All of my life, I have been a woman in a “man’s field”. I was the first American to win the world judo championships back in 1984, one of the few women majoring in business at Washington University in St. Louis in the 1970s. I had a professor tell me and the two other women in his class that we were ‘taking a spot that was needed by some man who would have to support a family’.
I was an industrial engineer at an aerospace company in the early 1980s, where there were so few women on the factory floor that it made for an interesting pregnancy as I was always trying to find where the heck was the women’s bathroom and all of my co-workers, being male, had no idea.
I started a company – The Julia Group – that did customized software development, creating databases, statistical analyses for on-going evaluations.
I started another company – 7 Generation Games – that makes educational video games that teach math, social studies and language.
You know what all of these have in common? At every single level, I was subjected to standards different from men. I won the world championships and came home to have people say, “Oh, you think you know judo? Do you know this technique?”
I WON THE FUCKING WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS! YES, I KNOW JUDO!
When I applied for my first engineering job, I was asked if I had a masters degree in engineering. I did not. I had an MBA. However, I could program in the languages required, had the math and statistics courses stated in the job requirement, oh, and did I mention that the man I replaced in that job didn’t have a masters degree in engineering either nor did any of the men in my department?
How did I get the job? Well, there were some relatively esoteric languages they used, and I knew that, so I learned those on my own time and then when an opening came up and they needed someone right away, I was there. Unlike the man I replaced, who was hired on his potential and learned the languages on the job, I had to prove I could do it before they hired me.
I have run into these attempts at disqualification at every turn.
“It’s not that we won’t hire a woman but …”
Do you have a degree? Master? Ph.D. ?
Um, well, you do, um , did you have a year of calculus, at least 4 years of statistics, publish articles in academic journals?
You did? Oh, well, did you present at scientific conferences? How about software conferences?
Yes, well, we see you started a company but do you have a product? Paying customers? Investors?
You see where I’m going with this. After a life time of being subjected to standards that don’t apply to the men around me, I find the experience of Hillary Clinton oh so familiar.
I never voted for Hillary Clinton before but I’m going to do it now.
Seriously, if you went through every email I ever wrote, every action of mine and you couldn’t find anything to nail me on so you are now going through the emails of my associates hoping to find something, you are pretty damn desperate to disqualify me.
Let’s be honest for a minute, shall we? We all know that these allegations against Clinton are pretty much bullshit. She deleted 30,000 emails? So fucking what? I delete 30,000 emails A MONTH and I’m pretty sure the Secretary of State gets a lot more emails than me.
Someone on her team said something not nice about Bernie Sanders? They discussed methods to beat Sanders and Trump?
That’s shocking? As Bernie Sanders, who is one of the few lights in a dark political year has said, “I bet if you looked through my staff emails you’d find some unkind things said about Hillary Clinton.”
Let’s address Benghazi. People died in Benghazi and that is an undeniable tragedy. People in our military and embassies have died throughout history and it is always a tragedy for their families. Why is this one instance different from all the others? Because no one ever made mistakes before?
No, it is because Hillary Clinton is a woman and there is a substantial minority in this country, male and (shockingly) female, who resent women who refuse to accept ‘their place’.
The venom spewed at Hillary Clinton is familiar to me. I have had people HATE me and I would wonder, “Why? What the heck have I ever done to you?”
What I have done is defy their prejudices, that they are ‘better’ because they are men, even if they are pretty mediocre at what they do. That they were right to swallow their own ambitions because ‘women can’t do things like that’.
Honestly, if someone went through every one of your private emails, every private paper of yours, reviewed every one of your actions for the past 30 or 50 years, then went through all of the correspondence of every one you knew and THEN they only selected out whatever was most negative, how would YOU look?
I swear. I’ve bailed people out of jail. I’ve applied for grants I didn’t get. I’ve had prototypes that were pretty buggy. Like most people, I think I’d come out looking pretty damn awful.
Be honest, it’s true for you, too.
If you have taken a microscope to Hillary Clinton for the past few decades and you have to resort to now scrutinizing everyone she ever did business with in your desperation to find an excuse not to give her the job, she must be pretty damn good.
I’m tired of the witch hunt.
Occasionally, when I am teaching about a topic like repeated measures Analysis of Variance, a brave student will raise a hand and ask,
Seriously, professor, WHEN will I ever use this?
The aspiring director of a library, clinic, afterschool program, etc. does not see how statistics apply to conducting an outreach campaign or HIV screening or running a recreational program for youth – or whatever one of hundreds of other good causes that students intend to pursue with their graduate degrees. Honestly, they often look at the required research methods and statistics courses is a waste of time mandated for some unknown reason by the University, probably to keep professors employed. Often, they will find a way to do a dissertation using only qualitative analysis and never think about statistics again.
This is a huge mistake.
For all of those people who say, “I never used statistics in my career”, I would answer, “well, I never used French in my career either and you know why – because I never learned it very well.”
Now, those people who don’t see a real use for French probably aren’t convinced. However, to me, it’s pretty evident that if I could speak French I could be making games in both French and English.
