It is unnecessarily cold at 6 a.m. in Minneapolis in the middle of February, just in case you were wondering. If you know me at all, you know that two of the things I hate most in this world are getting up early and cold weather.

Despite that, I’m pretty satisfied this morning. I have cappuccino, free wi-fi and an electrical outlet to plug in my laptop. The installer for the demo version of Fish Lake that I built before taking off is now uploading while I type this. (You can download it here and play for free.)

Most of all, I’m happy thinking about the fact that I don’t live in the Midwest any more. I hate cold and I love the ocean. Also, I’m not polite enough to live in the middle of the country. When someone says something incredibly stupid, like, I don’t believe that measles can kill you because it’s natural, I say,

Quit being such a dumb ass!

People in the Midwest just politely demur,

Well, that’s a different opinion!

Nonetheless, I’m quite grateful to the Midwest.  I got two degrees here, one at Washington University in St. Louis and the other at the University of Minnesota. Still, I wanted to get the hell out, which I did, 18 years ago. Some of my friends and colleagues who just as strongly expressed a desire to leave are still here. Their reasons, on the face of it, all sound understandable.

My job is here.

My family lives here.

I don’t know anyone in (insert tropical place name here)

This reminds me of a course I taught years ago on Conflict Resolution. One of the exercises went like this:

You and your spouse want to buy a lamp. You want a pink lamp. Your spouse wants a blue lamp. List all of the ways you could resolve this conflict.

The book listed over 20 possible solutions, including:

Kill your spouse. Bury him or her in the backyard and buy whatever the hell kind of lamp you want.

and

Divorce your spouse. There are probably a lot of other things they do that bother you.  Good riddance. Let them keep the furniture in the divorce and buy all new stuff exactly how you want it.

There were also several less anti-social solutions including:

  • Don’t buy a lamp. Spend the money on a really nice dinner for two instead.
  • Keep your old lamp. Save up your money and buy a pink and blue checked couch.
  • Agree that you’ll get a blue lamp but that the next piece of furniture, you get to pick.

Then there were the more off the wall solutions, like

Go off the grid! Move somewhere without electricity and live in the dark.

The author’s point was that we  often restrict ourselves to the most common solutions, and while that may sometimes be a good thing (I am not advocating killing your spouse, unless maybe they are really really irritating) it often prevents us from getting out of a rut.

Your job is in Minnesota? Find a different job. There are jobs all over the country.  I ended up moving to San Diego and it was great.

Your whole family lives in North Dakota? You know what would show your family that you really love them? Moving them to somewhere that Mother Nature doesn’t try to kill you six months out of the year.

You don’t know anyone in the new place? Your kids have friends in New Madrid, Missouri? You’ll make friends in the new place.

I’m not trivializing the difficulty in moving to a new situation, whether it is for better job, better weather or a better relationship where your significant other does not refer to you as “Hey, Stupid!”

What I am saying is that if you believe you will be happier and have a better life in Place X then there is no excuse not to do it. Maybe you can’t do it today but start looking for jobs, saving your money and most of all, quit waiting for the perfect time or opportunity.

Your other alternative is to stay where you are forever. If that prospect makes you depressed, well, get moving.

 

 

 

What’s it like starting a company with your spouse?

I get this question fairly often.

Several times now, I’ve heard investors say they don’t like to invest in couples, while in the same breath saying that they like to invest in companies with co-founders who have known each other a long time. So … starting a company with your high school best friend, good. Starting a business with your spouse, bad.

Me and The Invisible Developer

This makes me very curious about the types of marital and family relationships these investors have. I’m well aware that many marriages end in divorce and possibly many families that stay together are dysfunctional. However, it’s also true that family businesses are a staple of the American economy.

I can think of reasons why working with your family can be a disadvantage in growing a business – the primary ones being nepotism – promoting relatives over more qualified applicants, and difficulty separating work and family relationships.
However, I think there can be significant advantages, especially, as in our case, when we have been together a long time.

