Why?

Are you kidding me?

If you are a programmer, analyst, statistician, professor or student who uses SAS this is an opportunity to get to know your people and to get known.

I’m in Dallas for the SAS Global Forum, which I try to attend whenever I can. Yes, I could watch videos on the Internet, read books, read web pages, but I often don’t because I have a to-do list a mile long.

By presenting at the conference, I have to review what I am doing in teaching with SAS Studio and why.

SHAMELESS PLUG: My session on Preparing Students for the Real World with SAS Studio is a good one for both anyone who teaches with SAS and for anyone who is new to the SAS world and wants a good introductory session.

Since I am at the conference, I have a little bit of downtime to look into SAS resources. My new favorite is SAS communities. It’s a combination forum and free library. I must have looked into it at some point, because I had an account, but it seems to be more active now. I even submitted an article and poked around in the forum.

Then, of course, there are all of the sessions that I will attend, conversations  I will have with people, books I will hear about and buy, to read on the plane ride home.

It’s a week of learning.

But , but, you stutter like a motor boat, it’s expensive and far away. I can’t afford it. Besides, I would feel uncomfortable presenting at the same conference with all of those people who wrote the books on SAS (literally).

The expensive part I get. The not feeling like you could present at the same conference part is just silly, so I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that.

If travel and cost is an issue, present at your local conference. The call for papers for the Western Users of SAS Software (WUSS) is open. Do it now!

It is painless. You submit a 300-word abstract. You can submit a working draft of the paper at the same time. That’s not mandatory but it improves your chances.

There is even a mentoring program where old people (like me), will help you revise your program and get ready to present.

Writing and presenting the paper will force you to think about what you are doing and why. You will likely make some contacts of people who will be potential employers, collaborators or drinking buddies.

What are you waiting for? A personal invitation?

Fine! Here you go.

gif_invited_0100

 

Need a topic? Here are 10 I would like to see

  1. The 25 functions I use most.
  2. Uses of PROC FORMAT .
  3. Multinomial logistic regression.
  4. The many facets of PROC FREQ.
  5. Factor analysis
  6. SAS for basic biostatistics
  7. Macro for data cleaning
  8. Model selection procedures
  9. Mixed models vs PROC GLM
  10. SAS Graphs without SAS/Graph (because SAS/Graph appears to be written in Klingon)

My point is that if I sat here and thought of 10 off the top of my head after two glasses of Chardonnay and half a glass of the champagne someone who will remain nameless bought at Costco and brought here from a state in the WUSS region, then I’ll bet you could come up with something really awesome stone-cold sober and given more than 60 seconds.

Let’s recap what we have learned here, shall we?

  • Join SAS communities,
  • Attend conferences, whether national or global,
  • Don’t be a wallflower – present!
  • Texas steak and wine is a good combination (not particularly related to SAS but true nonetheless)

waiter carrying champagne

view over the top of my ipad

It has been pretty well established that I am the worst soccer mom in the history of soccer moms. Most of the games I miss because I am somewhere else. My children have told me that my autobiography should be entitled, “I was out of town at the time” because most of the stories of their childhood begin this way.

Having come back in town shortly before the game this weekend, I was unaware that it was a two-day tournament 2 1/2 hours from home and that we were supposed to have reserved the hotel weeks ago. Hot tip: If you get your reservation last minute and have the choice of a close hotel or a nice hotel, get the nice one.

I fulfilled my obligation. I showed up. During the time The Spoiled One played, I watched. During half time and the breaks between the games I was able to write a couple of blog posts and test out SAS Studio.

If you look at the picture above you might see that I was working in a field surrounded by mountains. Not the best situation for Internet access, which I had via the hotspot on my iPhone.

SAS program screen

I was able to log on to SAS Studio with no problem. When I logged in on my iPad I had the screen shown above where I could just start typing my program in the code window.

To see folders, libraries, etc. tap the BROWSE link in the top left corner, as shown

list of folders and libraries

You can tap any of the categories to bring down the list of folders, libraries, etc. You can tap on a file to open it.

The one problem I did have, and depending on your situation, it may be a severe one, was that I could not get any of the libraries to open. I wanted to open the sashelp library and see if I could run some tasks using an open data set. This did not work. It is very possibly related to poor Internet due to laying in a soccer field ringed by mountains. I tried it last year in a movie theater and I was able to access the libraries. In this case, as you might guess from the top photo, the Internet was barely accessible.

Next, I tried simulating a homework problem a student might have, just typing in some data and running the program.

running a program

I have a bluetooth keyboard I use with my iPad and it all worked fine. I typed in data, tapped on the little running guy and my program ran fine. You can see the results below.

results of proc means

To save it, I held down the home button and the power button simultaneously, just like any time you take a screenshot on an iPad. Then, I emailed that screenshot to myself, so here you have results.

