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Brain Scan Can Predict Math Mistakes

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the what-wrong-looks-like dept.

Math 133

itwbennett writes "Computer Science Ph.D. candidate Federico Cirett says that he can predict with 80 percent accuracy when someone is about to make a mistake on a math question. Using an EEG machine, Cirett can identify the patterns in a volunteer's thinking that are likely to result in an error 20 seconds or so before it's made. 'If we can detect when they are going to fail, maybe we can change the text or switch the question to give them another one at a different level of difficulty, but also to keep them engaged,' Cirett said. 'Brain wave data is the nearest thing we have to really know when the students are having problems.' He will present a paper on his findings at the User Modeling, Adaptation and Personalization conference in July."

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Maybe there's something wrong with me... (3, Interesting)

mooingyak (720677) | more than 2 years ago | (#39772439)

The first thing I can think of to do with this is figure out how to trigger it and then proceed to get the problem correct, just to screw with everyone.

Re:Maybe there's something wrong with me... (1)

eugene ts wong (231154) | more than 2 years ago | (#39772941)

You are talking about gaming the system? That's kind of what i was thinking too. I wondered if there would ever be a system that would detect laziness, because if I knew that the machine could change questions to adapt to me, then I might recline a little more and stop trying.

Re:Maybe there's something wrong with me... (1, Insightful)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773145)

Because telling little Jimmy he got the question wrong would make him feel bad so instead lets piss away money so we can predict failure before it happens and be sure to water down the test just enough so Jimmy never needs to find out he sucks at math.

Re:Maybe there's something wrong with me... (5, Insightful)

Garth Smith (1720052) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773265)

Say we get this system to 100% accuracy. We know ahead of time that little Jimmy will not be able to solve this math problem. Little Jimmy has exhausted his options and has become stuck. Then what is the point of wasting time having him stare at it? I would take this as an alert that little Jimmy needs help, to intervene, and get little Jimmy learning again.

Re:Maybe there's something wrong with me... (5, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774021)

Say we get this system to 100% accuracy. We know ahead of time that little Jimmy will not be able to solve this math problem. Little Jimmy has exhausted his options and has become stuck. Then what is the point of wasting time having him stare at it? I would take this as an alert that little Jimmy needs help, to intervene, and get little Jimmy learning again.

Isn't that the old "allow no failure" school of thought repackaged?

On the other hand, if Little Jimmy stares at it a little longer, or perhaps is allowed to actually get it wrong (horrors), and then reason out why it was wrong, his learning will probably be better and longer lasting. Or if we give him a few more seconds, perhaps he will have an epiphany as his prior learning bubbles to the surface of his oat-meal brain. But most likely, jumping in 20 seconds before he offers the wrong answer isn't telling him anything he already doesn't know.

Chances are, it has nothing what so ever to do with math, but merely detects the changes in the brain that signal resignation, or the formation of Jimmy's realization that he does not know the answer or the path to the answer. His brain isn't working on math any more, its resigning him to the fact he can't solve this problem. It takes people a while to come to grips with this fact. Saving him 20 seconds AFTER he has already puzzled out this fact, but BEFORE he brings himself to write something wrong, amounts to no saving at all.

Let him spend that 20 seconds of mental anguish before writing down his guess. Chances are its a valuable part of the learning process. Why jump into micromanagement mode of a learning process we still don't understand?

Re:Maybe there's something wrong with me... (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774695)

"Isn't that the old "allow no failure" school of thought repackaged?"

Yes, but instead of it being like NCLB, we actually DO SOMETHING about it.

Re:Maybe there's something wrong with me... (1)

icebike (68054) | about 2 years ago | (#39775085)

Do something about it by detecting wrong answers 20 seconds sooner than previously?

Total Nonsense.

Re:Maybe there's something wrong with me... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#39775643)

You can't do anything about it if you don't know that he doesn't get it. Rather than waiting until tomorrow when you've graded the paper, you cane TEACH, now. Different students learn differently, and are going to understand and misunderstand different parts of the lesson..

Re:Maybe there's something wrong with me... (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | about 2 years ago | (#39775995)

DO SOMETHING about it.

Like what exactly?
The summary suggests, essentially dumbing down the next question. It's akin to playing on easy mode.
Garth Smith suggests we vaguely "intervene" somehow.

Don't get me wrong, I think this sort of thing would be a fantastic learning aid. While I'm working I could detect just exactly when I go off track, slow down, and work through that portion in more detail. Or it could kick me while I'm down and re-enforce my hatred of math.

Re:Maybe there's something wrong with me... (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about 2 years ago | (#39775373)

Because telling little Jimmy he got the question wrong would make him feel bad so instead lets piss away money so we can predict failure before it happens and be sure to water down the test just enough so Jimmy never needs to find out he sucks at math.

Or... This can be used to try and determine why people get answers incorrect. It's possible that Jimmy doesn't know the answer or doesn't understand the question as phrased. By dynamically adjusting the question, we can learn how information is processed and how people think.

For example. I had a Calculus teacher in college - head of the Math Dept, in fact - who I simply couldn't understand. The way he taught and the way I learned were too different. I dropped the class and took it with another teacher and did very well.

Re:Maybe there's something wrong with me... (1)

KhabaLox (1906148) | about 2 years ago | (#39775479)

A test in which you score 100% or 0% is worthless.

Re:Maybe there's something wrong with me... (5, Funny)

CaptainLugnuts (2594663) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774161)

With most Americans' working knowledge of math it would be easier to make a machine that just says 'Wrong Answer."

