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Math Science Technology

Brain Scan Can Predict Math Mistakes 133

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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  • 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:Snowflakes (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 23, 2012 @12:57PM (#39772877)

    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.

  • by ILongForDarkness ( 1134931 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @01:22PM (#39773145)

    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.

  • Re:How wonderful (Score:4, Insightful)

    by GSloop ( 165220 ) <networkguru@sloop. n e t> 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?


  • 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.

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