  • We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. The Invisible Developer is great with software but he hates meetings. He is never going to pitch – ever. On the other hand, if a new language, Swaboomi, is invented next week and it would be a significant benefit to our business, he will be writing excellent Swaboomi code before anyone else you know.
  • We have learned to work together as a team. My husband does the lion’s share of his debugging in the Unity editor on a top of the line Mac. Last week, I spent 50 hours going through our latest game on Windows, on a cheap computer with crummy wireless, playing the game over from beginning to end. Bugs that might have slipped through the cracks, I picked up and fixed.
  • We can communicate with each other without getting emotional because we are on the same team. Not all couples can do this but you have to understand that I am married to the calmest person on earth. So, I can say, “Look, it’s 4 am and we have spent the last year working on this game. I know we want it to be perfect but unless you find a bug that causes the computer to turn into a dinosaur and eat the player, we are releasing this public beta tomorrow.”
  • We have commitment. When starting a company, losing a key team member is the kiss of death. The sole founder of another startup in our building (who doesn’t know we are married) tells me every time he sees me that he is  going to lure The Invisible Developer away as a co-founder. Since his fringe benefits at 7 Generation Games include having sex with him and raising his children, I’m not too worried.
  • We’re used to pulling our weight. I hate audio editing, but I do it. Dennis doesn’t like design meetings, but he does it. It’s like in a good marriage. When something needs to be done, there’s no saying, “That’s not my job.”
  • We don’t have problems at home with a spouse because of all of the hours put in on the job. In fact, it is appreciated and understood because we are both pursuing the same goal.
  • Time. Every investor would like to think the team is thinking about their company 24-7. When we think of a new game engine, JavaScript library or  idea for a function that could really expedite development, whether it is during dinner, as we’re having our first cup of coffee or at 10 pm, there is someone else right there eager to hash it out.

Of course some couples have dysfunctional relationships and that can be a disadvantage. It seems to me that a couple who would have enough shared interests to start a business together are more likely to be the type who have commitment and good communication. Why would investors assume that all couples starting a business are the other type? Do they all have dysfunctional families themselves?

Our Project Manager, Jessica,  made the very insightful comment at lunch the other day,

No one cares how hard it was for you to make. When people are looking to buy your product, all they want to know is what it will do for them.

That young woman has a bright future in marketing. Unfortunately for those who read this blog, I do not, so I am going to tell you how hard it is to make that last push to the finish line.

tired eyes

I quit counting the number of hours I worked this week when I got to 80. I’m sure The Invisible Developer had put in even more, because many nights (mornings?) I have gone to bed at 2 a.m. and when I wake up and check the latest build in the morning I find it was put up at 5 or 6 that morning. There hasn’t been much blogging going on lately and I only have a bit of a minute now because I’m waiting to get the latest latest latest build so that I can make the Windows installer.

I’ve blogged before on the great value I place on “details” people and this week is a prime example of the importance of details.

You’d think that down to and past the wire – the last build of the game was supposed to be today and we have negative 68 minutes left in today – that we would be moving forward pretty quickly. Um, not so much.

At the beginning of development, you can easily find the problems – the question is what fraction of the fish are over one foot long when you caught 125 fish last summer and 25 were over a foot long. The correct answer is 1/5.  However, 25/125 is also a correct answer, as is 5/25 . Finding those problems is easy. You can check the answer while you are creating the pages, have it write to the console the correct answer, step through the logic. No problem.

Same thing with playing the 3-D part of the game. If you are at the part where you are supposed to be spearing the fish and there is no spear, then it is an easy enough fix.

HOWEVER, now we are supposedly at the end. So…

  1. We make a version of the build for Mac and another for Windows.
  2. We zip the Windows file because many systems block .exe files downloaded from the Internet to prevent malware installation.
  3. We upload the zipped file to our server.
  4. We download it.
  5. We play the game from beginning to end on Mac.
  6. We play the game from beginning to end on Windows.

That is, we go through every step that a user would — and somewhere along the way we find an error that we somehow missed in all of our earlier testing. Maybe something we fixed in a later stage of the game was a script that was used in an earlier level and now that doesn’t work.

So … we go through all of the steps all over again. Yes, we do have debugging capabilities where we can skip to level 6 and test that, for example, but at the very end, you NEED to go through all of the steps your users will. Trust me. You can put in every unit test you want but it will not let you know that Microsoft or Chrome or some other organization put on this earth to try my patience now has a security feature that blocks the game from installing. You won’t see that three problems and all of the accompanying instructional material were left out.If you start at level 6 you will miss the fact that there is a problem in the transition from level 5 to level 6. And so on ad inifinitum until you go to speaking in Latin and wanting to tear out your eyeballs.

We go through all of the details so that when you play it all you see is a game that works.

