Saturday, October 24, 2015

A Feel-Good Story, The Kind Every Teacher Loves

Yesterday after school I was in my classroom before heading off to 7th Period (happy hour) and a student I didn't recognize walked in.  He stood at the door, told me who he was and where he was from (he takes Algebra 2 from the teacher next door), and asked if I were available to answer a question for him.  When I answered in the affirmative he came up to me, introduced himself, and put out his hand for me to shake.

I already like this kid.

He asked if I could explain Bayes' Theorem to him.  I told him it's been awhile; I could explain how to use it, but to explain why it works I'd like to consult some of my notes (from those masters courses I've been taking).  I asked if we could meet after school Monday, at which time I'd be totally prepared.  He agreed.

Then he started telling me about the apps he writes.  How he's already written several.  How he's been collaborating with some IB students in Singapore (!).  While telling me about one he's working on now he used a word that he had obviously made up; I said, "I think you mean 'preferences'," as he was talking about choices people might make.  He looked at me quizzically, then said, "When I think of preferences I think of settings in an app.  But 'preferences' is the right word?"  When I replied that it was, he said, "Oh.  English is not my first language."  He also speaks Iranian (his word, not mine) and Norwegian.  Until that moment I had no indication at all that he wasn't a native-born English speaker.

I got the sense that he's the type of person that soaks up knowledge like a sponge.  He's not just bright--there are lots of kids who are bright--he actively seeks out knowledge, he wants not only to have information but to learn.  Such people are a rarity, they're both a joy and a challenge to be around.

I hope to experience more of the challenge.

Update, 10/26/15:  He showed up just before 3:00 today.  I gave him a simple problem**, and from that problem we developed some formulas for conditional probability.  Each step of the way we got closer until we finally had developed Bayes' Theorem, essentially from scratch!  It took about a half an hour, but it was so worth it to see the looks of joy and wonder on his face.

Sometimes I really love this job I have!  (And other times I don't--see the post I wrote today!)

**The problem was:  flip a coin.  If the toss is heads, roll one die; if the toss is tails, roll 2 dice.  What is the probability of getting a 4, given that the coin toss was heads?  What is the probability of that the coin toss was heads, given that you rolled a 4?

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