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Math Science Technology

Brain Scan Can Predict Math Mistakes 133

Posted by samzenpus
from the what-wrong-looks-like dept.
itwbennett writes "Computer Science Ph.D. candidate Federico Cirett says that he can predict with 80 percent accuracy when someone is about to make a mistake on a math question. Using an EEG machine, Cirett can identify the patterns in a volunteer's thinking that are likely to result in an error 20 seconds or so before it's made. 'If we can detect when they are going to fail, maybe we can change the text or switch the question to give them another one at a different level of difficulty, but also to keep them engaged,' Cirett said. 'Brain wave data is the nearest thing we have to really know when the students are having problems.' He will present a paper on his findings at the User Modeling, Adaptation and Personalization conference in July."
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Brain Scan Can Predict Math Mistakes

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  • by mooingyak (720677) on Monday April 23, 2012 @12:28PM (#39772439)

    The first thing I can think of to do with this is figure out how to trigger it and then proceed to get the problem correct, just to screw with everyone.

    • You are talking about gaming the system? That's kind of what i was thinking too. I wondered if there would ever be a system that would detect laziness, because if I knew that the machine could change questions to adapt to me, then I might recline a little more and stop trying.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Because telling little Jimmy he got the question wrong would make him feel bad so instead lets piss away money so we can predict failure before it happens and be sure to water down the test just enough so Jimmy never needs to find out he sucks at math.

      • by Garth Smith (1720052) on Monday April 23, 2012 @01:30PM (#39773265) Homepage
        Say we get this system to 100% accuracy. We know ahead of time that little Jimmy will not be able to solve this math problem. Little Jimmy has exhausted his options and has become stuck. Then what is the point of wasting time having him stare at it? I would take this as an alert that little Jimmy needs help, to intervene, and get little Jimmy learning again.
        • by icebike (68054) * on Monday April 23, 2012 @02:23PM (#39774021)

          Say we get this system to 100% accuracy. We know ahead of time that little Jimmy will not be able to solve this math problem. Little Jimmy has exhausted his options and has become stuck. Then what is the point of wasting time having him stare at it? I would take this as an alert that little Jimmy needs help, to intervene, and get little Jimmy learning again.

          Isn't that the old "allow no failure" school of thought repackaged?

          On the other hand, if Little Jimmy stares at it a little longer, or perhaps is allowed to actually get it wrong (horrors), and then reason out why it was wrong, his learning will probably be better and longer lasting. Or if we give him a few more seconds, perhaps he will have an epiphany as his prior learning bubbles to the surface of his oat-meal brain. But most likely, jumping in 20 seconds before he offers the wrong answer isn't telling him anything he already doesn't know.

          Chances are, it has nothing what so ever to do with math, but merely detects the changes in the brain that signal resignation, or the formation of Jimmy's realization that he does not know the answer or the path to the answer. His brain isn't working on math any more, its resigning him to the fact he can't solve this problem. It takes people a while to come to grips with this fact. Saving him 20 seconds AFTER he has already puzzled out this fact, but BEFORE he brings himself to write something wrong, amounts to no saving at all.

          Let him spend that 20 seconds of mental anguish before writing down his guess. Chances are its a valuable part of the learning process. Why jump into micromanagement mode of a learning process we still don't understand?

          • by Khyber (864651)

            "Isn't that the old "allow no failure" school of thought repackaged?"

            Yes, but instead of it being like NCLB, we actually DO SOMETHING about it.

            • by icebike (68054) *

              Do something about it by detecting wrong answers 20 seconds sooner than previously?

              Total Nonsense.

              • by mcgrew (92797) *

                You can't do anything about it if you don't know that he doesn't get it. Rather than waiting until tomorrow when you've graded the paper, you cane TEACH, now. Different students learn differently, and are going to understand and misunderstand different parts of the lesson..

                • by Sulphur (1548251)

                  You can't do anything about it if you don't know that he doesn't get it. Rather than waiting until tomorrow when you've graded the paper, you cane TEACH, now. Different students learn differently, and are going to understand and misunderstand different parts of the lesson..

                  I see what you did there.