Why not just wait? (1)

slimak (593319) | more than 2 years ago | (#39772457)

Wouldn't it be better to wait and see if they do fail (which can be detected with 100% accuracy without EEG) and adapt the question then? Who could stay engaged when questions are changing while they are working on them?

Re:Why not just wait? (3, Interesting)

flibbidyfloo (451053) | more than 2 years ago | (#39772655)

Some testing system, like for the CPA license (in California at least) already do this. the computer system adjusts the difficulty of certain questions based on how you're doing so far. How exactly it does this is proprietary information and it doesn't dumb things down too much, but it can also make the test harder if you are doing really well. Then something magic happens inside the computer and it tells you whether you passed.

This seems like a silly application for such research though. Who is going to want to have to have electrodes hooked up to their head just to take a test? It's already stressful enough without having more stuff to distract you.

Re:Why not just wait? (1)

slimak (593319) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773277)

From what I recall the GRE also does (or did 10 years ago) a similar adaption. Sounds like the CPA exam is similar. As a side benefit of such adaption you can somewhat tell how you are doing. If the test is easy you are doing either very well because you are so super smart, or very poor because you fall in the less-desirable part of the intelligence bell curve!

Re:Why not just wait? (3, Interesting)

Garth Smith (1720052) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773325)

Who is going to want to have to have electrodes hooked up to their head just to take a test? It's already stressful enough without having more stuff to distract you.

I view this as research into how to better teach mathematics, or really how to better teach any intellectually challenging subject. I don't think they are hoping to hook up every test-taker to this thing, but rather trying to understand how the brain picks apart challenging problems. I feel such research is very useful.

Re:Why not just wait? (2)

Dewin (989206) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773499)

At least some of the MCSE-related exams do as well, though they're adaptive in a different manner -- if you miss a question on one subject area, it asks more (harder) questions on that subject to determine if it was just a tiny mistake or if your knowledge on that subject is actually lacking. The drawback to the format is you can't go back and revise your answers before time is up since, if you could, you could pay close attention to the questions being asked and go "Oh, I must have picked the wrong answer to this one, let's try this other answer."

The net result is a much shorter test than when I took the NT Server 4.0 exam (70-067) way back when (a few months before they changed to the adaptive format.)

(Disclaimer: I never actually did anything with my (now defunct) certification, I just had a high-school level class (as a pilot program) that actually taught it and included a trip to take the actual test.)

Re:Why not just wait? (3, Informative)

azadrozny (576352) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773583)

It is called computer-adaptive testing. I can't speak to the CA CPA exam, but the algorithm is usually not secret. Questions are categorized as easy, medium, and hard, some tests may have more categories. Your first question is of medium difficulty. When you answer a question correctly, your next question is harder. If you get a question wrong, you are given the next easier question. You get more points for correctly answering a hard questions than an easy ones. The test taker does not know the difficulty of the current question, and you are never permitted to return to a question once it is submitted.

This is how the GRE was run when I took it. I recall that you could request a statement of how each question was scored, but it was missing the question and the choices, so it would be of little diagnostic value to most people.

I know I would not want to submit to a test that scores the question before you actually respond. I suppose it is a fun research topic, but I don't see a practical application for the work. Maybe you could add it to a game show like Who Wants to be a Millionare. There would be no need for Regis to ask "is that your final answer?"

Re:Why not just wait? (3, Interesting)

kj_kabaje (1241696) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773873)

FYI, CAT (Computer Adaptive Testing) is *not* proprietary. There a lot of papers out there about how to do adaptive testing and how to do it well. That said, all of these systems, as an earlier respondent noted, are based upon actual responses rather than predicted responses. As a professional in assessment, I would not want to base any decisions about item presentation on 80% accuracy. We assess because there is uncertainty and we need evidence to model and demonstrate our best estimate of whatever it is we are measuring. The trouble with adapting before you have evidence is that you never push a examinee to their extremes. You've already artificially constrained the range of difficulties and items that a student will see. Restriction of range is already a huge problem on existing tests because of people's preconceptions of what's appropriate for certain ages or groups of examinees. It's promising technology and I intend on watching how it evolves.

Re:Why not just wait? (1)

KhabaLox (1906148) | about 2 years ago | (#39775619)

This seems like a silly application for such research though.

Well, the clinical test of most scientific research probably doesn't align very closely with actual real world applications, drug trials being a notable exception. Here they have devised a simple method to test the accuracy of their brain-wave predicting process. It's hard to predict where this could be used in the real world, though some sort of information feedback system for high-stress/high reaction time situations could be possible. For example, the plane that crashed in upstate New York a few years ago crashed because the pilot did the opposite of what he should have done when stalling. Having a computer anticipate his action* and then give feedback** could have averted the disaster.

*Anticipating actions is a long way from anticipating an answer on a (multiple choice?) test.
**Knowing the "right" answer in something as complicated as flying a plane in inclement whether is further still.

This research is giving us a better understanding of the most complex computer we know, and the most important organ in our body. This deeper understanding will pay off in ways we don't understand yet.

Computer programming and refactoring (2)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773813)

Forget nit picking over optimizing testing strategies. The real news is you can predict where someone is likely to make an error. Imagine recording all this data while someone was writing code. Eventually there is a bug detected but where is it? Well you might want to color code the code to show sections where the person was struggling with logic. That might be a place to look first. Of course it might be in some place where it never occurred to the person they should be struggling or was just a typo. But at least automatically flagging every place where the programmer was unsure of things would help with code reviews or code refactoring.

How wonderful (4, Funny)

durrr (1316311) | more than 2 years ago | (#39772477)

A patronizing system that tells you that you've already failed before you've actually done so that gives you amateurish problems so it can see you succeed.