My high school English teacher told me,

If something is easy to read, you can damn sure believe that it was hard to write.

I think this is also true,

Any kind of software that is easy to use, you can damn sure believe it was hard to make.

 

After I recommended a business incubator to an acquaintance, one of my co-founders protested,

“But I thought you said incubators were useless.”

I told her no, I didn’t say incubators were useless.  I said they were useless for US at this stage in our company. There are times when the right incubator can be extremely helpful. The wrong incubator is useless always.

I remember walking into one of the latter type years ago in a small town in North Dakota. The “business incubator” consisted of one bored staff member with no education or experience in starting or running a business. There were a few very old computers she pointed me to  that she said I could use to search the internet. When I asked her if she suggested any particular websites she just shrugged and said,

I don’t know. I’m just here to keep people from stealing the computers.

Other than the computers, the office had a few copies of a brochure on starting a business and that was it.

Useless.

When Erich, April and I started Spirit Lake Consulting, Inc., we used the services of a business incubator at the University of North Dakota. Erich was in the doctoral program there at the time and someone had mentioned it to him. They were extremely helpful. At this point, we all had some business experience – April was the controller for the tribe, Erich and I had both done consulting and Erich had been tribal college president. I had an MBA. Still, there was a lot we did not know about building and running a company. The UND incubator helped us in many ways.

First, they told us about a lot of resources of which we were unaware. The Small Business Innovation Research awards were one huge benefit to us that we learned about from them. They directed us to the Small Business Administration website that has lots of free resources for developing business plans.

Second, they provided us financial support. They gave us a $1,500 Phase 0 award that bought some of my time so that I could afford to take time away from clients and write our first SBIR proposal, which got funded. The set us up with two business consultants, paid for by the incubator. One was a graduate student, well meaning but pretty useless, who did something like a market analysis. The second was a very experienced and I am sure very well paid executive who gave us a lot of sound advice on business planning, writing SBIR proposals and marketing.

Third, they provided us contacts. When April was offered a job as General Manager of the casino, she was required to sell all of her interest in any other entity, including our company. We needed an accountant, since she had handled the payroll, taxes, and generally keeping the IRS from throwing us in jail. The incubator recommended our accountant, Donna Remer, who we still work with to this day on The Julia Group and 7 Generation Games.

baby

An incubator is just like it sounds – for little baby companies just getting started. We’re not that any more. We have an accountant, a business plan, an SBIR award. We know enough about the GSA schedule to know it’s not for us. We have an office, computers, printer, server.

At this point, an incubator would not be very useful for us. At one point, though, it was extremely helpful, and it may be that its extremely helpful for you.

Frequently, I hear adults who should know better argue against learning something, whether it is algebra, analysis of variance or learning a programming language. They say,

I’m 47 years old and I’ve never used (insert thing I didn’t learn here).

Yes, that is true. However, if you had learned it, there is a good chance that you would have used it .  For those of you protesting, “Hey, I learned algebra!” , maybe you did and maybe you didn’t.  Read my post on number sense.)

Let’s take this morning as an example. In keeping with my New Year’s Literary resolution, I started out the day reading the jQuery cookbook. There were two things I learned that I expect to use this year. One of them was very simple, but I didn’t know it.

var t1 = +new Date ;

This returns the current date in milliseconds converted to a number. Yes, you could use the Javascript Number() function but this saves you a step.

Now you can use this useful bit of code which I am planning on applying next week when I get done with what I’m working on now. I can use it to see how long a student worked on each individual problem and how long he or she took for the whole test.

(function() {
var log = [], first, last ;
time = function(message, since) {
var now= +new Date ;
var seconds = (now - (since || last)) /1000 ;
log.push(seconds.toFixed(3) + ':' + message + 'br/>') ;
return last = +new Date ;
};
time.done = function(selector) {
time('total', first) ;
$(selector).html(log.join('')) ;
};
first = last = +new Date ;
})() ;

Now, the author’s interest was in seeing how long each bit of code took to run. However, I can see how this could be really useful in the pretest and posttests we use for our games to see how long the student spent on each problem. We could call this function each time the student clicks on the next arrow to go to the next problem.

One of the Common Core Standards for mathematical practice is “Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.”

How do you know if a student is “persevering”? One way would be to measure how long he or she spent on a particular problem before going on to the next. We cannot know for a fact that the student spent time thinking about it rather than staring off into space, but we can at least set a maximum amount of time the student spent thinking about it before going on to the next thing.

