Friday, August 24, 2012


from a paper by Dr. John Ewing published in the Notices of the American Mathematical Society, May 2011 |

Thank you to a 4LAKids reader for forwarding this article.

     “The most common misuse of mathematics is simpler, more pervasive, and (alas) more insidious: mathematics employed as a rhetorical weapon—an intellectual credential to convince the public that an idea or a process is “objective” and hence better than other competing ideas or processes.

     “This is mathematical intimidation.

     “It is especially persuasive because so many people are awed by mathematics and yet do not understand it—a dangerous combination.

     “The latest instance of the phenomenon is valued-added modeling (VAM), used to interpret test data. Value-added modeling pops up everywhere today, from newspapers to television to political campaigns. VAM is heavily promoted with unbridled and uncritical enthusiasm by the press, by politicians, and even by (some) educational experts, and it is touted as the modern, “scientific” way to measure educational success in everything from charter schools to individual teachers.

     “Yet most of those promoting value-added modeling are ill-equipped to judge either its effectiveness or its limitations. Some of those who are equipped make extravagant claims without much detail, reassuring us that someone has checked into our concerns and we shouldn’t worry. Value-added modeling is promoted because it has the right pedigree—because it is based on “sophisticated mathematics”.

Math Intimidation Driven by Data Ewing[1]

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