My point is that a student could do their homework using SAS Studio in the middle of a soccer field on an iPad, as long as it did not require external files, which most of the homework I assign does not. They could then email the results to their professor, still from the (dis)comfort of the field.

This is useful to know for three reasons:

  1. I travel frequently to areas where there is very limited bandwidth,
  2. Many of the students in my online courses live in areas with limited bandwidth,
  3. The Spoiled One’s team won their bracket in the State Cup, so it turns out that means they have more soccer games next weekend as they advanced in the tournament. This is not at the same field surrounded by mountains. It’s at a different field at the edge of the desert. Sigh.

Take-away points:

Your students should be able to use SAS Studio almost anywhere, even if all they have is an iPad.

This is doubly true if you don’t assign homework that requires accessing external datasets.

I’ll be able to review homework assignments for the course I am teaching next during the soccer tournament this weekend. (I really AM the worst soccer mom in the history of ever.)

girl playing soccer

—————— SHAMELESS PLUG

Our Kickstarter campaign is still going on, making adventure games to make math (and history and English) awesome.

We are 84% of the way to our goal!

Show your “blog appreciation” and help us get the last few steps by backing us now. 

 

I’m giving a talk on Preparing Students for the Real World of Data at SAS Global Forum next month.

You’d think 50 minutes would be long enough for me to talk, but that just goes to show you don’t know me as well as you think you do. One point made in the template for papers is that you should not try to tell every single thing you know about the DATA step, for example, because it will bore your audience to death.

Random Tips That Didn’t Make it Into the Paper

1. CATS removes blanks and concatenates

While I did give a few shout outs to character functions, it was not possible to put in every function that is worth mentioning. One that didn’t make the cut is the CATS function.

The CATS function concatenates strings, removing all leading and trailing blanks.

Let’s say that I want to have each category renamed with a leading “F” to distinguish all of the variables from the Fish Lake game. I also want to add a ‘_’ to problems 10-14 so that when I chart the variables 11 comes just before 12, not before 2 (which is what would happen in alphabetical order). So, I include these statements in my DATA step.

IF problem_num IN(11,10,12,13,14) THEN probname = CATS(‘F’,’_’,probname);
ELSE probname = CATS(game,probname) ;

Now when I chart the results you can see the drop off in correct answers as the game gets more difficult.

Graph by variable name

2. Not all export files are created equal

Nine of the ten datasets I needed I was able to download as an EXCEL file and open up in SAS Enterprise Guide. It was a piece of cake, as I mentioned last time. Unfortunately, the third file was download from a different site and it had special characters in it, like division signs, and the data had commas in the middle of it. When I opened it up in SAS Studio it looked like this.

Ugly dataFixing it was actually super simple. This was an Excel file. I simply did a Replace ALL and changed the division signs to “DIV” and the commas to spaces. The whole thing took FIVE lines to read in after that.

3. Listen to Michelle Homes and know your data

filename fred “/courses/abc123add/sgf15/sl_pretest.csv ” ;

Data pretest keyed;

LENGTH item9 $ 38. ;

infile fred firstobs = 2 dlm=”,”;
input started $ ended $ username $ (item1 – item24) ($) ;

Thank you to the lovely  Michelle Homes for catching this! As she pointed out in the comments, the input statement assumes that the variables are 8 characters in length and character data. This is true for 26 of the 27 variables. However, ONE of the 24 items on the test is a question that can be answered with something like Four million, four thousand and twelve.

That, as you can see, is over 8 characters. So, I added a LENGTH statement. That brought up another issue, but that is the next post …

I’ll have a lot more to talk about in Dallas. Hope to see you there.

============

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Boy walking in rain

If you came into my office and watched me work today, just before I had you arrested for stalking me, you might notice me doing some things that are the absolute opposite of best practices.

I need about 10 datasets for some analyses I’ll be doing for my SAS Global Forum paper. I also want these data sets to be usable as examples of real data for courses I will teach in the future. While I’m at it, I could potentially use most of the same code for a research project.

The data are stored in an SQL database on our server. I could have accessed these in multiple ways but what I did was

1. Go into phpMyAdmin and chose EXPORT as ODS spreadsheet.

2. Opened the spreadsheet using Open Office, inserted a row at the top and manually typed the names of each variable.

Why the hell would I do that when there are a dozen more efficient ways to do it?

