## What kid would think this through?

In high school I had a class where your final grade was based on a total number of points earned through the semester. The final exam was worth a large portion of the total semester points—let’s say it was 500 of your semester’s possible points. Your percent-score on the exam determined how many of those points you received. (Ace the exam, and you get all 500 points.)

The exam was many hundreds of multiple-choice questions; The exam was so long that no one could ever finish it. The questions had to be shuffled to mix the material taught in the course. Every year the questions were identical, but each year the teacher made a copy of the master list, cut up (yes, with a scissors) the questions, shuffled the strips, and then taped the questions onto a sheet with question numbering, to create a unique Frankenstein-exam every year. This Franken-xam was then photocopied (via a Volkswagen Beetle sized behemoth in the main office) to produce the actual exams.

In the days before the exam, we were told to work at our own pace, to answer each question (skips counted as wrong answers) and to simply stop when time was called. Afterwards, the teacher would calculate the average number of questions attempted by the class. That average was then used as the possible number of questions for calculating our exam scores. (Thus the shuffling to create an exam that is however-long we made it as we took it!) If you went farther than the class’s average attempted number, then you could score some extra points (if you get the answers right, of course) to offset any wrong answers you had along the way. A lot of work to shuffle it every year, but it was a neat idea.

I think it had always worked because kids just didn’t care enough to think it through. We weren’t told the total number of questions, nor what previous classes had attempted. But, for discussion here, let’s say the class’s average-attempted is 200. And let’s say I were to answer 227 questions, but I get 24 wrong. That feels like an 89%, right? No, actually I end up with 203 correct answers, which is more than the class’s average-attempted of 200. I actually score 101.5% and I would get all of the exam’s 500 points towards my semester total. Wait, there’s more: As extra credit, my 3 extra correct answers (my 203 against the 200 attempted average) become extra credit points just added right to my semester total. I’d get 503 points towards my semester!

After the exam was announced, two of my friends and I, realized…

2. When you get the test, go as fast as you can. Our goal is to attempt as many questions as possible.
3. The goal isn’t to get every question right— The goal is to get a lot right.

For example, if we could get just 60% right—normally a really poor performance on an exam—while attempting twice as many as the class average, we win big. Say, 200 average-attempted, against our 400 attempted, at 60% correct (240 correct answers of 400)… we’d score 120% on the exam, plus 40 extra points (our 240 correct above the 200 needed) That’s 540 points towards the semester. And, if we could get 75% correct, while attempting 3 times as many questions, then our exam score is 225% (that’s our 450 correct answers, while needing only 200) plus an extra 250 points (that’s our 450, minus the 200 to ace the exam) That’s 750 points towards the semester! Now do you see the attack? :)

I never understood why no one else ever tried that.

I know this is a minor thing in the universe of problems with secondary education and grading, but I found the hack interesting.

slip:4usebo19.

…and I’m actually not sure if what we tried even worked. You thought I was going to have a clear take-away about my actual scores, or the test never being given again?! No the take-away is: Oh, I’ve been thinking like a hacker for a Long. Long. Time.

ɕ

## To see beauty

Youth is happy because it has the capacity to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.

~ Franz Kafka

slip:4a1136.

## Just, hard

I spend large amounts of time just thinking. That’s not so terrible, all things considered since there’s lots of actively anti-useful stuff I could be doing.

People have different personalities, goals, experiences, and levels of chance and serendipity, all of which make universal truths hard to find and difficult to teach. No matter how smart the world becomes, the best answer will always be, “You’ve got to figure it out for yourself.”

A lot of things work like that. Some of the most important topics are the hardest to teach, and real world experience is the only school.

~ Morgan Housel from, https://collabfund.com/blog/very-important-and-hard-to-teach/

slip:4ucobo4.

There are certain traps for my mind. One insidious example is when I notice I’ve been doing prolonged thinking. …and then I start thinking about how I was thinking about whatever-it-was. …and might there be some underlying principle or knowledge that I don’t understand? …and maybe I should read more about that? …and maybe I should seek out others who know more about that?

Sometimes, I can manage to shake myself out of that. But usually, I have to simply lean into it for another hour, sometimes even the rest of the day (or week!) “Okay, I’m hung-up on this” and I have to try to go all in. After a real attempt at figuring it out, when I can apprehend just how bonkers-complex it would be, my mind simply let’s go of it.

ɕ

A degree on your wall means you’re educated as much as shoes on your feet mean you’re walking. It’s a start, but hardly sufficient. […] Just as you can walk plenty well without shoes, you don’t need to step into a classroom to understand the basic, fundamental reality of nature and of our proper role in it. Begin with awareness and reflection. Not just once, but every single second of every single day.

~ Ryan Holiday

slip:4a1143.

## Sharpening the mower

As I write, I’m listening to my neighbor who is gas-powered-rotary-mowing the rocks in his yard…

This is a frequent topic on my blog: I have an old-school style, reel mower. It’s a modern mower; light, and maintainable. It has no motor; you push it and the blades spin. (Thus it comes with an unlimited, free gym membership and exercise program.) It really matters that it be kept sharp and correctly adjusted. A reel mower is basically 6, precisely adjustd, helical scissors. If you hit even a single twig or piece of mulch, it matters.

Yesterday I spent an hour sharpening and adjusting the mower. This is also a manual process where I have to take apart the wheel-drive-setup, and put the mower body in a little stand, (which I built years ago.) Then, using a manual hand-crank arm, and lapping compound—think: grey peanut butter with stuff that cuts steel in it—I can adjust and sharpen the mower. Anyway. I spent an hour on it.

Then I went back out into the lawn like a hero… only to discover I had done it wrong and really messed it up. Now it cuts way worse— Actually, now it mostly doesn’t cut, is impossible to push, and I need to redo all my adjusting and sharpening.

So yesterday, precious little lawn go mowed. But holy shit did I get a workout!

Sometimes my posts are metaphors for life about “sharpening the saw.” Not today. No, yesterday I simply messed up the mower and busted my ass to no avail.

Nope. Definitely no life lesson here. Nothing to see here. Move along.

ɕ