This takes me to the point Morton Jervens was making about not everything that counts can be counted and data does not always equal statistics.

While there is truth in that, I would say that much more that counts can be counted and much more of data can be turned into statistics if you know how to do it.

Learn how.

According to the New York Times, 45% of people make New Year’s resolutions and although 54% of them fail, the percentage who succeed (46% , proof that I can subtract and understand the concept of percentages) is more than ten times higher than for those people who say they would like to change but don’t make specific, stated resolutions.

confetti

I am one of those people who always makes New Year’s resolutions, and I usually keep them, putting me in the top 46% (woo-hoo!)  I believe there is value to setting public goals. Here are my resolutions for this year:

1. Read one technical book a month. I already have a list for the first seven months.

2. Get accepted in and complete an accelerator program.

3. Get three more games on the market. That won’t be as difficult as it sounds because our second game is just going through the last finishing touches and will be in at least six schools in January.

4. Work FULL-TIME on 7 Generation Games!  I am pretty excited about this one. I have two classes I have agreed to teach in February and May, and one consulting client with whom I have a long-term contract, but other than that, it is a year of game development and building a company. I am so excited.

5. Analyze all of the data we collect on our games’ effectiveness. Again, this is an easy one because it is a requirement of our grant funding. We already have pretest data on over 300 users from age 9-13, and I expect to collect data on 200-300 more as well as post-test data within the next few months.

6. Get moderately proficient with photoshop. I’m not an artist and I mostly use graphic converter, but since I have photoshop as part of the Creative Suite license, I figured I may as well learn a few things.

7. Learn more about the Mac OS. That might sound funny since I have had a Mac ever since I got one in 1984 instead of a big diamond engagement ring. (I told my to-be husband that I really wanted one of those new Macintosh computers more than a fancy diamond.) However, there are no doubt details that I don’t know and have never taken the time to learn.

8. Finish the pilot project of the data mining study I have been working on.

That is enough for the year, I think.

My sister, my mom and The Perfect Jennifer  always tells me that I need to have interests outside of work. I am not wholly convinced of that, since I am pretty happy the way I am. I don’t have any resolutions about visiting exotic places because I already have a lot on my plate for 2015. I keep saying I want to go back to Costa Rica and take some immersion program to improve my Spanish, but that will have to wait until 2016.  So, here is my non-work resolution:

9. To go visit my family at least twice this year. I’m already planning to go hiking in some mountains with my sister for a day or two this summer, and I want to take The Spoiled One to visit my mom in Florida and check out colleges in the south.

So …. those are my New Year’s resolutions and I even threw in a non-work related one. (Joy, I hope that makes you happy, or joyful or something.) I looked through my blogs for the last few years and i think  I have done okay on following through on resolutions and non-resolutions.

If you don’t have a blog but are still convinced of the whole efficacy of public accountability thing, please feel free to post your resolutions below. Or just do it because I’m nosy and wondering what other people’s resolutions are.

 

 

 

I read a lot. This year, I finished 308 books  on my Kindle app, another dozen on iBooks, a half-dozen on ebrary and 15 or 20 around the house. I don’t read books on paper very often any more. It’s not too practical for me. I go through them at the rate of about a book a night, thanks to a very successful speed reading program when I was young (thank you, St. Mary’s Elementary School). Don’t be too impressed. I don’t watch TV and I read a lot of what I colleague called, “Junk food for the brain”. I read a bunch of Agatha Christie novels, three Skullduggery Pleasant books, several of the Percy Jackson and the Olympian books. Yes, when it comes to my fiction reading, I have the interests of a fourteen-year-old girl. Trying to read like a grown up, I also read a bunch of New York Times bestseller novels and didn’t  like any of them.

So, I decided to do my own “best books list” based on a random sample of one, me, and make up my own categories.

Because I taught a course on multivariate statistics,  I read a lot of books in that area, and while several of them were okay, there was only one that I really liked.

The winner for best statistics book I read this year, 

Applied logistic regression, 3rd Edition, by David Hosmer, Stanley Lemmeshow and Rodney Sturdivant.

