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Arthur Benjamin: Drop calculus, mainstream statistics

A short video with a compelling argument from TED:

Someone always asks the math teacher, “Am I going to use calculus in real life?” And for most of us, says Arthur Benjamin, the answer is no. He offers a bold proposal on how to make math education relevant in the digital age.

Chinese higher education explodes, impact unknown

From a recent article from Inside Higher Ed:

For all the hyperbole, facts about what’s actually happening on the ground in China can be hard to come by. A new study by economists at universities in Canada, New Zealand and China aims to document what its title calls “the higher educational transformation of China and its global implications,” collecting in one place statistics and other information about enrollments, demographic changes, numbers of colleges and faculty publishing, among other categories.

From the working paper‘s abstract:

The number of undergraduate and graduate students in China has been grown at approximately 30% per year since 1999, and the number of graduates at all levels of higher education in China has approximately quadrupled in the last 6 years. The size of entering classes of new students and total student enrollments have risen even faster, and have approximately quintupled. Prior to 1999 increases in these areas were much smaller. Much of the increased spending is focused on elite universities, and new academic contracts differ sharply from earlier ones with no tenure and annual publication quotas often used. All of these changes have already had large impacts on China’s higher educational system and are beginning to be felt by the wider global educational structure. We suggest that even more major impacts will follow in the years to come and there are implications for global trade both directly in ideas, and in idea derived products. (emphasis added)

Given the explosive growth of Chinese higher education –and potential effects on social, cultural, and economic transformations, it is not surprising that the impact has not been probed. Change may be occurring far faster than researchers and policy directors can measure.

(Thanks to Tom Abeles for forwarding the source article.)

The exploding digital universe

IDC has updated their forecast of expansion the digital universe to accommodate bigger and faster growth. Some highlights:

  • The digital universe in 2007 — at 2.25 x 1021 bits (281 exabytes or 281 billion gigabytes) — was 10% bigger than we thought. The resizing comes as a result of faster growth in cameras, digital TV shipments, and better understanding of information replication.
  • By 2011, the digital universe will be 10 times the size it was in 2006.
  • As forecast, the amount of information created, captured, or replicated exceeded available storage for the first time in 2007. Not all information created and transmitted gets stored, but by 2011, almost half of the digital universe will not have a permanent home.

More in the report (and executive summary)…

Mind the gap: The world in 2006

Google hosts a “Gapminder” tool that uses Flash technology to turn otherwise tedious or boring data into readable, interactive animations. Gapminder is a foundation based in Stockholm, Sweden. Funding has been mainly by grants from Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Sida, and the data presented are gathered in collaboration with the United Nations Statistic Division. More details (and charts and graphs!) are available at www.gapminder.org.

Also graphically interesting is the geographically-based economic data site, hosted by Yale: gecon.yale.edu