Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Math Education Microsoft

Microsoft's Math-Challenged STEM Education Contest 96

Posted by timothy
from the rounding-sideways dept.
theodp writes "As noted earlier, Microsoft is tackling the CS education crisis with a popularity contest that will award $100K in donations to five technology education nonprofits that help make kids technically literate. Hopefully, the nonprofits will teach kids that the contest's voting Leader Board is a particularly good example of what-not-to-do technically. In addition to cherry-picking the less-pathetic vote totals to make its Leader Board, Microsoft also uses some dubious rounding code that transforms the original voting data into misleading percentages. Indeed, developer tools reveal that the top five leaders in the Microsoft STEM education contest miraculously account for 130% of the vote. Let's hope the quality control is better for those Microsoft Surface voting machines!"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Microsoft's Math-Challenged STEM Education Contest

Comments Filter:
  • by Shavano (2541114) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @12:56PM (#44407261)

    Note the graphics and the at-odds text.

    CSC's vision is to "increase participation of underrepresented groups in computer science" but shows two pasty white boys. Underrepresented? I think not!

    Code to learn foundation shows two black boys in the classic, "This is all going over my head." pose (head leaning on hand). But hey, at least the confused-looking children are not pasty white boys.

    CFY shows multi-racial girls looking up a a computer screen with the keyboard placed out of easy reach. Clearly there is no intention of them doing anything with that computer.

    Code.org shows multi-racial kids, but the two in sharp focus in the foreground are more stereotypical white boys.

    Teaching kids programming shows three girls mugging for the camera, but there's little suggesting that they're learning anything about programming.

    The other photos are not that bad. But seriously, somebody should have reviewed the photos and said, "Is this really the message you want to send?"

    • You are SO right! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Is this really the message you want to send?"

      What we SHOULD be showing them is the truth!

      The long hours sitting behind a computer.

      The unreasonable deadlines.

      The drudgery of coding and the very infrequent times of creativity.

      How to jocky one's resume to fit the laundry lists of skills "needed". And then tell them about the reality that those job postings are written for poaching talent from other firms. (ex. Write a job description that only the lead dev at Google could match.)

      The stagnant pay. You won't make much more than what you started with out

    • by westlake (615356)

      Code to learn foundation shows two black boys in the classic, "This is all going over my head." pose (head leaning on hand). But hey, at least the confused-looking children are not pasty white boys.

      This photo is from MIT's Scratch [mit.edu] site and it is the Scratch editor you see on the screen.

      Scratch 2.0 was released for editing within a browser on May 9 and is alleged to be somewhat unresponsive. The off-line 2.0 editor remains in limbo. That said, I am reluctant to read anything significant in a pose when I cannot see a face.

      • We use scratch where I work. It's supposed to be to teach rudimentary programming.

        In practice students soon realised that the scratch.mit.edu site includes a library of games made by other people, and will happily spend their lessons playing on those.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Code to learn foundation shows two black boys in the classic, "This is all going over my head." pose (head leaning on hand).

      That's the classic 'I'm bored out of my skull (waiting for Scratch to do something)' pose. But hey, don't want to interrupt a good nitpicking for race-bait.

    • by nbauman (624611)

      If there's one thing I can't stand, it's stock photos of happy black children.

      This country is getting increasingly racist. People are executed in Florida for killing white people, but not for killing black people. The Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats are telling us that they don't want to eliminate poverty; poverty is good for us and besides they're too greedy to pay taxes. Bill Gates and the Billionaire Boys Club are destroying the public school system and unions. They joined ALEC to promote the entire r

      • by black3d (1648913) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @05:53PM (#44408707)

        I hope you realise, that simply believing "crazy racist stuff you heard somewhere" (likely, from racists) doesn't make it true. There are (far) more whites than blacks on death row in Florida. http://www.dc.state.fl.us/activeinmates/deathrowroster.asp [state.fl.us]

        Most people executed in Florida have been white. http://www.dc.state.fl.us/oth/deathrow/execlist.html [state.fl.us]

        There have been plenty of people executed in Florida for killing blacks and other non-whites:
        Richard Henyard [wikipedia.org]
        Mark Schwab [wikipedia.org]
        David Alan Gore
        Manuel Pardo
        And many more.. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment_in_Florida [wikipedia.org]

        The ironic thing here is, simply blinding believing that other people are being racist due to a set of circumstances which aren't actually occuring, is highly suggestive of you, in fact, being racist. You're already set in a prejudiced view and don't care about the facts. BTW, George Zimmerman is innocent. Deal with it.