In the past, I have had problems with exporting files as CSV, even as Excel files. A lot of our data comes from children and adolescents who play our games in after-school programs. If they don’t feel like entering something, they skip it. That missing data has wreaked havoc in the past, with all of the columns ended up shifted over by 1 after record 374 and shifted over again after record 9,433.  For whatever reason, Open Office does not have this problem and I’ve found that exporting the file as ODS, saving it as an xls file and then using the IMPORT DATA task or PROC IMPORT works flawlessly. The extra ODS > Excel step takes me about 30 seconds. I need to export an SQL database to SAS two or three times a year, so it is hard to justify trouble-shooting the issue to save myself 90 seconds.

IF YOU DIDN’T KNOW, NOW YOU KNOW

You can export your whole database as an ODS spreadsheet. It will open with each table as a separate sheet. When you save that as an XLS file, the structure is preserved with individual sheets.

You can import your data into SAS Enterprise Guide using the IMPORT DATA task and select which sheet you want to import. Doing this 2, 3 or however-many-sheets-you-have times will give you that number of data sets.

WHY TYPE IN THE VARIABLE NAMES?

Let me remind you of Eagleson’s law

“Any code of your own that you haven’t looked at for six or more months might as well have been written by someone else.”

It has been a few months since I needed to look at the database structure. I don’t remember the name of every table, what each one does or all of the variables. Going through each sheet and typing in variable names to match the ones in the table is far quicker than reading through a codebook and comparing it to each column. I’ll also remember it better.

If I do this two or three times a year, though, wouldn’t using a DATA step be a time saver in the long run? If you think that, back up a few lines and re-read Eagleson’s law. I’ll wait.

Reading and understanding a data step I’d written would probably only take me 30 seconds. Remembering what is in each of those tables and variables would take me a lot longer.

I’ve already found one table that I had completely forgotten. When a student reads the hint, the problem number, username and whether the problem was correctly answered is written to a table named learn. I can compare the percentage correct from this dataset with the rest of the total answers file, of which is a subset. Several other potential analyses spring to mind – on which questions are students most likely to use a hint? Do certain students ask for a hint every time while others never do?

Looking at the pretest for Fish Lake, I had forgotten that many of the problems are two-part answers, because the answer is a fraction, so the numerator and denominator are recorded separately. This can be useful in analyzing the types of incorrect answers that students make.

The whole point of going through these two steps is that they cause me to pause, look at the data and reflect a little on what is in the database and why I wanted each of these variables when I created these tables a year or two ago. Altogether, it takes me less time than driving five miles in Los Angeles during rush hour.

This wouldn’t be a feasible method if I had 10,000,000 records in each table instead of 10,000 or 900 variables instead of 90, but I rather think if that was the case I’d be doing a whole heck of  a lot of things differently.

My points, and I do have two, are

  • Often when working with small and medium-sized data sets, which is what a lot of people do a lot of the time, we make things unnecessarily complicated
  • No time spent getting to know your data is ever wasted

 

 

 

 

 

Some people may have said that hackathons are a stupid ass idea where a bunch of people who have can’t afford to buy their own pizza spend 48 hours with a bunch of strangers and no showers.

Okay, well, maybe that was me.

I take it all back.

In my office

We kicked off our hackathon at noon on Monday and wrapped up at 8 pm on Tuesday. The rules were simple – everyone who was working those days was to wipe their schedule completely for 8 hours each day and do nothing but work on the game. No emails, no blog posts, no meetings except for a kick off meeting each day to assign and review tasks. Jessica, Dennis, Samantha and I worked on the game for (at least) 16 hours. Any emails or interviews got done before the hackathon hours or after they were over. (I did pause for a brief interview with the Bismarck State College paper.)

Maria came in from maternity leave and worked 8 hours on Monday, baby in tow.

CalGonzalo and Eric each worked their regular shifts on Monday and Tuesday, respectively, doing nothing but writing code, creating sprites and editing audio. Sam even pitched in a few hours early in the morning from Canada. Our massively talented artist, Justin, completed all of the new artwork before the meeting so we had it in hand to drop into all of the spots where there had been placeholders.

So, in two days a total of 100 hours were devoted just to game development. We made a giant leap forward.

RocksThe 3-D portion of the first level is nearly done.

Player needing helpThe new characters are being dropped into each scene.

Why did it work so well? For one thing, we were all in the same spot for a long time. Although the original plan was to meet and then people would go there separate ways, on Monday, five of the six people working stayed at my house. Three of us even slept there. That had two positive impacts.