              • by Cstryon (793006)

                Maybe if this gets more advanced. If I were a surgeon and I get stuck, perhaps some kind of implant will tell the nurses or other Dr.s working with me that I'm stuck. Which will allow someone else to jump in, or tell me to find a way to stop, so we can go over what's next. Rather than allowing me the chance to think "oh maybe this Rolex goes on this chamber like so...".

                Just so we are clear, I'm not encouraging the acceptance of bad surgeons, but may like this device could be a safe guard in case to happen t

            • DO SOMETHING about it.

              Like what exactly?
              The summary suggests, essentially dumbing down the next question. It's akin to playing on easy mode.
              Garth Smith suggests we vaguely "intervene" somehow.

              Don't get me wrong, I think this sort of thing would be a fantastic learning aid. While I'm working I could detect just exactly when I go off track, slow down, and work through that portion in more detail. Or it could kick me while I'm down and re-enforce my hatred of math.

            • by Sulphur (1548251)

              "Isn't that the old "allow no failure" school of thought repackaged?"

              Yes, but instead of it being like NCLB, we actually DO SOMETHING about it.

              Maybe the notice no failure overlords will be defeated by their own incompetence.

        • That would be frustrating as hell...

          Teacher: Jimmy, try to do this word problem...
          Jimmy: Ok, hmmm....maybe if I do this...then take that...
          Teacher: Never mind Jimmy, this is too hard for you, try another one
          Jimmy: But I can do this...just give me a minute...
          Teacher: No, you can't, NEXT!
          Jimmy: :(

      • Because telling little Jimmy he got the question wrong would make him feel bad so instead lets piss away money so we can predict failure before it happens and be sure to water down the test just enough so Jimmy never needs to find out he sucks at math.

        Or... This can be used to try and determine why people get answers incorrect. It's possible that Jimmy doesn't know the answer or doesn't understand the question as phrased. By dynamically adjusting the question, we can learn how information is processed and how people think.

        For example. I had a Calculus teacher in college - head of the Math Dept, in fact - who I simply couldn't understand. The way he taught and the way I learned were too different. I dropped the class and took it with another teach

        • by gnick (1211984)

          At my college the math & physics departments were basically at war over teaching methods and decided to swap who was teaching a couple of classes. Trying to take Differential Equations from a physics professor was a complete nightmare. Not only do you need to have compatibility between students and teachers, you need a good match between teachers and their subjects. It's like saying that a good manager can manage any department whether he understands what his employees do or not.

      • by KhabaLox (1906148)

        A test in which you score 100% or 0% is worthless.

    • by CaptainLugnuts (2594663) on Monday April 23, 2012 @02:33PM (#39774161)
      With most Americans' working knowledge of math it would be easier to make a machine that just says 'Wrong Answer."
    • From the link http://phys.org/news/2012-04-scanning-brain-impending-error.html [phys.org]

      "Cirett found that the students performed at comparable levels on the math problems,
      but the English learners stumbled a bit. "It was the language barrier.""

      Reading between the lines I figure this would detect confusion over the meaning of word problems.
      Also explaining the twenty seconds alert, as this confusion would occur before working on the problem.
  • Wouldn't it be better to wait and see if they do fail (which can be detected with 100% accuracy without EEG) and adapt the question then? Who could stay engaged when questions are changing while they are working on them?

    • by flibbidyfloo (451053) on Monday April 23, 2012 @12:43PM (#39772655)

      Some testing system, like for the CPA license (in California at least) already do this. the computer system adjusts the difficulty of certain questions based on how you're doing so far. How exactly it does this is proprietary information and it doesn't dumb things down too much, but it can also make the test harder if you are doing really well. Then something magic happens inside the computer and it tells you whether you passed.

      This seems like a silly application for such research though. Who is going to want to have to have electrodes hooked up to their head just to take a test? It's already stressful enough without having more stuff to distract you.

      • by slimak (593319)

        From what I recall the GRE also does (or did 10 years ago) a similar adaption. Sounds like the CPA exam is similar. As a side benefit of such adaption you can somewhat tell how you are doing. If the test is easy you are doing either very well because you are so super smart, or very poor because you fall in the less-desirable part of the intelligence bell curve!

        • by gnick (1211984)

          That's correct. I took my GRE back in '99 or so. The reading comprehension didn't seem too tough (but I only hit a 540 if I remember correctly so I guess it was harder than I comprehended.) The other two sections were getting fairly difficult because I hit perfect 800's.