I really liked this book. I’m not new to logistic regression, but I’m always looking for new ideas, new ways to teach, and this book was chock full of them.  What I liked most about it is that they used examples with real data, e.g., when discussing multinomial logistic regression, the dependent variable was type of placement for adolescents, and one of the predictor variables was how likely the youthful offender was to engage in violence against others. It is a very technical book and if you are put off by matrix multiplication and odds ratios, this isn’t the book for you. On the other hand, if you want any in depth understanding of logistic regression from a practical point of view, read it from the beginning to end.

Best SAS book  I read this year …

Let me start with the caveat that I have been using SAS for over 30 years and I don’t teach undergraduates, so I have not read any basic books at all. I read a lot of books on a range of advanced topics and most of them I found to be just – meh. Maybe it is because I had read all the good books previously and so the only ones I had left unread lying around were just so-so. All that being said, the winner is …

Applied statistics and the SAS programming language (5th Ed), by Ronald Cody and Jeffrey Smith

This book has been around for eight years and I had actually read parts of it a couple of years ago, but this was the first time I read through the whole book. It’s a very readable intermediate book. Very little mathematics is included. It’s all about how to write SAS code to produce a factor analysis, repeated measures ANOVA, etc. It has a lot of random stuff thrown in, like a review of functions, and working with date data. If you have a linear style of learning and teaching, you might hate that. Personally, I liked that about it. This book was published eight years ago, which is an eon in programming time, but a chi-square or ANOVA have been around 100 years, so that wasn’t an issue. While I don’t generally like the use of simulated data for problems in statistics, for teaching this was really helpful because when students were first exposed to a new concept they didn’t need to get a codebook, fix the data. For the purpose of teaching applied statistics, it’s a good book.

Best Javascript programming book I read this year

I read a lot of Javascript books and found many of them interesting and useful, so this was a hard choice.

The jQuery cookbook, edited by Cody Lindley

was my favorite. If you haven’t gathered by now, I’m fond of learning by example, and this book is pretty much nothing but elaborate examples along the lines of , “Say you wanted to make every other row in a table green”. There are some like that I can imagine wanting to do and others I cannot think of any need to use ever. However, those are famous last words. When I was in high school, I couldn’t imagine I would ever use the matrix algebra we were learning.

Best game programming book I read this year

Again, I read a lot of game programming books. I didn’t read a lot of mediocre game programming books. They all were either pretty good or sucked. The best of the good ones was difficult to choose, but I did

Building HTML5 Games by Jesse Freeman

This is a very hands-on approach to building 2-D games with impact, with, you guessed it, plenty of examples. I was excited to learn that he has several other books out. I’m going to read all of them next year.

So, there you have it …. my favorite technical books that I read this year. Feel free to make suggestions for what I ought to read next year.

 

One of the studies cited in Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, that really resonated with me was the one that said we judge women in the work place based on their accomplishments but men on their potential.

Women are judged on accomplishments, Men on potential.

This phenomena is one of the (many) reasons the whole bewailing the lack of women in tech rubs me the wrong way.

Methinks you all protest too much.

While the main tenet of Sandberg’s book is that women need to do more – raise their hands, speak up – she seems to gloss over a little the reasons women do not. I am not disagreeing with her, nor am I accusing her of ignoring barriers.  I just think with her privileged background she does not see them as clearly and personally as I do.

Let’s take the Heidi/ Howard study, one of a dozens of similar analyses – where subjects are given identical resumes but with names of either Heidi or Howard. Although they are identical on paper and the judges have never met them (because they don’t actually exist!), they are significantly more likely to rate Howard as someone they would hire compared to Heidi.

Let that sink in a moment – even when men and women have identical accomplishments, people are more likely to hire a man. This is the exact opposite of affirmative action.

While we hear a lot about how women’s own lower expectations hold them back – they are less likely to aspire to the C-suite, less likely to apply to jobs unless they meet 100% of the qualifications, less likely to assume they can just “learn on the job” –  we hear very little about why women might have these expectations.

In fact, from the research Sandberg and others cite, it appears their lower expectations are a realistic assessment. I am the last person in the world to say that we should ACCEPT those barriers to women, but accepting them and denying they exist are two different animals.

In my case, now add being female to being Hispanic and way over 30. This is in an environment that calls itself a meritocracy but still feels it is perfectly acceptable to say that anyone over 32 is too old to start a company. Evidence of ageism in Silicon Valley is not hard to find.

Yet, we continually blame those “others”, who are not white or Asian, not male, not under 30, didn’t drop out of  Stanford or Harvard for not having the qualifications, for not leaning in or for ‘choosing a lifestyle that includes family’.