I hope it comes with a robot arm that tears the test paper out from under your pen, pats you on the head and give you a first grade replacement problem. Bonus for cheering with a nonenthusiastic voice whenever you pass a problem.

Re:How wonderful (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#39772667)

It's all fun and games to laugh at the nannybot; but one should probably spare a moment's concern for the much-cherished illusion of 'agency', which is not done much good by any result that allows an individual's mental processes to be inferred before they've even become aware of them...

The researcher's suggestion for on-the-fly difficulty adjustment seems (if not overtly wrongheaded) a waste of scanner hardware, just waiting 20 seconds will give you the same data. The interesting bit is that actually making the mistake is apparently something you do fairly late in the game, compared to the occult mental activity...

Re:How wonderful (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#39772819)

I hope it comes with a robot arm that tears the test paper out from under your pen, pats you on the head and give you a first grade replacement problem.

Not needed; The helicopter parent standing next to said child can do that, as well as complain to the teacher about how their child is being left behind. "It's not Little Timmy's fault -- it's his brain!"

Re:How wonderful (1)

IwantToKeepAnon (411424) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773029)

This is a joke, I get it. But if you could keep an child engaged at near 100% of their capacity, what potential.

Re:How wonderful (5, Interesting)

Garth Smith (1720052) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773163)

I majored in math and spend many hours tutoring math. Here is a key in tutoring, you need to give challenging but SOLVABLE problems! Otherwise you just frustrate and make math something to hate. If I got stuck on some math homework and couldn't figure it out, that sucked. I figured out pretty quick if I was stuck for 5 minutes, just wait and go ask for help.

What I found interesting about the article is that the mention of the word "math" is enough for some people to show signs of imminent failure. I have often come across this while tutoring and the best thing that I could do to help these people is to remove a fear of math from them. Show them that they CAN do some easier math, and then move on from there.

This is key in educating anyone in any topic. Challenging but SOLVABLE problems! Your attitude only makes society hate mathematics more, when they should be shown the wonder and excitement of it!

Re:How wonderful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39773639)

When I was doing my degree in math I'd read through and digest all the problems. I'd know how to do some but not others. Then I'd wait until the next day. My subconscious would have broadly solved them all (i.e. I'd understand the point of the problem and how it could be solved) and I'd work out the details and write down the answers.

Staring at something you're stuck on (as many coders like to do) is a complete waste of time.

Re:How wonderful (2)

LateArthurDent (1403947) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773911)

I've made this observation before. Back when I was in school, classmates around me who had serious problem learning the material generally fell into one of two categories:

  1. They got frustrated with their inability to learn the material remained permanently stuck on the problem, and just decided they hated the course, the professor, or whatever. Typically that stemmed from lacking a good grasp on knowledge the rest of us had. Either a misunderstanding on what was just explained, or a fundamental lack of understanding on the material from a prerequisite course (or something that should have been a prerequisite course). What these guys needed was to have someone observe their thought process in trying to solve the problem, find out why they were stuck, and give them the knowledge they lack. Once they get that extra knowledge and start solving the problems more easily, that builds confidence, and they stop being afraid / hating the subject.
  2. If they couldn't solve the problem, they'd instantly give up and ask someone how to do it. This stems from never being given a challenging problem, or just always being shown the procedure of how to solve one as soon as they explain that they don't immediately know how to do it. And of course, once they leave school, nobody needs them to solve problems that we already have a procedure for how to solve. Figuring out a solution to a problem we don't have the answer to is what we want to pay them to do.

In short, you're obviously a good teacher. You don't crush your students' confidence to the point where they refuse to try, but you also make sure to challenge them so that they don't get into the second mode of just asking for help immediately if they haven't seen the problem before.

Re:How wonderful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39773183)

Here I am with a brain the size of a planet and all they let me do is watch you fail at math.

Re:How wonderful (4, Insightful)

GSloop (165220) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773193)

I believe you intended to be funny or sarcastic here, but many of the replies down-stream also seem to miss the point.

Provided you can believe the article...
There are *patterns* of thinking that indicate a student is about to make a mistake, that they otherwise may well be capable of solving correctly.

It's not that they can't handle that difficulty, or don't know the subject matter; it's that their brain is going into patterns that indicate it will simply be unable to reproduce the known material, and the student will fail on that problem, even if they have the requisite knowledge and skill to successfully answer the question.

It would seem a monumental failure to test someone and not actually measure the skill they have accurately.

Now, the solution? There are a myriad of them, and some are obviously better than others.

The prime solution, it seems in my mind, is to then give the subject a view of their brain and thinking that produced this likelihood of failure. You'd teach them how to recognize the onset of the thinking/brain patterns, and how to re-direct their thinking to help alleviate this bad construct.

Teaching someone how to do that would be incredible. It wouldn't involve "going easy" on them, and wouldn't give them results they couldn't achieve on their own. Once they were able to move out of the "bad" patterns, they could go right back to doing the test and you would get a much more accurate measurement of what the test-taker actually knew.

Further, almost certainly some people are much worse at getting stuck in these brain patterns - and their results from testing are probably much worse than the rest of the population and they are measured very inaccurately.

In spite of all the "humor" and snowflake BS thrown at the concept, I see this as something that could greatly improve the quality and skill of the people who utilized it. It could allow us to tap the potential of people who otherwise would be lost as "not very good" who really only fail the measurement system. [Or more accurately, the measurement system fails them.]