          But, while adjusting an exam while you're taking it to better gauge where you stand seems useful, using something like this as an every day teaching tool is radically different and, to me, seems counter-productive.

      • by Garth Smith (1720052) on Monday April 23, 2012 @01:34PM (#39773325) Homepage

        Who is going to want to have to have electrodes hooked up to their head just to take a test? It's already stressful enough without having more stuff to distract you.

        I view this as research into how to better teach mathematics, or really how to better teach any intellectually challenging subject. I don't think they are hoping to hook up every test-taker to this thing, but rather trying to understand how the brain picks apart challenging problems. I feel such research is very useful.

      • by Dewin (989206)

        At least some of the MCSE-related exams do as well, though they're adaptive in a different manner -- if you miss a question on one subject area, it asks more (harder) questions on that subject to determine if it was just a tiny mistake or if your knowledge on that subject is actually lacking. The drawback to the format is you can't go back and revise your answers before time is up since, if you could, you could pay close attention to the questions being asked and go "Oh, I must have picked the wrong answer

      • by azadrozny (576352) on Monday April 23, 2012 @01:52PM (#39773583)

        It is called computer-adaptive testing. I can't speak to the CA CPA exam, but the algorithm is usually not secret. Questions are categorized as easy, medium, and hard, some tests may have more categories. Your first question is of medium difficulty. When you answer a question correctly, your next question is harder. If you get a question wrong, you are given the next easier question. You get more points for correctly answering a hard questions than an easy ones. The test taker does not know the difficulty of the current question, and you are never permitted to return to a question once it is submitted.

        This is how the GRE was run when I took it. I recall that you could request a statement of how each question was scored, but it was missing the question and the choices, so it would be of little diagnostic value to most people.

        I know I would not want to submit to a test that scores the question before you actually respond. I suppose it is a fun research topic, but I don't see a practical application for the work. Maybe you could add it to a game show like Who Wants to be a Millionare. There would be no need for Regis to ask "is that your final answer?"

      • by kj_kabaje (1241696) on Monday April 23, 2012 @02:12PM (#39773873)
        FYI, CAT (Computer Adaptive Testing) is *not* proprietary. There a lot of papers out there about how to do adaptive testing and how to do it well. That said, all of these systems, as an earlier respondent noted, are based upon actual responses rather than predicted responses. As a professional in assessment, I would not want to base any decisions about item presentation on 80% accuracy. We assess because there is uncertainty and we need evidence to model and demonstrate our best estimate of whatever it is we are measuring. The trouble with adapting before you have evidence is that you never push a examinee to their extremes. You've already artificially constrained the range of difficulties and items that a student will see. Restriction of range is already a huge problem on existing tests because of people's preconceptions of what's appropriate for certain ages or groups of examinees. It's promising technology and I intend on watching how it evolves.
      • by KhabaLox (1906148)

        This seems like a silly application for such research though.

        Well, the clinical test of most scientific research probably doesn't align very closely with actual real world applications, drug trials being a notable exception. Here they have devised a simple method to test the accuracy of their brain-wave predicting process. It's hard to predict where this could be used in the real world, though some sort of information feedback system for high-stress/high reaction time situations could be possible. For example, the plane that crashed in upstate New York a few years

    • Forget nit picking over optimizing testing strategies. The real news is you can predict where someone is likely to make an error. Imagine recording all this data while someone was writing code. Eventually there is a bug detected but where is it? Well you might want to color code the code to show sections where the person was struggling with logic. That might be a place to look first. Of course it might be in some place where it never occurred to the person they should be struggling or was just a typ

  • by durrr (1316311) on Monday April 23, 2012 @12:31PM (#39772477)

    A patronizing system that tells you that you've already failed before you've actually done so that gives you amateurish problems so it can see you succeed.

    I hope it comes with a robot arm that tears the test paper out from under your pen, pats you on the head and give you a first grade replacement problem. Bonus for cheering with a nonenthusiastic voice whenever you pass a problem.

    • It's all fun and games to laugh at the nannybot; but one should probably spare a moment's concern for the much-cherished illusion of 'agency', which is not done much good by any result that allows an individual's mental processes to be inferred before they've even become aware of them...