        • by nbauman (624611)

          I said, "People are executed in Florida for killing white people, but not for killing black people." Nothing in your sources says otherwise. Carl Dausch would be the first, and he still hasn't been executed. Somebody who accuses another guy of getting his facts wrong, as you do, should read more carefully.

          There's a long history of this in Florida. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willis_V._McCall [wikipedia.org] McCall killed several black people in cold blood, and got away with it.

          I'm not talking about hispanic people, who ha

          • by black3d (1648913)

            >I said, "People are executed in Florida for killing white people, but not for killing black people." Nothing in your sources says otherwise.

            Except, what you said is quite simply wrong. The first, Richard Heynard was executed in Florida for the murder of two black girls. Perhaps what you mean to say is "*whites* aren't executed for killing black people", but thats not what you said.

            Furthermore, of the inmates on death row convicted of killing black people, all except two are black. Almost white death r

            • by nbauman (624611)

              It is well established by social science data that black people are treated worse by almost any measurement than white people, and that this is even worse in the formerly Confederate South. Black people were killed if they tried to vote, up to the late 1960s. That's racism.

              I just go by the facts. That's not racism.

              I'm not advocating violence. I'm just telling you what happened in the past, and what may happen again. It happens because people think they can't get justice by nonviolent methods. And sometimes

              • by black3d (1648913)

                I'm very happy for people to get justice. I'll try to help them get justice. I just don't believe that mis-representation of racist notions is a means of achieving anything except more hate.

                For example, you say "black people were killed if they tried to vote, up to the late 1960s", to make it sound like it was a widespread, common practice up until the late 1960s. To be clear, such incidences were very few and very far between. And "the late 1960s" were now over half a century ago. On the other hand, there

                • by nbauman (624611)

                  I'm very happy for people to get justice. I'll try to help them get justice. I just don't believe that mis-representation of racist notions is a means of achieving anything except more hate.

                  I don't think you help would be too useful.

                  For example, you say "black people were killed if they tried to vote, up to the late 1960s", to make it sound like it was a widespread, common practice up until the late 1960s.

                  It was a widespread, common practice in the South up until the late 1960s. We didn't have the Voting Rights Act until 1965. Martin Luther King was killed in 1968. If a black person tried to vote in the South, he was very likely to be killed. If somebody tried to organize blacks to vote, they would definitely try to kill him. I went to a memorial service for somebody who was killed organizing blacks to vote. If a black person wanted to stay alive in the south, he wo

                  • by black3d (1648913)

                    >That's what you say. I wonder what really happened.
                    Again - the fix to white on black racism isn't in tacit support of black on white racism.

                    You've got to break the cycle sometime. If you want to stop race being an issue, don't make everything about race.

              • by Agent0013 (828350)

                You don't like it? Help them get justice. You seem to be doing the opposite.

                Trayvon Martin did get his justice. He was a criminal gangster that snuck up on a neighborhood watch member who was checking out a suspicious person walking through the area. Don't forget that he sold illegal weapons and drugs. He tried to kill Zimmerman and we have an eye-witness to that effect. In the end, it isn't illegal or wrong to follow someone. It is illegal and wrong to attack someone, which Trayvon did.

                • by nbauman (624611)

                  Zimmerrman was following Martin, and Martin was correct in fearing that his life was in danger. Martin reasonably defended himself.

                  Put a gun in the situation and somebody gets killed. Zimmerman put a gun in the situation.