I call bullshit on all of this.

Want to hear some accomplishments? I graduated from Washington University in St. Louis at age 19. Then I went on to an MBA at the University of Minnesota which I chose because it had an outstanding judo team in the area. I finished my MBA at 21. By 26 I had become the first American to win the world judo championships, while working full-time as an engineer at General Dynamics. I also had my first child. By 31 I finished another masters and Ph.D. , wrote my first computer game to teach math, dropped that idea since computer games were mostly text-based and started my first statistical consulting company. Over the next 25 years, I founded or co-founded three more companies,  received tens of millions of dollars in grant funding, wrote a dozen articles for scientific journals, wrote a few book chapters, presented at so many technical conferences that I have lost track on everything from logistic regression to analysis of data from non-random stratified surveys to effectiveness of blended instruction methods with non-traditional students.

When I wanted to start a company to make educational games, no investors, incubators or accelerators were interested, so I went out and obtained around $600,000 through grant-funding, Kickstarter and now sales of our first game.

This article by Carlos Bueno on the clique of the tech industry describes our experiences to a T.

Even with traction, a product on the market, we didn’t see any interest from investors or accelerators so we went ahead and developed a second game, due for release next month, and we are just starting on our third game. We also applied for another grant, which is under review, and we are planning a Kickstarter campaign for early next year. One reason we do all of this is because I KNOW that our company will be judged on accomplishments instead of potential.

Tell me what you do in 30 seconds or I’m moving on.

Our first prototype of our first game needed SO much additional work. They all do. We made hundreds of improvements and all of those went into our second game. That second game is much better than the first and that pretty much always happens, too.Our next games are web and mobile apps. We had reasons for doing it this way. One is that we started out working with schools where we had connections and they did not have iPads and they weren’t in Silicon Valley. They were on Indian reservations in North Dakota and in low-income communities in southern California. Thanks to the support from these institutions we were able to collect data on market needs and effectiveness.I could tell it all to you in two minutes, but I often see people shutting down before I even start talking. I don’t look or dress like Mark Zuckerberg. If anything, I look like Mark Zuckerberg’s maid, or maybe the person that checks him in at the hotel. It is all my own fault, of course, because I have been known to wear a suit.

Being successful is personal to me.

I intend to prove that we can make games that are fun to play for any age and that make you smarter.  I intend to prove that you can make a lot of money meeting real needs for the vast majority of people, not just making sites where people post pictures of how wasted they got last night, but that actually improve their lives.

I understand completely those women who “give up”, “lower their expectations” because they are told directly and indirectly 100 times a day that they are not the chosen ones. Who do they think they are? Their game design has flaws. They are using Unity 3D instead of (insert anything else here) , they are not creating a multi-player game, they need a warm introduction to a venture capitalist. No matter how qualified you are, there will be a base you haven’t covered, a programming language you haven’t learned, some reason that you aren’t qualified. Basically, this is our table in the lunchroom and you can’t sit with us.

This may make me sound crabby and grinch-like but it is the opposite, because it is personal and I am going to succeed.

Just watch me.

==========

WANT TO SEE OUR FIRST GAME?

You can purchase Spirit Lake: The Game here, give it as a gift or donate it to a classroom or school.Anyone who purchases this week can buy Fish Lake, our next game, at 50% off. We’ll send you a discount code in your email next month.mapYou can download a free demo of the game here.

This is the most depressing chart I have seen in a long time. Below are the results of our pretest on knowledge of fraction operations of 322 students in grades 3 through 7, attending schools on and adjacent to American Indian reservations.

chart of fractions test results

These are questions like,

“Drag 6/1 to the correct spot on the number line.”

Which was one of only two questions that at least 50% of the children answered correctly.

or

Identify the letter that marks 7/8 on a number line

14% of the children answered that right.

Then there are the word problems,

“Bob and Ted painted a wall. Bob painted 1/5 of the wall and Ted painted 2/5 of the wall. How much of the wall is left to paint?”

38% of the children answered that correctly.

Looks like they did better on item 7, which asks which of these statements is true

5/6 < 3/4
2/8 < 1/4
3/6 = 6/12
2/3 = 4/5

26% of them got that correct. Guess what? That was one of the few multiple choice items on the test, so random guessing would have gotten it correct 25% of the time.