      The researcher's suggestion for on-the-fly difficulty adjustment seems (if not overtly wrongheaded) a waste of scanner hardware, just waiting 20 seconds will give you the same data. The interesting bit is that actually ma
    • I hope it comes with a robot arm that tears the test paper out from under your pen, pats you on the head and give you a first grade replacement problem.

      Not needed; The helicopter parent standing next to said child can do that, as well as complain to the teacher about how their child is being left behind. "It's not Little Timmy's fault -- it's his brain!"

    • This is a joke, I get it. But if you could keep an child engaged at near 100% of their capacity, what potential.

      • by causality (777677)

        This is a joke, I get it. But if you could keep an child engaged at near 100% of their capacity, what potential.

        I believe you're making a fundamental error. You're confusing the ability to detect and predict failure with the ability to cause success.

        See the real question is whether significantly less than 100% is a natural state or if it is a product of placing systems ahead of humans. If you really want to revolutionize education, teach them in a way that doesn't suffocate curiosity (see my sig) and doesn't rely so heavily on regimentation and conformity. It would be a matter of helping each person to discover

    • Re:How wonderful (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Garth Smith (1720052) on Monday April 23, 2012 @01:23PM (#39773163) Homepage

      I majored in math and spend many hours tutoring math. Here is a key in tutoring, you need to give challenging but SOLVABLE problems! Otherwise you just frustrate and make math something to hate. If I got stuck on some math homework and couldn't figure it out, that sucked. I figured out pretty quick if I was stuck for 5 minutes, just wait and go ask for help.

      What I found interesting about the article is that the mention of the word "math" is enough for some people to show signs of imminent failure. I have often come across this while tutoring and the best thing that I could do to help these people is to remove a fear of math from them. Show them that they CAN do some easier math, and then move on from there.

      This is key in educating anyone in any topic. Challenging but SOLVABLE problems! Your attitude only makes society hate mathematics more, when they should be shown the wonder and excitement of it!

      • I've made this observation before. Back when I was in school, classmates around me who had serious problem learning the material generally fell into one of two categories:

        1. They got frustrated with their inability to learn the material remained permanently stuck on the problem, and just decided they hated the course, the professor, or whatever. Typically that stemmed from lacking a good grasp on knowledge the rest of us had. Either a misunderstanding on what was just explained, or a fundamental lack of u
    • Re:How wonderful (Score:4, Insightful)

      by GSloop (165220) <networkguru@NOSPaM.sloop.net> on Monday April 23, 2012 @01:26PM (#39773193) Homepage

      I believe you intended to be funny or sarcastic here, but many of the replies down-stream also seem to miss the point.

      Provided you can believe the article...
      There are *patterns* of thinking that indicate a student is about to make a mistake, that they otherwise may well be capable of solving correctly.

      It's not that they can't handle that difficulty, or don't know the subject matter; it's that their brain is going into patterns that indicate it will simply be unable to reproduce the known material, and the student will fail on that problem, even if they have the requisite knowledge and skill to successfully answer the question.

      It would seem a monumental failure to test someone and not actually measure the skill they have accurately.

      Now, the solution? There are a myriad of them, and some are obviously better than others.

      The prime solution, it seems in my mind, is to then give the subject a view of their brain and thinking that produced this likelihood of failure. You'd teach them how to recognize the onset of the thinking/brain patterns, and how to re-direct their thinking to help alleviate this bad construct.

      Teaching someone how to do that would be incredible. It wouldn't involve "going easy" on them, and wouldn't give them results they couldn't achieve on their own. Once they were able to move out of the "bad" patterns, they could go right back to doing the test and you would get a much more accurate measurement of what the test-taker actually knew.

      Further, almost certainly some people are much worse at getting stuck in these brain patterns - and their results from testing are probably much worse than the rest of the population and they are measured very inaccurately.

      In spite of all the "humor" and snowflake BS thrown at the concept, I see this as something that could greatly improve the quality and skill of the people who utilized it. It could allow us to tap the potential of people who otherwise would be lost as "not very good" who really only fail the measurement system. [Or more accurately, the measurement system fails them.]

      Why throw away many who *do* have the requisite knowledge - simply because we don't know how to help them perform better?
      Why not help people perform better and learn where their brain limitations cost them - and better yet, teach them how to modify their thinking and work output to give them better results?