Why throw away many who *do* have the requisite knowledge - simply because we don't know how to help them perform better?
Why not help people perform better and learn where their brain limitations cost them - and better yet, teach them how to modify their thinking and work output to give them better results?

-Greg

Re:How wonderful (1)

ifrag (984323) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773273)

Bonus for cheering with a nonenthusiastic voice whenever you pass a problem.

Well done. In fact, you did so well, I'm going to note this on your file, in the commendations section. Oh, there's lots of room here. 'Did well ... enough.'

Re:How wonderful (1)

athe!st (1782368) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774601)

What they've actually discovered is the pattern of someone's inner monologue saying "fuck it that's close enough"

University of Florida (2)

Bigby (659157) | more than 2 years ago | (#39772499)

I am going to guess that Federico Cirett didn't go to UF.

Helping people relax (2)

sideslash (1865434) | more than 2 years ago | (#39772523)

Fascinating research, but I am not a fan of his suggested application. The last thing I want as a test taker is to have a computer dumb down the test (with presumed accompanying grade reduction) to help me relax and feel good about myself.

Re:Helping people relax (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#39772809)

It is possible that the researcher is somehow still a clueless bleeding-heart about math exams and drills, even after making it through a hard science curriculum; but I suspect that there is a much more sensible core to the idea(albeit one that can be achieved in large part just by waiting for the examinee to answer before posing the next question, rather than with the fancy apparatus)...

Especially for drills/practice, it is considered pedagogically wasteful to either waste a student's time on problems they can crush trivially or problems that they can only bang their head futilely against. The ideal is to keep the student at the edge of their ability, emphasizing areas where they are unacceptably weak; but not so weak as to be unlikely to benefit from the practice.

If the objective is a final evaluation of some sort, adjusting the difficulty makes no sense. However, if it is a practice exercise of some kind, continuous modification of difficulty according to understanding is a virtue.

Snowflakes (5, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#39772529)

'Brain wave data is the nearest thing we have to really know when the students are having problems.

Most people have been raised with the notion that it's more important to appear competent than be competent. There's several college-themed cartoons out there about that express hatred for "The Question Guy"... and most people are acutely aware that asking questions on material is a great way to earn the irritation and ostracism of your peers, who feel they have better things to do than get an education and really just want to go through the motions and get out.

This is another technology that's trying to solve a social problem, and like every attempt in that regard, it will fail, be impractical, and people will try to defeat it -- because they don't see the point and they don't want to appear incompetent. In 20 years, we'll be getting coached on how to have the right brain wave patterns for getting through the airport unmolested, how to cheat on your final and not get detected by the brain wave readers, etc.

The problem is in our social values and attitudes. It's systemic and institutional. No technology can fix that, however advanced.

Re:Snowflakes (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39772877)

The only "question guy" I've seen people really hate is the kind that goes: "hey professor: something I already know by reading ahead, slightly rephrased as a question to garner your respect and appear intelligent?"

Usually the person asking legitimate "I'm trying to understand this" questions is doing everybody a favour, and I've never seen anything but appreciation for these people.

Re:Snowflakes (4, Informative)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773105)

Well there are a bunch of different question guys.
1. Question to show off. Ask an intelligent question that helps lead the professor into the next chapter. Sometimes it isn't to show off, but because how the material is presented, it get the person to stir about the points brought up in class and starts thinking too much so they get confused and needs to point out the details in the next part.

2. The Stupid Question. These are questions that you ask because you weren't paying attention 5 minutes ago. Or because you failed to learn the course before.

3. The Question that takes too long. If the Teacher/Professor cannot explain it to you after 2 questions you should take it off line, and not disrupt the class any further.

4. The Question everyone has, but is afraid to ask. When one poor brave sole asks the question everyone else was afraid to ask. This often happens when the professor is trying to go to fast and/or uses proofs by intimidation to get to the next spot. "So we find this value, and as anyone can see it brings us to this conclusion...."

5. The honest question. Others in the class may get it, but you are missing a small piece and you just can't quite visualize it. A quick answer and you are on your way.

For the most part it is difficult to judge what type of question you are asking until after you asked it.

Re:Snowflakes (1)

mordenkhai (1167617) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773529)

I agree with your assessment of there being more than 1 type of "Question Guy", and as someone who really hates some of those types...

I am taking an Assembly Language class right now, and there is a question guy. Luckily he is not types 2 or 4, as those are for me the worst. He does meander into 3 a lot and that's where it is an issue for me. When the professor is teaching I am following, I have no issues with focus, and its good for me. Then along comes a question, which almost always will be added to mid answer. He seems to always want to talk about C, and there is a lot of "In C..... global variable..... pointer...". My problem is just that, my problem and not his fault, is about focus. I feel like the long questions he asks that just go over what the teacher said or then go into these seemingly random hypothetical situations make it hard for me to focus on the new material being taught. That's why I cringe when he asks a question. If its a short clarification or something I don't have any problems getting back on task, but the meandering comparisons to C make me drift off and it gets harder and harder to get back. The people I sit near take bets on how many minutes these offshoots go, it averages 5-6 per. I just wish he would teach a section and then take questions afterwards and not in the middle, but I know everyone learns differently so I just gotta find a way to focus up after a long mental walk around the C/pointer/variable/memory map lane that seems to happen 2-3 times per class. It doesn't help that after class is a lab, which the questioner never attends.

Luckily our teacher seems to never have issues with #4, as he always shows something and then says "Oh, and now you say 'but professor Tak, I don't believe you, I don't think that works', well lets do it then and find out" and I think he does a fantastic job of showing what he means rather than just telling us "I said so and my PhD means I can't be wrong!"