                  Zimmerman started a confrontation which led to Martin's death, and rejected the 911 operator's advice that he stay in the car. You have a right to kill somebody in self-defense, but if you started the confrontation, you don't have that right any more. It's homicide.

                  If I were on the jury, I

                  • by Agent0013 (828350)

                    Zimmerman was following Martin, and Martin was correct in fearing that his life was in danger. Martin reasonably defended himself.

                    It isn't illegal to follow someone. If you are in fear for your life from someone that isn't threatening you, you have serious problems. Perhaps the lawful thing to do would be call the police.

                    Put a gun in the situation and somebody gets killed. Zimmerman put a gun in the situation.

                    It's called a "concealed carry" permit, not a "wave a gun in anybody's face you want to" permit. Martin would not have know about the gun when he decided to turn back and attack another person on the street. He didn't call the police for help, he started a confrontation and tried to kill someone.

                    Zimmerman started a confrontation which led to Martin's death, and rejected the 911 operator's advice that he stay in the car. You have a right to kill somebody in self-defense, but if you started the confrontation, you don't have that right any more. It's homicide.

                    Your logic is so twist

                    • by nbauman (624611)

                      I am starting to think you don't even have the capability to think for yourself. I will even go so far as to call you a stupid fuck.

                      I see you have declined to engage in rational debate, and have chosen name-calling instead, which is where your talents are.

                      Excuse me for mistaking you for a rational person.

                    • by Agent0013 (828350)
                      Yep. No rational thoughts spewing from your keyboard, so no rational debate possible.
  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @12:56PM (#44407269)

    Please, Slashdot devs, update your code so submission links are flagged with the website's domain - as has already been done in the comments for as long as I can remember. It's annoying to have to hover over each link to check whether it's another click-bait attempt to inflate traffic on a site.

    Of course, a flame-bait summary like this one is probably a reliable indicator as well.

  • suckdot (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Picking on them for donating money to nonprofits - MS bashing has reached a new low.

    Yeah they should hoard their cash like Apple and Oracle.

    • by theodp (442580)

      It's not clear whether the 'donations' are cash money, software,etc. BTW, not to dismiss $100K (split five ways), but that's less than what a Microsoft exec spends to put one kid through high school at Lakeside School [lakesideschool.org] (BillG's alma mater).

    • by Shavano (2541114)
      It's not what they're doing, it's how they're doing it that is drawing this criticism. Evaluate the programs on their mission, program plan and management competence instead of a popularity contest would be a good start. That's what they'd do if they were thinking about acquiring a company, right?
      • by edibobb (113989)
        Nope. Management competence is obviously not considered in MS acquisitions.
        • by Shavano (2541114)
          Well, that may be true, and that's fairly normal. Usually after you acquire a company you cherry pick the best managers, fire the rest and replace them with people you trust. "If they're so good, how come we bought their company?" But you do a careful job of studying their products, processes, financials and how well they address the market.
    • Re:suckdot (Score:5, Insightful)

      by plopez (54068) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @01:24PM (#44407421) Journal

      They refuse to pay taxes which support services like schools and then brag about the few crumbs they throw out on the floor for a few non-profits. There is plenty to bash Microsoft for.

  • by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @01:11PM (#44407347) Homepage

    A leader board shows the TOP competitors. That's the point of a leader board. It is not "cherry picking" to only show the top.

    The rounding is not dubious. They are rounding to 10% increments because that is the resolution of the progress bars.

    The "percent-10", "percent-50", and so on that the "developer tool" is showing are the classes of the progress bars. There is a style correspond to each in main.css, and that determines the length of the progress bar. The style sheet provides "percent-0", "percent-10", ..., "percent-100".

    • by theodp (442580) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @01:17PM (#44407373)

      Crediting an organization receiving just 46 out of 6,735 votes with 10% of the vote instead of 0.68% probably wouldn't receive a thumbs-up from data viz folks like Edward Tufte.

      • by peragrin (659227)

        No but it is correct according to MSFT marketing dept. Hell pretty much any advertiser uses the same kind of math to show how effective their campaigns are.