      -Greg

    • by ifrag (984323)

      Bonus for cheering with a nonenthusiastic voice whenever you pass a problem.

      Well done. In fact, you did so well, I'm going to note this on your file, in the commendations section. Oh, there's lots of room here. 'Did well ... enough.'

    • by athe!st (1782368)
      What they've actually discovered is the pattern of someone's inner monologue saying "fuck it that's close enough"
  • by Bigby (659157) on Monday April 23, 2012 @12:33PM (#39772499)

    I am going to guess that Federico Cirett didn't go to UF.

  • by sideslash (1865434) on Monday April 23, 2012 @12:34PM (#39772523)

    Fascinating research, but I am not a fan of his suggested application. The last thing I want as a test taker is to have a computer dumb down the test (with presumed accompanying grade reduction) to help me relax and feel good about myself.

    • It is possible that the researcher is somehow still a clueless bleeding-heart about math exams and drills, even after making it through a hard science curriculum; but I suspect that there is a much more sensible core to the idea(albeit one that can be achieved in large part just by waiting for the examinee to answer before posing the next question, rather than with the fancy apparatus)...

      Especially for drills/practice, it is considered pedagogically wasteful to either waste a student's time on problems t
  • Snowflakes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Monday April 23, 2012 @12:34PM (#39772529)

    'Brain wave data is the nearest thing we have to really know when the students are having problems.

    Most people have been raised with the notion that it's more important to appear competent than be competent. There's several college-themed cartoons out there about that express hatred for "The Question Guy"... and most people are acutely aware that asking questions on material is a great way to earn the irritation and ostracism of your peers, who feel they have better things to do than get an education and really just want to go through the motions and get out.

    This is another technology that's trying to solve a social problem, and like every attempt in that regard, it will fail, be impractical, and people will try to defeat it -- because they don't see the point and they don't want to appear incompetent. In 20 years, we'll be getting coached on how to have the right brain wave patterns for getting through the airport unmolested, how to cheat on your final and not get detected by the brain wave readers, etc.

    The problem is in our social values and attitudes. It's systemic and institutional. No technology can fix that, however advanced.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The only "question guy" I've seen people really hate is the kind that goes: "hey professor: something I already know by reading ahead, slightly rephrased as a question to garner your respect and appear intelligent?"

      Usually the person asking legitimate "I'm trying to understand this" questions is doing everybody a favour, and I've never seen anything but appreciation for these people.

      • Re:Snowflakes (Score:5, Informative)

        by jellomizer (103300) on Monday April 23, 2012 @01:18PM (#39773105)

        Well there are a bunch of different question guys.
        1. Question to show off. Ask an intelligent question that helps lead the professor into the next chapter. Sometimes it isn't to show off, but because how the material is presented, it get the person to stir about the points brought up in class and starts thinking too much so they get confused and needs to point out the details in the next part.

        2. The Stupid Question. These are questions that you ask because you weren't paying attention 5 minutes ago. Or because you failed to learn the course before.

        3. The Question that takes too long. If the Teacher/Professor cannot explain it to you after 2 questions you should take it off line, and not disrupt the class any further.

        4. The Question everyone has, but is afraid to ask. When one poor brave sole asks the question everyone else was afraid to ask. This often happens when the professor is trying to go to fast and/or uses proofs by intimidation to get to the next spot. "So we find this value, and as anyone can see it brings us to this conclusion...."

        5. The honest question. Others in the class may get it, but you are missing a small piece and you just can't quite visualize it. A quick answer and you are on your way.

        For the most part it is difficult to judge what type of question you are asking until after you asked it.

        • I agree with your assessment of there being more than 1 type of "Question Guy", and as someone who really hates some of those types...

          I am taking an Assembly Language class right now, and there is a question guy. Luckily he is not types 2 or 4, as those are for me the worst. He does meander into 3 a lot and that's where it is an issue for me. When the professor is teaching I am following, I have no issues with focus, and its good for me. Then along comes a question, which almost always will be add
      • by ArsonSmith (13997)

        I've seen much more problems with people in a class too far head of their understanding. Asking basic questions in an advanced class.

      • and I've never seen anything but appreciation for these people.