Actually, statistics can answer the very most important question in any social program – does it work?
So, I had written a couple of blogs about the presentation I gave at SACNAS (Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science) where I discussed using statistics to identify need for intervention and mathematics for students prior to middle school. I also gave examples of teaching statistics concepts in games.
The question is, did these games work for increasing student scores?
For this – surprise! Surprise! Drumroll – – – we used repeated measures Analysis of Variance. If you look at the graph below you can see that the students who played the games improved substantially more from pretest to posttest than the students in the control group.
This was a relatively small sample, because it was our first pilot study, and conducted in two small rural schools, that also happen to have very high rates of mobility and absenteeism, so we were only able to obtain complete data from 58 students.
Now, the results look impressive but where these differences higher than one would expect by chance with four groups (two grades from each school) of a fairly small size?
Well, when we look at the ANOVA results we see that the time by school interaction, which tests if one school changed more overtime than the other is quite significant (F = 7.13, P = .01). Yes, the P value equaled exactly .0100.
The time by school by grade 3 – way interaction was not significant. It’s worth noting that the fifth grade at the intervention school had less time playing the game due to logistical reasons – they had to schedule the computer lab as opposed to playing in their classroom, and sometimes, their class being scheduled later in the day, they missed playing the game altogether when school was let out early due to weather.
One way that I could reanalyze these data – and I will – would be to look at it not by grade but by time spent playing. So, instead of four groups, I would have three – those who played the game not at all, in other words, the control group, those who played at less than recommended and those who played it the recommended amount.
My point is that repeated measures ANOVA is just one of the many statistical techniques that can answer the most important questions in social programs – whether something works and under what conditions it works best. There’s also the question of who it works best for – and statistics can answer that too.
So, my answer to the student who questions if he or she will ever use this is, “if you’re smart you will.”
For all of those who have asked us if these data are going to be published, the answer is yes, we have two articles in press that should come out in 2017.
We are working on more in our copious spare time that we do not have, but right now we are focusing on game updates.
Gather around the fire, young and old. By my observations in social media, TV and just eavesdropping on some of you youngsters, hipsters and – I don’t know what the hell to call you people hollering over there on the corner – there are some facts and experiences with which you are unfamiliar.
Let’s start with ‘inner cities’ .
This week, I dropped someone off after a late meeting and ended up driving through Watts (known as south Los Angeles to some people – you know who you are) after 9 pm at night. It was dark, not because it is always dark in the ‘inner city’ but because it was night.
I stopped at a fast food place where there were a lot of men hanging around outside. All of the men were African-American or Latino. I ordered a burrito and gave the woman at the window ten bucks.
Here is what happened next ….
… She gave me the correct change and an enormous, delicious carne asada burrito. I drove away, eating my burrito, which was so gigantic my husband ate the other half when I got home.
What did you expect? I expected if there were that many people waiting for their order at that hour of night the food would be good, and I was correct.
Incidentally, on my way to dropping off my colleague at her house – yes, she has a degree, a professional job and lives in the city – we drove through downtown and were commenting on how much we both love the skyline and the main branch of the Los Angeles Public Library and wish we had time to go there more often. I mentioned that many of my co-workers when I worked at USC lived downtown and took the train in to work.
I’ve spent a whole lot of hours in my life in cities, mostly St. Louis, Tokyo, Minneapolis, Riverside (does that count as a city?), San Diego and Los Angeles. I’ve had a gun pulled on me three times in my life, two of those times by people I knew (yes, I should have a better choice of acquaintances ). Twice it happened when I was in a house in a rural area (different states, 20 years apart) and once when I was walking in the suburbs of St. Louis to visit a friend.
My point – and I do have one – is that the cities are not “hell holes” where African-American and Latino voters have it so bad that they have “nothing to lose” as a certain presidential candidate and his followers have characterized them. Yes, people do get shot in Los Angeles, including some people I have known, but people are not hunkering down in their houses, only leaving to replenish their supplies of food and bandages in some type of Mad Max scene as they barrel through the streets dodging bullets.
There are certainly problems, starting with inadequate funding for schools that desperately need maintenance, a lack of after school and recreational programs , not enough parks. There are also people sitting outside eating delicious burritos.
When I’m not eating burritos, I’m making games. You can buy them here.
I will be the first to admit that I’m not the warm fuzzy type. Maybe you’re like me, you’d like to do good for your community but you just can’t see yourself as a physician.
Maybe your bedside manner is to snap at someone to quit being a whiner.
Or maybe you really are a sweet kind person but you are not very extroverted. You just can’t see yourself looking someone in the eye and asking them to tell you about their problems at home. Perhaps you really genuinely care about children in your community and really would like to help them succeed in school but the thought of speaking in front of the 30 people makes you break out into a cold sweat – even if the 30 people are all under 13 years old.
Maybe, like me, you really like math. To be specific, maybe you really like analyzing data, looking for correlations, inspecting distributions. Maybe, you really like programming. Or that’s what we called it in my day – now all the cool kids call it coding.