First of all, whenever anyone needed something, whether it was a piece of artwork modified or a question answered on whether we had a sound file of footsteps in the woods or to be shown how to do a voice over in iMovie, there was someone else to provide that assistance right on the spot. Very often, you can spend hours searching for something on Google, watching youtube videos, reading manuals trying to figure out how to do X when someone else can come up and say – Click on Window, pick record voiceover, click on the microphone in the middle of the left side of the window.

There are also those questions that CANNOT be found on Google, like where the hell was the new background image saved and what is it called.

The second positive impact was we got around to tasks that needed doing for a long time. While it may have seemed it kept us from getting real progress done on the game, the fifth time Sourcetree complained about not tracking those damned Dreamweaver .idea files, I HAD it and we removed those from the repository forever. When something bugs you every now and then you may think, “I’ll do it later”, but the fifth time it happens that day …

Anyway, I would share more of the awesomeness of the hackathon experience with you but it is now 9 pm and we are taking the team out for sushi.

In case you don’t know, SAS On-Demand is the FREE , as in free beer, offering of SAS for academic use. How good is it? There really can’t be one answer to that.

First of all, there are multiple options – SAS Studio, SAS Enterprise Miner, SAS Enterprise Guide, JMP, etc.  so some may be better than others.I have a fair bit of experience with two of them, so let’s just look at one of those today.

beer

SAS STUDIO

I mostly use SAS Studio with my students and over the past few courses I have been really pleased with the results. I selected SAS Studio over Enterprise Guide because I strongly believe it is useful for students to learn to code and many students, yes, even in an area like biostatistics need a little encouragement to learn. While they don’t end up expert SAS programmers after two or three courses, they at least can code a DATA step , read in raw data, aggregate data and data from external files, produce a variety of statistics and graphics and interpret the results.

Let’s be frank about this … it’s going to require a bit of work up front. You need to create a course with SAS On-Demand. You need to notify your students that they need to create accounts. If you are not going to use solely the sashelp directory data sets, you’re going to have to upload your own data.

Please don’t tell me you plan on solely using the sashelp data sets! These are really helpful for the first assignment or two while students get their feet wet but unless you expect your students to have careers where all of their files to be analyzed are going to be shipped with the software they use, you’re going to move to reading in other types of data sooner or later.

Your data are going to be stored on the SAS server (so you can tell people who ask that yes, you are ‘computing in the cloud’ – instead of what I usually tell people who ask stupid questions like that, which is shut the hell up and quit bothering me – but I digress. Even more than usual.)

No matter what software you use, you’re going to have to select some data sets for students to analyze, have some sort of codebook and make sure your data is reasonably clean (but not so clean that students won’t learn something about data quality problems). So, the only real additional time is figuring out how to get it on the SAS server.

None of these steps take much time, but adding them all up – getting a SAS profile, creating a course, creating an email to send to all of your students, with the correct LIBNAME, uploading your data – it all maybe adds up to a couple of extra hours.

My challenge always is how I shoehorn additional content into the very limited class time I have with students. One tool I’ve been using lately is livebinders. This is an application that lets you put together an online binder of web pages, videos and material you write yourself.

Here is an example of a livebinder I use for my graduate course in epidemiology. It has SAS assignments beginning with simply copying code to modifying it . Links to the relevant SAS documentation are included, as are videos that show step by step how to use SAS Studio for computing relative risk, population attributable risk, etc. I have a similar livebinder for my biostatistics course.

You might think this is a bit of hand-holding to walk the students through it, but I would disagree. Every time I have found myself thinking,

“Well, this is a little too easy”,

I have been wrong.

If you have been doing something for a decade or, in my case, a few decades, it’s hard to remember how confusing concepts were the very first time. Even things that you do automatically, like downloading your results as an HTML file, were a mystery at one time in your life. Making the videos takes some time initially – you have to do a screencast, and then the voice over. Sometimes I do them at once, using QuickTime and GarageBand simultaneously. Other times, I import the screencast into iMovie and record a voiceover.

Either way, a 7-minute video usually takes me half an hour to record, when you add in screwing up the first time, editing out the part where The Spoiled One came in and asked for money to go shopping, etc. So, you’re adding maybe 3-4 hours to the time you spend on your course. On the other hand, you only have to do it once, so, if you teach the same course a few times, it pays off. I cannot tell you how many times students tell me that the videos were helpful. Unlike when I am lecturing in class, they can slow the video down, play it over.Students end the course with experience coding, using data from actual studies and interpreting data to answer problems that matter.

My point is, that it is a little more work to teach using SAS Studio, but it is worth it.

 

 

 

 

baby mashing cake

Kappa is a useful measure of agreement between two raters. Say you have two radiologists looking at X-rays, rating them as normal or abnormal and you want to get a quantitative measure of how well they agree. Kappa is your go-to coefficient.