        In general I agree, though I've been the "question guy" in some instances where it wasn't universally appreciated.

        * In a quantum mechanics course that often lacked mathematical rigor (eg. the completeness property of Hilbert space was never explicitly mentioned) I asked some questions some of the physics students and the instructor viewed as minor details that weren't worth the time or effort to look into (eg. "how can we ignore infinitely many terms? maybe they'll add up to something large").

        • And by now everyone will have lost interest, which illustrates my original point that questions aren't universally appreciated.

          I don't know about that. I'm one of those people who find scientific knowledge of all kinds interesting, even if I don't personally have a use for it or even understand it. I once spent an entire evening at a local diner quizzing a friend of mine who has a double major in math and physics about spacetime manifolds, and in the process she wound up having to borrow a stack of napkins and explain to be some basic calculus, by which time we'd both completely forgotten the original topic of conversation. I know

    • by ultranova (717540)

      In 20 years, we'll be getting coached on how to have the right brain wave patterns for getting through the airport unmolested, how to cheat on your final and not get detected by the brain wave readers, etc.

      That could actually be useful, assuming that brain waves have some relation to how you're using said brains of course.

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Most people have been raised with the notion that it's more important to appear competent than be competent.

      There's a reason for that: Appearing competent is easier than being competent, and the rewards almost as great if not greater. For instance, a person who's able to get hired as an executive by appearing competent can protect themselves from the consequences of failure by blaming subordinates, blaming another department, blaming market conditions, or most drastically moving to another organization citing philosophical differences with the place they're at, to the point where they can "fail upwards" and reach

  • Suggestion (Score:5, Funny)

    by Dorsch (1773388) on Monday April 23, 2012 @12:37PM (#39772567)
    There should be a system like that for posting on the internet... "Error Code 427 - there is a 80% probability you're posting bullshit. Your post was discarded."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 23, 2012 @12:39PM (#39772593)

    I wish I had something like this to wear on a wrist to check my thinking.

    Years ago, back in the dark ages (80s), I was taking a thermo exam. We were given data and we had to derive an equation from said data. Anyway, after pondering it, deriving the equation, checking it once, checking it twice and seeing that it was nice, I turned in my exam.

    'D' on the Final

    Why?

    Forgot to divide by '2' and that screwed up everything else. That ended any dreams of a science or engineering career - thermo was absolutely required and it had to be a 'C' or better.

    I went to 'B' school instead, became a programmer (only job I could get. The bond traders wanted nothing to do with me.), and now I'm a long term unemployed loser.

    So, what's the moral of my story?

    I don't have a fucking clue. And I guess I failed at story telling too.

    Wait here's something:

    Kids, learn to concentrate. Learn to give 100% of your attention to the present moment. Ignore folks who want "multitaskers" and ignore the media that insists on dividing your attention - pretty much anything electronic. Video games? Not from what I've seen. Yeah it requires attention, but it does so with a lot of variation.

    Anyway, never mind. I'm a loser.

    Carry on.

    • Forgot to divide by '2' and that screwed up everything else

      You got a D on an exam because you forgot to divide by 2 somewhere? I see three possibilities:
      * You didn't show your work, and you got 0 points for the problem because you only showed the wrong answer.
      * You are leaving out all the other problems you got wrong that contributed to the D
      * You had a lousy teacher/grader, who considers a missing division by 2 to be as bad as not knowing anything about thermodynamics at all.

      Personally, the last part is a pet peeve of mine. With grades being all you have to show f

      • When I was the GTA, I used to follow every scrap of written material to find some reason to award points. I have given full credit to correctly formed equations, even if the answer is wrong, with a warning note written on the margin. Never docked points for not solving any equation that requires a programmable calculator. I would spend time trying to follow whatever method the student has chosen to attack the problem to localize the exact mistake that led the student astray. If there are multiple ways to so
    • I expect you were always a looser or just trolling.
      1. You could have taken the class over again. (I personally took Calculus I twice, as I got a C- the first time, I didn't like that grade so I took it over again for a B+)
      2. If you got a D in that class you probably wasn't doing too hot in it anyways (But we can let that slide as some classes have only the final for your grade).
      3. Why would you go to Business school if your interests was in science, you could have gone to different schools in science, they

      • you probably wasn't doing too hot in it anyways

        A bit likewise you in them grammer class's.