Does that mean that we are condemned to be a bunch of Silicon Valley dwelling, Soylent swigging, soulless drones with nothing to keep us warm at night but our stock options? In fact, quite the opposite! These last few years I have been having a lot of fun working with statistics in two very different ways.
First of all, I’ve been working with our team at 7 Generation Games to make adventure games that teach statistical concepts.
Let me give you an example. Some items are more valuable than others. Why? Try to figure it out by looking at this distribution.
Players can click on this interactive graph for help reading it. They have a sentence written with blanks to fill in to model academic language.
Once a student answers one or two questions in the game correctly, the reward is being able to play a related game – in this case, collecting items in the jungle. As you might guess, the more common items are worth less in the game.
Here is a second example. Below, we have a section of our 3D game where the player is building a pyramid.
To build your pyramid fast enough that the Emperor doesn’t decide to chop off your head, you want to get stronger than average workers. What is an easy way to determine if you have stronger than average workers? Find the median!
Players can also click a button to switch the page to an explanation in Spanish.
Just because we were all out last night at the Latino Tech meet-up to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, don’t assume everything we make it is focused on Latinos.
Here is yet another example of teaching statistics in a game, this one re-tracing the Ojibwe migration.
In this case, the player computes an average to figure how many miles need to be walked per day to get to the end of the trail in eight days.
Get this question right and you can play the next level, where you canoe down the river to meet up with your old uncle who will – surprise – pose another statistics problem before you can move on to the next level.
So, there you have it! You can apply your knowledge of statistics to create adventure video games that teach students. As you can see, you also can apply knowledge of programming to meet the special needs of students whether it is to have a page read to them (did you notice the read it to me button in the page above?) Or to have it translated into a second language.
I’ll bet that you thought I was going to talk about using statistics to evaluate whether the games worked. That, is a post for another day.
To be honest, when I first began studying statistics social justice never entered the equation. Like most people in America, I think, I was concerned about problems like crime, poverty, low educational attainment of minority groups. Like most people, my concern didn’t translate into much actual effort on my part.
No, I took my first statistics course because it seemed really interesting. I made a C+ in it because it was Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons and the fraternity parties started on Friday afternoon, so I missed every third class. When later research of mine showed a negative correlation between absenteeism and grades I was not surprised. I had personal experience. I mentioned this too, because I have seen too many women and minority students discouraged from science and technical fields when they were not at the top of the class right away.
It’s a very long journey for my first statistics class in 1978 to now. Although I started learning statistics because I was just very interested in what I would call “messing around with data” and I like programming a lot, along the way I learned something interesting.
A lot of money is allocated based on statistics. Maybe not directly so, not very often does someone say to you,
“That’s a very interesting statistic. Have $9 million!”
Statistics do come into play. About 1/4 of a century ago, I realized that grant money often did not go to the program where the funds were needed most or the staff were most effective. No, they went to the programs that would best at writing grant proposals. These proposals included statistics on needs assessment and evaluation of prior efforts. Often, people who were really good at helping low income students raise their academic achievement or getting people with substance abuse disorders off of drugs were nowhere near as good at writing grant proposals.
For all of those proposals, statistics were required. What proportion of students in the target schools are achieving below grade level? What was the distribution of test scores of students in the previous three years and how does that compare to the state or national average? What evidence is there that the proposed program for academic enrichment will have any impact on the students at all?
Often, my very well meaning colleagues disagreed with the necessity for this type of analysis, even while they appreciated me doing it and made good use of the grant funds. Their point of view was that they knew what worked in their classrooms or clinics.
Personally, I feel that if all I had done in my career was bring tens of millions of dollars in grant money to programs that apply those funds to do good in their communities that would have been a satisfactory accomplishment. However, I’d like to argue that I did a little bit more good than that because I disagree with some of my esteemed colleagues that, “I know it when I see it“, is adequate for determining program effectiveness.
I can give you many many reasons why statistics are essential. First of all, something I have seen over and over in my career is that what gets measured gets done. If you are measuring the number of tutoring sessions or the number of times students play your games or the duration of those sessions, that allows you to correlate the “dose” of treatment your students received with the “response” in terms of increased achievement.
Many times, I have seen programs that were initially judged ineffective because everyone who came through the door was lumped together whether they were seen 10 times, once or not at all, having left before they ever saw a tutor counselor or whatever. Tracking your interaction with people allows you to determine whether you are effective for people who spend some substantial amount of time with your program. It also lets you tell what percentage of the people fall through the cracks that is who come in, fill out a form to be part of your program and then drop out almost immediately.
In brief, effective application of statistics cannot only help you obtain money but also see that money from federal agencies, foundations, etc. is intelligently applied.
If you are interested, I will be speaking at the Society For the Advancement Of Chicanos And Native Americans In Science annual conference in Long Beach on Saturday , Discovery and Societal Impact with Statistical Science. You can come to hear much more on this topic (or just read my next blog post).
Check out our latest game we will soon be using to collect data. You can download Making Camp free for your iPad. Play with your children, hand them your iPad to do something productive or take a little break yourself (you deserve it)