        We had a 15% increase in sales(but can't prove it was related to the marketing). Or sales of advertised goods went up 200%(from 5 to 15 units) . Pretty much anyone who ever failed statistics gets into marketing as a back up.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by msauve (701917)
      You're absolutely correct. Despite the variable names in the code, the leaderboard itself isn't presented as anything other that a simple "Who's in the lead?" graphic. It accurately reflects the top 5 vote getters (which makes sense for a contest which will have 5 winners) in proper order, and gives a rough indication of their relative popularity. The contest promises "We'll donate $50,000 to the organization with the most votes, $20,000 to the second highest, and $10,000 to each of the three runners up." T
      • by theodp (442580) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @02:17PM (#44407705)

        C'mon, this could be the poster child for Wikipedia's Misleading graph [wikipedia.org] article. :-)

        Other commenters pointed to the .css file, which contains a "min-width: 10%;" statement that adds to the distortion. Below the Leader Board, you'll note that even those nonprofits with essentially 0% of the vote have progress bars that suggest they have 10% of the vote. Guess it looks better than showing that pretty much nobody cared to vote for them (e.g., the Microsoft-backed STEM Education Coalition [stemedcoalition.org] has 13 votes), and they're way out of contention.

    • by AK Marc (707885)
      Yea, I didn't see anything wrong with it. It was deliberately misleading, but that's what marketing is. It isn't correct. The "totals may not add to 100% due to rounding" should have been on the graphic, but aside from that, it's accurate math.
  • by plopez (54068) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @01:29PM (#44407457) Journal

    I would rather see them pay the billions they owe Washington state end the US government. The money would be better spent. Rather than a few non-profits getting a pittance, the money which could make a real difference would be available. NGOs are horrifically inefficient. See Haiti as an example.

    • I would rather see them pay the billions they owe Washington state end the US government ...NGOs are horrifically inefficient.

      Second only to governments.

      See Haiti as an example

      Exactly.

      Imagine if they threw a billion dollars in matching funds to Kiva [kiva.org] - it would have a revolutionary impact by leveraging millions of volunteer decision makers, and they'd probably get it all back.

      • by plopez (54068) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @02:07PM (#44407663) Journal

        They gave money to NGOs in Haiti where if there had been centralized governmental agencies running the efforts the waste would have been far lower. Governments are actually more efficient than the private sector in many things, esp. those for which there is no profit. And NGOs do not have economy of scale.

        • by nbauman (624611) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @05:21PM (#44408549) Homepage Journal

          Correct. That's what Paul Farmer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_farmer [wikipedia.org] said. Farmer did more than anybody else in the world to improve Haiti's health care system.

          Farmer said that, to run a health care system, you need an overall plan, and that requires a central government. You can't have volunteer charities from the US and elsewhere parachute in for 6 months to do their thing. You need the government to decide what the priorities are. Maybe some church group wants to come in for 6 months and hand out eyeglasses, which is all well and good. But their urgent problems are infant mortality, maternal mortality, diarrhea (which is the main cause of infant mortality), and sheer starvation. Somebody has to come up with a strategy to assign priorities, and the free market isn't good at that. (The free market has already assigned its priority as taking care of the needs of rich people.)

          Unfortunately, Farmer (who spends half the year in Haiti and half in Harvard) said that the Clinton Administration was trying to drive Aristide, the (elected) president, out of office, so the U.S. prevented funds from going directly to the Aristide government, but sent them to the NGOs, some of whom were run by Aristide's rivals. You wind up with warehouses full of (say) enough mosquito nets for 10 years, when hospitals don't have essential drugs like morphine to give people who have their limbs amputated, or drugs for people with cancer.

          Haiti is a classic case of a government that, for all its faults, could have run its health care system better than NGOs.

    • Right now they are training me to become a math and computer teacher for middle school and highschool.