    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      ...why didn't you just re-take the course?

    • So, you're a "long term unemployed loser" because you're a programmer, because you went to a "B" school, because you gave up on science or engineering, because of one "D" grade on one test, because of one question in which you made one trivial mistake...

      Uh huh. Yep. Your entire life sucks right now just because of that one unbearable life-shattering mistake. Boo hoo. Sucks to be you.

      Sorry, but I don't think you particularly need a pity party. You need to get over it and try again. Or accept that not ev
  • by Animats (122034) on Monday April 23, 2012 @12:43PM (#39772659) Homepage

    This could be useful for programmers. It may be possible to detect some programming errors while programming.

    • by Bigby (659157)

      That is actually a very useful application of such a program. Likewise, I see this type of technology working within the field of contracts and contract law. You could be monitored while signing a document, as to provide courtroom statistical evidence that you meant to sign what you signed.

    • And if it can deliver an electric shock when they do something idiotic, like fail to validate input, that would be awesome.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Was he scanning his own brain when he made the statistical calculation for his study?

  • by squidflakes (905524) on Monday April 23, 2012 @12:45PM (#39772685) Homepage

    That's nothing, I had an ex-girlfriend who could predict with 100% accuracy when I was going to say or do something stupid, usually in response to her being upset.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      With this new system she would interrupt you and ask a less dangerous question for you to screw up on.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "Does this dress make me look fat?"
        *ding*
        "Er, I mean, do I look pretty in this dress?"
        *ding*
        "Um, er, how about we skip the night out, and I lose the dress?"
        *no error ding*

  • What a depressingly (stereo)typical attitude: if the student is going to get a question wrong, change the question. I submit that a better approach is to change the student: identify the kinds of errors he/she produces and teach correct procedures for avoiding those errors.

    In fact that's what I thought the purpose of a "test" was: to evaluate a student's knowledge, identify any deficiencies, and ideally inform remedial teaching as needed. I guess I'm old-fashioned.

    • by VAElynx (2001046)
      This...
      The software would probably drive me nuts.
      Thing is, I wonder whether it's picking out legitimate errors, or mistakes.
      If mistakes (as in, miscalculation, or forgetting a term from previous equation) then why change the question? Beeping to alert the student "gee , you prob'ly fucked up over there" works better.
      If errors, then it's absolutely horrid, because for one of those, the thing you learn from it is what approach won't work, and (hopefully) why doesn't it, which is friggin' important.
    • by Garth Smith (1720052) on Monday April 23, 2012 @01:48PM (#39773521) Homepage

      I find your stereotype of educators incorrect. This study is attempting to figure out how students learn and solve problems. Such information is useful to educators. So in your words... If a student is having difficulty solving a math problem, we identify what deficiency is holding them back, then give them a simpler math problem that remedies the deficiency. Mathematics is highly structured, and I find that many times students need to go back and practice a prior topic before attempting the current exercise.

      I'm going to guess most people complaining didn't RTFA. Changing math problems in the middle of a test was an offhand comment in the last paragraph, discussing possible applications for his current research. The current research being understanding how the brain works.

    • I love how we're all assuming that the CS Ph.D's idea for how to use this technology is the only possible usage that will ever be constructed ever and that as a result this technology is worthless.

  • It's an electronic nose that smells brain farts.

  • I think such a technology would be very useful for the early detection of math learning disabilities. I went through grade school, middle school and high school with high grades in all subject areas with the exception of any sort of maths. It took 6 years to pass basic algebra. I was later tested and diagnosed with dyscalculia and had to give up a long dreamed career of engineering.

    Such a tool would be useful to help get students the help they need early and not have them either waste time, or languish

    • Are you only bad at formal mathematics or do you also lack, for want of a better term, mathematical intuition?

      I saw a guy on TV with an extreme version of it. He couldn't even estimate whether three beers would cost around a dollar, ten, or a thousand.