Re:Snowflakes (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773553)

I've seen much more problems with people in a class too far head of their understanding. Asking basic questions in an advanced class.

Re:Snowflakes (1)

FrootLoops (1817694) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773771)

and I've never seen anything but appreciation for these people.

In general I agree, though I've been the "question guy" in some instances where it wasn't universally appreciated.

  * In a quantum mechanics course that often lacked mathematical rigor (eg. the completeness property of Hilbert space was never explicitly mentioned) I asked some questions some of the physics students and the instructor viewed as minor details that weren't worth the time or effort to look into (eg. "how can we ignore infinitely many terms? maybe they'll add up to something large").

  * In a chemistry course, once an instructor rushed through a derivation mostly by flashing through a bunch of integrals on his PowerPoint. I didn't feel I understood it very well so I asked for details, but it was clear from body language that the rest of the class wasn't interested in the material or derivation so I stopped. The instructor seemed to think discussing the details wasn't important either from his tone of voice and body language.

  * I remember bringing up various questions outside of class to friends who sometimes weren't at all interested. As an example, an engineering course on signals did a little work with Fourier transforms, and I wondered if the Fourier series of an arbitrary signal accurately reconstructs that signal. I've since learned that it's a delicate question, and I can understand why the instructors completely ignored it; I did in class as well since it worked for the simple signals we played with.

If anyone's interested in the answer to the above question, there are actually continuous functions whose Fourier series does *not* converge to the original function at each point. In fact, to every continuous periodic function there is another continuous periodic function which differs from the original at each point by an arbitrarily small amount and where the partial sums of the Fourier series are unbounded on some non-empty set E. Still more is true: E can be taken to be dense, i.e. each real number is arbitrarily close to some point in E, and in fact E can be taken to be uncountable, so in some sense the Fourier series does not converge to the original function for points that are infinitely more numerous than the rational numbers. And by now everyone will have lost interest, which illustrates my original point that questions aren't universally appreciated.

Re:Snowflakes (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774745)

And by now everyone will have lost interest, which illustrates my original point that questions aren't universally appreciated.

I don't know about that. I'm one of those people who find scientific knowledge of all kinds interesting, even if I don't personally have a use for it or even understand it. I once spent an entire evening at a local diner quizzing a friend of mine who has a double major in math and physics about spacetime manifolds, and in the process she wound up having to borrow a stack of napkins and explain to be some basic calculus, by which time we'd both completely forgotten the original topic of conversation. I know she wasn't thrilled at the prospect of teaching me something I should have learned in high school (and then forgotten), and I have no real use for calculus in my life, but I never graduated from high school and she was just grateful to have someone to talk to who she could converse with intellectually. Of course, now I know the difference between vector and scalar quantities, and what that little triangle (delta) in an equation means... but still have no idea what the hell a Rienman manifold is. ;)

Re:Snowflakes (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 2 years ago | (#39772969)

In 20 years, we'll be getting coached on how to have the right brain wave patterns for getting through the airport unmolested, how to cheat on your final and not get detected by the brain wave readers, etc.

That could actually be useful, assuming that brain waves have some relation to how you're using said brains of course.

Re:Snowflakes (2)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773659)

Most people have been raised with the notion that it's more important to appear competent than be competent.

There's a reason for that: Appearing competent is easier than being competent, and the rewards almost as great if not greater. For instance, a person who's able to get hired as an executive by appearing competent can protect themselves from the consequences of failure by blaming subordinates, blaming another department, blaming market conditions, or most drastically moving to another organization citing philosophical differences with the place they're at, to the point where they can "fail upwards" and reach the upper echelons of management without ever having done anything useful. Whereas a person who's good at the grunt work is often stuck at a senior foreman kind of level where he's still doing the grunt work with his team.

In other words, if we rewarded our scientists and teachers the same way we do our CEOs, we'd be a lot further along scientifically than we are now.

Suggestion (5, Funny)

Dorsch (1773388) | more than 2 years ago | (#39772567)

There should be a system like that for posting on the internet... "Error Code 427 - there is a 80% probability you're posting bullshit. Your post was discarded."

Re:Suggestion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39773015)

And the only posts left on Slashdot would be 'First post!', once per article.

Re:Suggestion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39774687)

Error Code 427 - there is a 80% probability you're posting bullshit

What a great idea. Nobody will try to game that system. And we are definitely not going to be annoyed with both people posting bullshit and people complaining about false positives when their frost pist comment got blocked.

Re:Suggestion (1)

Dorsch (1773388) | about 2 years ago | (#39775483)

How about a device that lets you punch people in the face via TCP/IP?

Something for the wrist? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39772593)

I wish I had something like this to wear on a wrist to check my thinking.

Years ago, back in the dark ages (80s), I was taking a thermo exam. We were given data and we had to derive an equation from said data. Anyway, after pondering it, deriving the equation, checking it once, checking it twice and seeing that it was nice, I turned in my exam.

'D' on the Final

Why?

Forgot to divide by '2' and that screwed up everything else. That ended any dreams of a science or engineering career - thermo was absolutely required and it had to be a 'C' or better.

I went to 'B' school instead, became a programmer (only job I could get. The bond traders wanted nothing to do with me.), and now I'm a long term unemployed loser.

So, what's the moral of my story?

I don't have a fucking clue. And I guess I failed at story telling too.

Wait here's something:

Kids, learn to concentrate. Learn to give 100% of your attention to the present moment. Ignore folks who want "multitaskers" and ignore the media that insists on dividing your attention - pretty much anything electronic. Video games? Not from what I've seen. Yeah it requires attention, but it does so with a lot of variation.