      I used to hate them with a passion (typical slashdotter), but STEM is used to teach inner city children math, science, and engineering. My opinion has changed and STEM is not MS technology specific. I think it is great for non education majors who want a career change and STEM also is heavily investing in lego mindstorm projects too. This helps the tax payers out too as STEM students enrolled have higher te

    • by edibobb (113989)
      They don't owe WA and the U.S. anything. They adhere to the current tax laws. Change the law if you want them to pay, but it will cost a bundle to outbid MS when buying the politicians.
      • by hedwards (940851)

        No, they don't. They're legally on the hook for the goods they produce for sale in Washington State. It doesn't mean crap that they're incorporated in Nevada for the purposes of selling licenses, they are under the jurisdiction of Washington State and that's where they do all their actual business.

        This is settled case law, it's just that the state has been hesitant to actually enforce the law.

    • by deego (587575)

      How can we complain about corporations following law A to the letter but not *in spirit* (tax payment), when law B compels them, *in letter*, to minimize taxes for their shareholders?

      Secondly, I have no love lost for MS, but do I really think our US Govt. will spend money any wiser? No! It goes into more crappy wars around the world, or to bail out rick banks. Heck, even money they *don't* have goes into that.

      • by hedwards (940851)

        Minimizing taxes for their shareholders does not involve tax fraud.

      • There isn't any law requiring a corporation to maximize profits. The Free Software Foundation is a corporation. Do you think they maximize profit? How about the Red Cross, another corporation? The ACLU?

        The closest requirements that actually exist are:
        Directors and executives can't give THEMSELVES benefits at the expense of shareholders, aside from agreed salary and benefit packages. So they can't give company money (shareholder's money) to themselves.

        They must act in furtherance of the purpose(s) stated i
    • I would rather see them pay the billions they owe Washington state end the US government

      There could be no more noble a goal.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 28, 2013 @01:52PM (#44407579)

    It looks like the only real complaint here is the "misrepresentative" bars. Those can be blamed on lazy development. There are a couple clues to this:

    1: They didn't bother to minimize their CSS
    They're apparently using the dev version of their CSS to serve on the site: http://www.azuredevs.com/css/main.css
    One could maybe argue they're offering some fun for "developers" who show up. But my money is on a misconfiguration or some generally shoddy web development.

    2: The debug notations provide a clue to the source code
    Aside from the huge waste of bytes sent to users, using debug code in production provides hints to the actual source. In this case, the percent-bar classes read like this: /* line 1479, C:\Projects\Microsoft\MWA\Repo\mwa\AzureDev\css\main.less */
    figure.progress-bar.percent-70 span {
        width: 70%;
    } /* line 1484, C:\Projects\Microsoft\MWA\Repo\mwa\AzureDev\css\main.less */
    figure.progress-bar.percent-80 span {
        width: 80%;
    }

    As you can see, each class is 5 lines apart, which means that they probably look more or less like we see here. If they were using a loop structure (non-trivial in LESS, but do-able), they could have easily generated 25 different versions of the bar. It would also have meant that each iteration would have been generated from the same line of code. So they're not doing that. And since someone had to hand-code each of the 10 version of the bar, they were probably a bit lazy about it.

    3: Another clue from the CSS: The developer probably doesn't work for Microsoft.

    If you look at the file paths from the debug CSS, you'll notice the source is stored under "C:\Projects\Microsoft\..." If you work for Microsoft and are developing Microsoft software on a Microsoft device, isn't it a bit redundant to have a "Microsoft" directory in your Projects folder? The only way that makes a lot of sense is if the person who wrote the code didn't actually work for Microsoft.

    So, my conclusion: Microsoft farmed out their website to someone who was either under-skilled, over-worked, under-motivated, or some combination of those. The result isn't of top quality. Go figure. Next story please. :-D

    So yeah, I think what we're seeing here is just bad/lazy web development. Another clue from the

    • by Anonymous Coward

      So yeah, I think what we're seeing here is just bad/lazy web development. Another clue from the

      Wow. Was I drunk when I read the preview?

      Ignore that last line.

      Also, some <code> tags would have been nice for that code, eh?

