State Question Provider
It is always a nice argument that simply because players don't want math computation for highly logical reasons they must hate math. That is simply not the case, as evidenced by Matt, Jeff, and Spencer, along with gobs of people who have tackled this debate on hsquizbowl who are talented at math who do not think it has a place in this game in its computational form. We are not saying eliminate math - we are saying keep well written math questions and eliminate the computations. I'm going to ask that that angle please not be used in this debate again, as it is a strawman that doesn't really hold up.
As for your arguments about how the Achebe tossup still can lead to buzzer races - well, yeah, the whole point of this is to reward players who know more first, which it still is very successful at. If two players know the exact same clues, then that is where the buzzer race comes into play as it should. I still feel like you have missed the point of my saying that just because there are certain things that will be raced on, it doesn't excuse not trying to prevent those races. There still needs to be a way in a question for a player who is deep to buzz in first, which math computation does not provide.


Mon Sep 29, 2008 4:29 pm
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Post 2008\2009 State Question Provider
Continuing my previous post, as promised:

Speed should only come into play to distinguish between two teams with equal levels of knowledge on a subject. I don't have a problem with this; it is a game, after all. However, ideally what we should be aiming for is to make the speed element as minimal as possible, and always reward pure knowledge first. Math computation questions, with extremely few exceptions, are at their core a test of raw calculation speed rather than knowledge, and do an extremely poor job of telling who actually knows the most about the subject. Therefore, it is my opinion that calculation questions are not appropriate for use in quizbowl, and should be replaced by questions on the theory, which do tell who knows more about the subject.

To illustrate, I have written two tossups which test knowledge of basically the same thing but do so in wildly different ways. (I've written these purely off the top of my head, so apologies in advance for any inaccuracies.)

T1. One form of this mathematical operation uses its namesake's concept of measure and is known as the Lebesque variety, while a generalization of its normal variety using partitions is named after Stieltjes (a). Fubini's theorem states that multiple instances of them can be done in any order (b), and ones involving products of functions are often performed "by parts." © Usually represented as the area under a curve, (d) FTP name this operator, the inverse function of differentiation. (e)

answer: integration

T2. Calculate the integral from 0 to 2 of 4x^3 - 3x^2 + 4x - 3. (f) You have 15 seconds.

answer: 10

These two tossups both test knowledge of integration, but I will attempt to demonstrate that tossup 1 is better than tossup 2 for this purpose. Players with deep knowledge of calculus have roughly five areas to buzz - somewhere before (a), somewhere between (a) and (b), somewhere between (b) and ©, somewhere between © and (d), and somewhere between (d) and (e). Tossup 2, however, offers good players only one realistic place to buzz if he hopes to receive points - immediately after (f). Any good math player will buzz on T2 exactly at that point, as the resulting calculations can easily be done in the three seconds you are given to answer. Therefore, T2 cannot hope to differentiate between levels of knowledge, since all of the good players will be buzzing at the exact same time. T2, therefore, is the equivalent of asking a one-line tossup (let's call it T3), "What is the inverse function of differentiation?" since it offers exactly the same opportunity for good players to be rewarded with points by being able to buzz earlier - that is, none at all. T3 is clearly inferior to T1, yet T3 and T2 are pretty much exactly equivalent in their ability to tell which player knows the most. Doesn't it stand to reason, then, that T1 is superior to T2?


Mon Sep 29, 2008 7:02 pm
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Post 2008\2009 State Question Provider
ashkenaziCD wrote:
It is always a nice argument that simply because players don't want math computation for highly logical reasons they must hate math... We are not saying eliminate math - we are saying keep well written math questions and eliminate the computations. I'm going to ask that that angle please not be used in this debate again, as it is a strawman that doesn't really hold up.

It is my opinion that at it's heart, math is computation! While applications exist in many branches of academia, it is my opinion that the theory is there in large part to justify the computation strategies. I guess there is no way to come to an agreement on this issue if there is a fundamental difference in attitude toward the purpose of math. I will just have to agree to disagree.


Tue Sep 30, 2008 2:18 pm
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