Anyway, never mind. I'm a loser.

Carry on.

Re:Something for the wrist? (2)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773251)

Forgot to divide by '2' and that screwed up everything else

You got a D on an exam because you forgot to divide by 2 somewhere? I see three possibilities:
* You didn't show your work, and you got 0 points for the problem because you only showed the wrong answer.
* You are leaving out all the other problems you got wrong that contributed to the D
* You had a lousy teacher/grader, who considers a missing division by 2 to be as bad as not knowing anything about thermodynamics at all.

Personally, the last part is a pet peeve of mine. With grades being all you have to show for in school, nuking someone for just getting a small step wrong somewhere is idiotic and counter productive. The goal isn't to get people to memorize things, but instead to understand concepts. Details can easily be looked up. That said, the other pet peeve of mine were students who complained I gave zero points on a problem when they had forgotten to divide by two - but only gave me the anwer. If you want partial credit, don't be lazy - show your work.

Re:Something for the wrist? (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773541)

When I was the GTA, I used to follow every scrap of written material to find some reason to award points. I have given full credit to correctly formed equations, even if the answer is wrong, with a warning note written on the margin. Never docked points for not solving any equation that requires a programmable calculator. I would spend time trying to follow whatever method the student has chosen to attack the problem to localize the exact mistake that led the student astray. If there are multiple ways to solve a problem, I would often solve in every possible way while posting the answer key.

Gosh, those were the happy days. Wish I could go back to being in grad school again. No money at hand. But had an adoring wife and an adorable baby and plenty of time to be with them. Now the baby is in college, I am pounding key board hacking out code and the missus is nagging me to clean the basement. . One would think all the credit I gave out grading Engineering Mechanics I and II would give me some karma. Nope. I get no credit till the last piece of junk is on the sidewalk before garbage day

Re:Something for the wrist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39773895)

Forgetting to divide by two is not as bad as not knowing anything about thermodynamics (in a thermodynamics class), but it is still pretty bad and I wouldn't dismiss it as a trivial detail.

The grade in the exam does not only reflect knowledge, but competence, including attention to detail.

"Trivial errors" like forgetting to divide by two can sometimes cost hundreds of millions of dollars. The Mars Climate Orbiter mission failed because someone failed to convert a number to the right units.

should by caught by the process (1)

Chirs (87576) | about 2 years ago | (#39775291)

That sort of trivial error can happen at any time, even when people are normally attentive. Everyone has an off day, or just got dumped, or a family member died, or whatever.

This sort of thing should be caught by the code inspections, unit tests, integration tests, regression tests, etc.

Re:Something for the wrist? (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773301)

I expect you were always a looser or just trolling.
1. You could have taken the class over again. (I personally took Calculus I twice, as I got a C- the first time, I didn't like that grade so I took it over again for a B+)
2. If you got a D in that class you probably wasn't doing too hot in it anyways (But we can let that slide as some classes have only the final for your grade).
3. Why would you go to Business school if your interests was in science, you could have gone to different schools in science, they also had Computer Science back in the 80's.
4. Your expectation was quite high to get out of Business School and become a Bond Trader, You need to start in the mail room.
5. Why are you unemployed unless you suck at programming, Programmers is one of those hot jobs in this economy.

You have taken every setback and you seemed to work on making it worse. You have made bad decisions and you shouldn't had tried to pin it on one bad test, but in your life in general.

Re:Something for the wrist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39773765)

trolling?

Go've got to be kidding me!

Here I am, bleeding my heart out over my mistakes and you're calling me a "Troll".

Nice.

Real Nice.

Interviewed at Travelers. They wanted 'A's in calculus. Anyway, why am I arguing with you? I'm an AC and ...

whatever man ...

Re:Something for the wrist? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773857)

you probably wasn't doing too hot in it anyways

A bit likewise you in them grammer class's.

Re:Something for the wrist? (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774973)

...why didn't you just re-take the course?

Use this to annotate code (3, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#39772659)

This could be useful for programmers. It may be possible to detect some programming errors while programming.

Re:Use this to annotate code (1)

Bigby (659157) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773347)

That is actually a very useful application of such a program. Likewise, I see this type of technology working within the field of contracts and contract law. You could be monitored while signing a document, as to provide courtroom statistical evidence that you meant to sign what you signed.

Re:Use this to annotate code (2)

gstrickler (920733) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773741)

And if it can deliver an electric shock when they do something idiotic, like fail to validate input, that would be awesome.

But.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39772673)

Was he scanning his own brain when he made the statistical calculation for his study?

Old Technology (4, Funny)

squidflakes (905524) | more than 2 years ago | (#39772685)

That's nothing, I had an ex-girlfriend who could predict with 100% accuracy when I was going to say or do something stupid, usually in response to her being upset.

Re:Old Technology (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39773057)

With this new system she would interrupt you and ask a less dangerous question for you to screw up on.

Re:Old Technology (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39773881)

"Does this dress make me look fat?"
*ding*
"Er, I mean, do I look pretty in this dress?"
*ding*
"Um, er, how about we skip the night out, and I lose the dress?"
*no error ding*

Not surprising, giving the effectiveness of scans (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39772687)

in predicicting crimes [indiatimes.com] .

LSDmarijuana 420drugsmokehashishheroin NSAIranIraqOccupyeverything FreeThePressiLoveFidel

Typical "educator"'s thinking (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 2 years ago | (#39772705)

What a depressingly (stereo)typical attitude: if the student is going to get a question wrong, change the question. I submit that a better approach is to change the student: identify the kinds of errors he/she produces and teach correct procedures for avoiding those errors.