How do you compute it? Well, personally, I use SAS because this is the year 2015 and we have computers.

Let’s take this table, where 100 X rays were rated by two different raters as an example:

Rating by   Physician 1

————-Abnormal   |  Normal

Physician 2
————————————–

Abnormal        40             20

Normal             10            30

 

So ….. the first physician rated 60 X-rays as Abnormal. Of those 60, the second physician rated 40 abnormal and 20 normal, and so on.
If you received the data as a SAS data set like this, with an abnormal rating = 1 and normal = 0, then life is easy and you can just do the PROC FREQ.

 

Rater1    Rater2

1                1
1                 1

and so for 50 lines.

 

However, I very often get not an actual data set but a table like the one above. In this case, it is  still relatively simple to code

DATA compk ;

INPUT rater1 rater2 nums ;

DATALINES ;

1 1 40
1 0 20
0 1 10
0 0 30
;

 

So, there were 40 x-rays coded as abnormal by both rater1 and rater2.  When rater1 = 1 (abnormal) and rater2 = 0 (normal), there were 20,  and so on.

The next part is easy

PROC FREQ DATA = compk ;

TABLES rater1*rater2/ AGREE ;

WEIGHT nums ;

 

That’s it.  The WEIGHT statement is necessary in this case because I did not have 100 individual records, I just had a table, so the WEIGHT variable gives the number in each category.

This will work fine for a 2 x 2 table. If you have a table that is more than 2 x 2, at the end, you can add the statement

TEST WTKAP ;

This will give you the weighted Kappa coefficient. If you include this with a 2 x2 table nothing happens because the weighted kappa coefficient and the simple Kappa coefficient are the same in this case.

See, I told you it was simple.

 

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.

 

I think descriptive statistics are under-rated. One reason I like Leon Gordis’ Epidemiology book is that he agrees with me. He says that sometimes statistics pass the “inter-ocular test”. That is, they hit you right between the eyes.

moving eyeballs

I’m a big fan of eye-balling statistics and SAS/GRAPH is good for that. Let’s take this example. It is fairly well established that women have a longer life span than men in the United States. In other words, men die at a younger age. Is that true of all causes?

To answer that question, I used a subset of the Framingham Heart Study and looked at two major causes of death, coronary heart disease and cancer. The first thing I did was round the age at death into five year intervals to smooth out some of the fluctuations from year to year.

data test2 ;
set sashelp.heart ;
ageatdeath5 = round(ageatdeath,5) ;
proc freq data=test2 noprint;
tables sex*ageatdeath5*deathcause / missing out= test3 ;
/* NOTE THAT THE MISSING OPTION IS IMPORTANT */

THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS

Then I did a frequency distribution by sex, age at death and cause of death. Notice that I used the missing option. That is super-important. Without it, instead of getting what percentage of the entire population died of a specific cause at a certain age,  I would get a percentage of those who died. However, as with many studies of survival, life expectancy, etc. a substantial proportion of the people were still alive at the time data were being collected. So, percentage of the population, and percentage of people who died were quite different numbers. I used the NOPRINT option on the PROC FREQ statement simply because I had no need to print out a long, convoluted frequency table I wasn’t going to use.

I used the OUT = option to output the frequency distribution to a dataset that I could use for graphing.

More details: The symbol statements just make the graphs easier to read by putting an asterisk at each data point and by joining the points together. I have very bad eyesight so anything I can do to make graphics more readable, I try to do.
symbol1 value = star ;
symbol1 interpol = join ;

Here I am just sorting the data set by cause of death and only keeping those with Cancer or Coronary Heart Disease.
proc sort data=test3;
by deathcause ;
where deathcause in (“Cancer”,”Coronary Heart Disease”);

 

Even more details.  You always want to have the axes the same on your charts or you can’t really compare them. That is what the UNIFORM option in the PROC GPLOT statement does. The PLOT statement requests a plot of percent who died at each age by sex. The LABEL statement just gives reasonable labels to my variables.

proc gplot data = test3 uniform;
plot percent*ageatdeath5 = sex ;
by deathcause ;
Label percent = “%”
ageatdeath5 = “Age at Death” ;

cause of death by age by gender

When you look at these graphs, even if your eyes are as bad as mine you can see a few things. The top chart is of cancer and you can conclude a couple of  things right away.

  1. There is not nearly the discrepancy in the death rates of men and women for cancer as there is for heart disease.
  2. Men are much more likely to die of heart disease than women at every age up until 80 years old. After that, I suspect that the percentage of men dying off has declined relative to women because a very large proportion of the men are already dead.

So, the answer to my question is “No.”

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.

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