AnnMaria De Mars

Why the Julia Group? Why math? Why technology?

An old-time American politician, Claiborne Pell, once said,

“The strength of the United States is not the gold at Fort Knox or the weapons of mass destruction we have, but the sum total of the education and character of the American people.”

I hate to be the one to tell you this, but that education and character is going to hell in a handbasket. Since I started school in the very beginning of the 1960’s, the mathematics we teach our children has gotten easier, not because they have gotten smarter, but because we have required less of them. That, my friends, is not a good thing. This lessening of standards has not occurred across the board, either. Children of certain racial and ethnic groups are getting A’s and B’s for work that would have flunked them a decade ago or in a school district ten miles away.

If it is true that there are two kinds of scientists, those who use mathematics and those who understand mathematics, then I am the first type. I am not going to be having new mathematical theories named after me any time soon. However, I understand enough math to realize that without it, many fields, from finance to economics to computer science to physics – way more than half the world, is closed to some of our children.

As technology becomes ever more a part of our lives another divide is restricting children’s futures, differential access to information, the ability to manipulate and create it. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that because children in the reservations, the ghettos and barrios have access to blogger, instant messenger and computers in the public library that they have anywhere near an equal playing field. There are children who are on the career path to designing networks, creating websites with a storefront and integrated database to fill orders. Then, there are other childen who are prepared only to post on their MySpace page about how wasted they got last night.

There is another emerging divide in this country and that is in literacy. The limited vocabulary that even many adults have, again, keeps them out of fields where they have the intelligence and motivation. What they don’t have is the language to succeed in their studies. Strangely enough, for many of these people, English is not their second language, in fact, it is their only language.

Actual qualifications ought to be on here somewhere, I think. Not sure why.

According to Antoine de Saint Exupery, author of The Little Prince, none of this is the sort of thing grown-ups want to know about people. They don’t want to know what you passionately believe is important. They want to know what schools you attended and what sort of jobs you had and if they were really good schools and if you graduated.

In short, I have a Ph.D. and M.A. in Educational Psychology from the University of California, Riverside, where I specialized in applied statistics and psychometrics. So, I can’t help you if you don’t like your mother but I can tell you what percentage of the population has a worse relationship with their mothers than you do and the consistency of that relationship over time. I also have an MBA from the University of Minnesota and a BSBA from Washington University in St. Louis. Over the past thirty years since graduating from college, I have been a professor for many years, an eighth-grade math teacher, started a company that grew to over a million dollars in contracts in less than two years, published articles in scientific journals, worked as a statistical consultant for twenty-nine years and been vice-president of a consulting company. I wrote grant proposals funded for millions of dollars. At first, I kept track each year, ‘over five million in funded proposals’, ‘over seven million in funded proposals’. After a while, I started feeling like one of those signs over McDonalds, “over 198 billion served” – and I quit counting. Mostly these days I work on making games to teach kids math.

You can read my thoughts on life, the universe and everything from my company blog , and my personal blog. As the tag line says, you might learn something, but there is no guarantee. If you wanted to know more about me and what I am mostly up to these days, you could read check out 7 Generation Games. It might give you a little more insight than reading articles I published in Educational and Psychological Measurement seventeen years ago, and I personally think it is more interesting as well, but suit yourself.

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