      /* line 1479, C:\Projects\Microsoft\MWA\Repo\mwa\AzureDev\css\main.less */
      figure.progress-bar.percent-70 span {
      width: 70%;
      } /* line 1484, C:\Projects\Microsoft\MWA\Repo\mwa\AzureDev\css\main.less */
      figure.progress-bar.percent-80 span {
      width: 80%;
      }

      And here I am chastising someone else's web development. I should be ashame

    • "So, my conclusion: Microsoft farmed out their website to someone who was either under-skilled, over-worked, under-motivated, or some combination of those. The result isn't of top quality. Go figure. Next story please. :-D".

      Yea, it's not as of Microsoft was ever caught before jiggling the code to make the competition look bad. link [theregister.co.uk]

      MSN deliberately breaks Opera's browser [theregister.co.uk]
  • Dover Publications has excellent collection of cheap math & science books, just couple dollars each.
    Here what I have on my bookshelf :
    Theory of Functions (Part 1 & 2) by K. Knopp
    Theory & Applications of Infinite Series K. Knopp
    Elem. Real & Complex Analysis G.Shilov
    Matrices and Linear Transforms. C. Cullen ................
    Just saying ..... M$ doesn't have reinvent the wheel. There is enough materials to teach kids !!!!

  • .. in town, will certainly motivate the best and the brightest to seek success elsewhere than in anything MS advocates. The real problem is that "managers" (a.k.a. MBA qualified idiots) have taken over and STEM people are not respected anymore, despite their education being a lot harder and they being a lot more critical on an individual level. No surprise smart people start to avoid STEM. No prospects, being treated and paid badly, and then get fired at 40 by a nil-whit and going into unemployment. Unless

  • The tech / IT field can move fast and people who take some classes hear and there should have that count for something with out having to take 2+ year block out.

    Also There some topics that can be ether to much / may need to be cut down to fit into an college time table or some stuff that may need to be padded out to fit in as well.

  • by nbauman (624611) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @04:17PM (#44408293) Homepage Journal

    Why doesn't Microsoft pay its taxes, so that we can run the schools, libraries and support services for kids to grow up to be programmers or anything else they want?

    We're a wealthy country. We should be able to raise money among ourselves and decide among ourselves how we want to spend it. (It's called taxes.) I think most of us would want to spend the money on free public schools, including free college (like the countries we compete with, including the countries those HB-1 immigrants come from). I don't think many people here want their children to graduate college $50,000 in debt, or to drop out of college because they can't afford it. (The Gates Foundation, BTW, was a member of ALEC, which did so much to cut our taxes and destroy low-cost public university education http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_members_of_the_American_Legislative_Exchange_Council#Former_corporate_members [wikipedia.org])

    We don't need billionaires making these decisions for us, instead of paying taxes so we can decide ourselves.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/27/us-microsoft-tax-idUSTRE76Q6OB20110727 [reuters.com]

    Insight: Microsoft use of low-tax havens drives down tax bill

    By Lynnley Browning

    FAIRFIELD, Connecticut | Wed Jul 27, 2011 7:07pm EDT

    (Reuters) - If you want to know why tax from surging corporate profits isn't making much of a dent in the United States' crippling budget deficit, a glance at Microsoft Corp's recent results provides some clues.

    Things were rosy in the giant software company's just-ended fiscal fourth quarter, which produced record sales of nearly $17.4 billion, a 30 percent increase in after-tax profit, and a 35 percent gain in earnings per share.

    But for the Internal Revenue Service and foreign tax authorities, things weren't so rosy. Microsoft reported only $445 million in taxes in the U.S. and other foreign countries, just 7 percent of its $6.32 billion in pre-tax profit....

    • We're a wealthy country

      No, you're not. The US is a country with many wealthy people, the country itself is close to bankrupt due to it's endemic plutocratic corruption.

  • You mean like they're already doing?

    I think they must have meant Microsoft-literate. Perhaps they are concerned that the current uprising of youth is not learning Windows 8 like they are supposed to.

Between infinite and short there is a big difference. -- G.H. Gonnet

Working...