  • "If we can detect when they are going to fail, maybe we can change the text or switch the question to give them another one at a different level of difficulty, but also to keep them engaged,"

    What is it with our current society that we can't accept the fact that we will fail sometimes that not all people will "get" a particular subject and within normal variations that is okay etc. I think they need to test the assertion that someone that gets a question wrong occasionally is not going to be engaged. I think it is more likely a more "squishy" reasoning "oh clearly when people are told they are wrong they'll feel bad and we don't want that". Personally it is the things I get wrong that keep my st

    • The research is about figuring out how the brain works. The part you quoted is an offhand application of the research made in the last paragraph of the article. I would like to say that if we can determine when one gets "stuck" on a math problem and will not be able to solve it, then why not start teaching at that point? Why waste time letting a student's wheels spin in place when we can be teaching dammit!
      • Because it is being suggested that the test questions can change to give a different level of difficulty instead. Then you need to do the magic someone else in this thread alluded to that happens with CPA exams in Cali to figure out a weird blend of the difficulty of the questions and the number of right answers for each one to figure out who passes.

        In a testing environment you either know the material to the level needed to pass or you don't. The teaching time is over now it is pass or fail. After the test

        • by Alex Belits (437) *

          you'll know what the kids no and what they need to learn

          You made one mistake, and now everyone must assume that you do not understand the difference between "know" and "no". Welcome to the short bus!

  • Who stares at a math question for 20 seconds before answering?! I remember doing time trials in fifth grade and answering hundreds of questions in just one minute. Or is this some sort of psychic ability discovery? Either way, I fail to see the real-world application for this
  • Making mistakes is actually a good way to learn and remember information.
    Usually when I first get a answer wrong and then have to work to get it correct I remember the subject much better.

  • I remember taking some classes where taking a test, I felt like I was on Fire, Every Question was Easy, only to realize I was completly wrong, and I got my grade back in a big surprise. Also there are tests where you are struggling, you know your missing some detail, and you are stressing and reworking to find the missing piece, so when you get your grade back you kinda know that you were going to get that.

    I would expect the brain works much differently for each case.

  • If I add a girlfriend, subtract her clothes, and divide her legs will the brain scan predict if I'm going to multiply?
  • ... can identify the patterns in a volunteer's thinking that are likely to result in an error 20 seconds

    I am familiar with this pattern of thinking - it is called "guessing". Guessing in math will usually fail to provide the correct answer. I am skeptical that detecting this and telling the student that they are going to make an error will actually be very helpful; people are usually aware that they are guessing.

  • ...if the student is having problems with a question - unless the student happens to be candid enough to admit when the student is having problems with a question. Then, when the teacher would be equipped to assist the student in learning how to solve the math problem ... well, I thought that's how education works. Maybe there are some dissenting opinions about it, however.

  • The summary says the prediction is made 20 seconds in advance. But the source says it takes 20 seconds to make the prediction. That's a pretty significant difference.

    From PhysOrg:

    [...] Cirett was able to detect with 80 percent accuracy whether a student [...] would answer a question incorrectly about 20 seconds after they began the question.

  • Is the goal to allow the student to get right answer, or to allow them to learn?

    This is so stupid. The thinking expressed here isn't about the student, but all about the success of the brainwave machine. Stop making our world into a 1984 hell with the the invention's success defining our paths forward rather then the wholistic view on what is happening and whether this really helps or not.

    For what I'd expect, the cases where they get the answer right are of no value to learning, but the cases they ca

  • This Brian Scan guy shouldn't be solely responsible for pre-emptively catching all these mistakes. And what makes HIM so special to have that ability?
  • I mean, judging by the level of applicant to our company lately, if I were to predict they had the wrong answer 100% of the time, I would be right at least 80% of the time.

  • I don't think changing the question whilst I am in the middle of attempting to solve it is the best way to keep me engaged with the test.

  • In addition to being a learning aid this tool may well become a diagnostic blessing. Learning when we are dealing with an information or thought process issue compared to an organic defect might follow if comparative analysis is applied to large numbers of students. There might even be dietary causes unearthed. On the down side if we can understand brain functions at this level we might also be getting close to spotting psychopaths, rapists and more with this testing. Combine that with eugenics and t
  • It seems like everyone is focusing on the obvious implementation of students, but with further research, couldn't this possibly be expanded to real life professions? Say, airline pilots, or surgeons. "I'm about to amputate the left leg..." *WOOP WOOP WOOP* WRONG LEG, DINGUS.
  • You have been determined to fail this course; your application is therefore rejected.

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