This is a test of what is ostensibly third- through fifth-grade math. Two-thirds of the test is at the fourth-grade level or below. As our results indicate, the majority of the students who took the test would not understand what that statement means.

For the 163 fifth-graders who took our pretest, the mean score was 28%.

For the 114 fourth-graders, the mean was a dismal 14.7%.

It wasn’t that the students didn’t try. I looked and there were very few places they left the items blank. They simply did not know.

These students came from several different schools, and while there may be differences between schools,  there is nothing to suggest one school with abysmal results pulled down all of the others.

I called our lead cultural consultant, Dr. Erich Longie, out at Spirit Lake, and told him that I was concerned about presenting these results to the schools that they might want to shoot the messenger. After all, it is important to us that these schools continue to provide us their input and guidance. He told me not to worry about it too much.

“They know,” he told me, “As someone who has been a teacher and administrator in schools on the reservations, I’m not surprised by the results and I can’t imagine these schools will be, either. What we all ought to be worried about is making sure that the post-test scores don’t look like this.”

So … students will start playing Fish Lake in the schools next month. No pressure here.

pike

Excuse me while I get back to work.

I was going to call this new category for my blog

“Mama AnnMaria’s advice on not getting your ass fired”  but it turned out to be too long to fit in the box.

It may surprise young people in the work place to find out that people who admit to having screwed up are often valued more as employees than those who are blameless.

Who cares whose fault it is?

One of the things that drives me crazy is when the first thing (and sometimes the second and third thing) an employee does in response to a problem is to find proof that it was not his or her fault. There are a whole lot of reasons why this is stupid, bad and will eventually get your ass fired.

Are you exclaiming.

What? Why would you fire the one person who never makes a mistake?

Well, for starters, you are clearly delusional. Everybody makes mistakes so if you are convinced you NEVER make mistakes, it is never your fault, then you have a tenuous grasp on reality that you may suddenly lose one day and begin mowing down your co-workers with an Uzi, convinced that they are evil demon zombies out to eat your non-mistake-making perfect brain. As a responsible employer, I cannot take that chance.

Next is the fact that you are wasting time and energy. You could have found the missing data and gotten it to Dr. Cflange. Instead, you put your effort into finding that email from seven months ago where Bob said we didn’t need to worry about sending the data to Dr. Cflange to prove that it wasn’t your fault that the data was not sent to our collaborator, after all, Bob told you not to bother. So, here we are, three hours later and Dr. C still hasn’t gotten the data. Besides, the fact that Bob told you that seven months ago when Dr. Cflange was in Uzbekistan does not absolve you of responsibility of sending out that data any time until the end of the world. Plus, Bob hates you now.

Which brings me to my next point – if you are always claiming you are blameless, then by implication, you are blaming someone else. Your boss is not stupid.

broken window

It’s like that time when my mom came home and the front window was broken. She asked what happened and we all swore up and down that we had nothing to do with it. She asked,

“So, you were all just standing around and the glass just fell out of the window?”

We all swore that yes, it had happened exactly like that.

(Mom, if you are reading this, it wasn’t me that pushed one of the Slattery boys into the window. Just so you know.)

Unlike me, who did not throw said sibling under the bus, if you are pointing at Bob and saying,

“It was him, it’s his fault, not me!”

Then, guess how likely Bob is to be inclined to help you out in the future. So … people who are always blaming everyone around them are not going to have as good teamwork with their co-workers.

Listen carefully here, because this next part is really important. Let’s assume the people you work with are not idiots, that there is a reason you are working for them instead of them working for you. Let’s call that reason -“experience”. Not being idiots, your bosses realize that everyone makes mistakes.

Employers are not looking for people who never make mistakes. Those people don’t exist. They are looking for people who can fix problems.

Final two reasons never taking responsibility for any mistake is going to eventually get your ass fired –

If every time an issue comes up it’s like an argument before the Supreme Court to get you to address it because you are so involved in gathering your evidence why it was not your fault, eventually people will quit pointing out problems to you because it’s just not worth the hassle.

If you never believe that any problem is your fault, then you will never get any better at preventing them, because none of the problems that occur have anything to do with you.

The most impressive interactions I have with employees often begin like this:

“That was my mistake that X happened. I would like to take the responsibility of fixing it by doing Y.”

Those people are probably never going to get their asses fired.

Now you know. Act accordingly.

 

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