In fact that's what I thought the purpose of a "test" was: to evaluate a student's knowledge, identify any deficiencies, and ideally inform remedial teaching as needed. I guess I'm old-fashioned.

Re:Typical "educator"'s thinking (1)

VAElynx (2001046) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773275)

This...
The software would probably drive me nuts.
Thing is, I wonder whether it's picking out legitimate errors, or mistakes.
If mistakes (as in, miscalculation, or forgetting a term from previous equation) then why change the question? Beeping to alert the student "gee , you prob'ly fucked up over there" works better.
If errors, then it's absolutely horrid, because for one of those, the thing you learn from it is what approach won't work, and (hopefully) why doesn't it, which is friggin' important. It's what separates understanding from just learning by rote - both are useful, but have different applications.

Re:Typical "educator"'s thinking (3, Informative)

Garth Smith (1720052) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773521)

I find your stereotype of educators incorrect. This study is attempting to figure out how students learn and solve problems. Such information is useful to educators. So in your words... If a student is having difficulty solving a math problem, we identify what deficiency is holding them back, then give them a simpler math problem that remedies the deficiency. Mathematics is highly structured, and I find that many times students need to go back and practice a prior topic before attempting the current exercise.

I'm going to guess most people complaining didn't RTFA. Changing math problems in the middle of a test was an offhand comment in the last paragraph, discussing possible applications for his current research. The current research being understanding how the brain works.

Re:Typical "educator"'s thinking (1)

ZeroSumHappiness (1710320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774325)

I love how we're all assuming that the CS Ph.D's idea for how to use this technology is the only possible usage that will ever be constructed ever and that as a result this technology is worthless.

In laymans terms: (0)

lxs (131946) | more than 2 years ago | (#39772707)

It's an electronic nose that smells brain farts.

Scanception (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39772747)

Can we make a Brain Scan Scanner that detects when the Brain scan is about to make a mistake? Then perhaps a Brain Scan Scanner Scanner?

Finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39772851)

At last. It was about time the "brain fart" detector was invented.

Obvious question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39772949)

Maybe I'm missing some subtlety here, but if the brain is *learning* math, and is applying an algorithm to calculate, one would assume that an error could only be determined externally, and there should be no internal inconsistency indicating an error.

Does this imply, however, that somewhere within the brain the correct answer is knocking about, and we can detect that the person's conscious mind is out of sync with that? In other words, the brain does the math perfectly, and "we" just fail to read our own brain properly?

Given the capabilities of some savants, I'd always wondered if that was the case and our processor-intensive abstract thinking was getting in the way. (not that I'm idealizing the condition)

Re:Obvious question (2)

ledow (319597) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773261)

More likely, the brain knows that it HASN'T GOT A CLUE about the answer and works harder to find one. It goes out of its normal operation to find memories, skills, techniques that it could use to perform the operation and get an answer and thus activates areas of the brain not normally activated for a question you DO know how to answer.

These idiots then suggest we should take the problem away from them at that point and feed them an easier/different question.

The brain has lots of subconscious thoughts but knowing the answer to a high-level abstract question when the conscious part doesn't is incredibly unlikely.

They are not detecting wrong answers or internal bickering between the conscious and sub-conscious. What they are detecting is confusion.

I bet you could do better than 80% just by looking at their faces.

Re:Obvious question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39773739)

What they are detecting is confusion.

(same AC as above)

That's a good point, though I was considering a slightly different situation. The particular situation I was considering was whether this would detect an error being made by someone who is not consciously confused, but simply wrong. In other words he's confidently applying some (incorrect) rule.

I would agree that it's detecting confusion, I was just curious if the confusion was conscious or subconscious.

Re:Obvious question (1)

Garth Smith (1720052) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773565)

Maybe I'm missing some subtlety here, but if the brain is *learning* math, and is applying an algorithm to calculate, one would assume that an error could only be determined externally, and there should be no internal inconsistency indicating an error.

In my reading of the article, it seems to me that there IS an internal inconsistency, and that internal inconsistency stresses the brain as the brain attempts to find a solution. In other words, the researchers are detecting the "internal inconsistency indicating an error."

It could help diagnose disabilities. (1)

racerx509 (204322) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773113)

I think such a technology would be very useful for the early detection of math learning disabilities. I went through grade school, middle school and high school with high grades in all subject areas with the exception of any sort of maths. It took 6 years to pass basic algebra. I was later tested and diagnosed with dyscalculia and had to give up a long dreamed career of engineering.

Such a tool would be useful to help get students the help they need early and not have them either waste time, or languish in school beating their head against a wall.

There's your problem (1)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773115)

"If we can detect when they are going to fail, maybe we can change the text or switch the question to give them another one at a different level of difficulty, but also to keep them engaged,"

What is it with our current society that we can't accept the fact that we will fail sometimes that not all people will "get" a particular subject and within normal variations that is okay etc. I think they need to test the assertion that someone that gets a question wrong occasionally is not going to be engaged. I think it is more likely a more "squishy" reasoning "oh clearly when people are told they are wrong they'll feel bad and we don't want that". Personally it is the things I get wrong that keep my studying: once I start getting everything right I find it hard to keep working through the next 20 questions on the same topic that the prof assigned.

Re:There's your problem (1)

Garth Smith (1720052) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773627)

The research is about figuring out how the brain works. The part you quoted is an offhand application of the research made in the last paragraph of the article. I would like to say that if we can determine when one gets "stuck" on a math problem and will not be able to solve it, then why not start teaching at that point? Why waste time letting a student's wheels spin in place when we can be teaching dammit!

Re:There's your problem (1)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774041)

Because it is being suggested that the test questions can change to give a different level of difficulty instead. Then you need to do the magic someone else in this thread alluded to that happens with CPA exams in Cali to figure out a weird blend of the difficulty of the questions and the number of right answers for each one to figure out who passes.

In a testing environment you either know the material to the level needed to pass or you don't. The teaching time is over now it is pass or fail. After the test is done you'll know what the kids no and what they need to learn and provided there is still time left in the course you can review the material they don't know, if it is the end of the year than the kid is going to math camp instead of football camp for summer.

I built one of these years ago... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39773131)

Q: Do you work in marketing or HR?
A: Yes

If the answer is yes, the person sucks at math.

20 seconds?! (1)

Cyko_01 (1092499) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773135)

Who stares at a math question for 20 seconds before answering?! I remember doing time trials in fifth grade and answering hundreds of questions in just one minute. Or is this some sort of psychic ability discovery? Either way, I fail to see the real-world application for this

Making mistakes is actually a good way to learn. (1)

Gumpu (16052) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773153)

Making mistakes is actually a good way to learn and remember information.
Usually when I first get a answer wrong and then have to work to get it correct I remember the subject much better.

First Post! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39773281)

Damn. If I only had this brain scan, I wouldn't have made that mistake.

Is it the same for the struggle vs. just wrong. (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773353)

I remember taking some classes where taking a test, I felt like I was on Fire, Every Question was Easy, only to realize I was completly wrong, and I got my grade back in a big surprise. Also there are tests where you are struggling, you know your missing some detail, and you are stressing and reworking to find the missing piece, so when you get your grade back you kinda know that you were going to get that.

I would expect the brain works much differently for each case.

frDist 5top? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39773395)

the goodwi7l

Real World Application (1)

AnalogDiehard (199128) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773473)

If I add a girlfriend, subtract her clothes, and divide her legs will the brain scan predict if I'm going to multiply?

Re:Real World Application (1)

gstrickler (920733) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773809)

The answer is right there on the keyboard, ASDF
Add
Subtract
Divide
Fail

Guess-o-meter (1)

crunchygranola (1954152) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773561)

... can identify the patterns in a volunteer's thinking that are likely to result in an error 20 seconds

I am familiar with this pattern of thinking - it is called "guessing". Guessing in math will usually fail to provide the correct answer. I am skeptical that detecting this and telling the student that they are going to make an error will actually be very helpful; people are usually aware that they are guessing.

Yeah, because we couldn't actually ask the student (1)

Gimbal (2474818) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773567)

...if the student is having problems with a question - unless the student happens to be candid enough to admit when the student is having problems with a question. Then, when the teacher would be equipped to assist the student in learning how to solve the math problem ... well, I thought that's how education works. Maybe there are some dissenting opinions about it, however.

errors are part of learning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39773573)

The brain makes errors on purpose as part of training the boundaries of new pathways.

-st

Error in summary? (1)

Strilanc (1077197) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773665)

The summary says the prediction is made 20 seconds in advance. But the source says it takes 20 seconds to make the prediction. That's a pretty significant difference.

From PhysOrg:

[...] Cirett was able to detect with 80 percent accuracy whether a student [...] would answer a question incorrectly about 20 seconds after they began the question.

What if the other 20% is where learning happens? (1)

labradort (220776) | more than 2 years ago | (#39773961)

Is the goal to allow the student to get right answer, or to allow them to learn?

This is so stupid. The thinking expressed here isn't about the student, but all about the success of the brainwave machine. Stop making our world into a 1984 hell with the the invention's success defining our paths forward rather then the wholistic view on what is happening and whether this really helps or not.

For what I'd expect, the cases where they get the answer right are of no value to learning, but the cases they cannot solve are the ones where learning happens!

Mathority Report Staring EEG Cruise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39773979)

They know before you commit the mistake!

Re:Mathority Report Staring EEG Cruise (1)

ZeroSumHappiness (1710320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774301)

Don't you mean E-Meter Cruise?

Leave it up to one person... (1)

jkiller (1030766) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774027)

This Brian Scan guy shouldn't be solely responsible for pre-emptively catching all these mistakes. And what makes HIM so special to have that ability?

Do you really need a machine for that? (1)

pablo_max (626328) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774221)

I mean, judging by the level of applicant to our company lately, if I were to predict they had the wrong answer 100% of the time, I would be right at least 80% of the time.

I'm not so sure about this (1)

Krokus (88121) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774333)

I don't think changing the question whilst I am in the middle of attempting to solve it is the best way to keep me engaged with the test.

Am I on the right track? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39774513)

Instead of changing the question, maybe there's a light bulb near the question that get's brighter if your reasoning is on the right track to lead to an answer. If the logic going through your head while working out the problem is wrong the bulb won't be lit up so you would know "Hey, I'm going down the wrong track here." and adjust your thinking until you get it right.

I guess the question at that point is, would it improve your thinking or just make you reliant on the bulb to get the right answers?

Wonderful Tool (1)

glorybe (946151) | more than 2 years ago | (#39774983)

In addition to being a learning aid this tool may well become a diagnostic blessing. Learning when we are dealing with an information or thought process issue compared to an organic defect might follow if comparative analysis is applied to large numbers of students. There might even be dietary causes unearthed. On the down side if we can understand brain functions at this level we might also be getting close to spotting psychopaths, rapists and more with this testing. Combine that with eugenics and those ovens might start smoking again.
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