Is football too risky for kids?

Is football too dangerous for teens HBO’s Real Sports looks at the risks of head trauma — 17 players have died in the last three years — and at USA Football’s safety initiative, “Heads Up Football.”

“We believe in hitting a lot,” says John Collins, coach of the San Antonio Predators. His players practice full-contact hitting for 90 minutes a day, three times the recommended limit.

Dartmouth Coach Buddy Teevens has cut concussions from 20 a year to two by banning contact tackling in practices. Players tackle sleds and dummies. All eight Ivy League football coaches voted year to ban full-contact tackling in practices, reports Ed Week.

Pedal power raises math grades

Students can choose to pedal during class. Photo: Paul Cory/Wake County Public Schools

Pedal power is helping kids pay attention and learn more math at a North Carolina middle school, reports BBC News.

Bethany Lambeth’s students had trouble sitting still. She put 10 bike pedals under desks and let them try to burn off energy quietly during lessons.

Students said it improved their focus.

“They were able to recall a lot more of what I was saying and because they participated more they understood more and they did better in tests.”

As a result she says their test grades demonstrably improved from when the pedals were introduced in April compared to earlier in the school year.

The school hopes to buy bike pedals for more classrooms.

Fierce feminists — or Indian-identity thieves?

nativeA girls’ high school basketball team in Iowa is under fire for a poster honoring the school’s Indian mascot, writes Robby Soave on Reason‘s Hit & Run. The Clarke High basketball team stands accused of appropriating Native American culture by dressing up as Indians. (They dance at the bottom of the poster, above the basketball schedule.)

“Several people pointed out on Facebook that the headdress is sacred in Native American tradition, and only men were allowed to wear it,” writes Soave. “But in that case, aren’t the girls actually striking a blow against the patriarchy?”

“Kudos to the Arbiters of Femininity for cyberbullying these girls,” writes The College Fix‘s Greg Piper.

“The girls look fierce as hell,” writes Soave

Clarke High asked photographer Ben Shirk to shoot a poster incorporating the mascot, writes Nick Martin. He calls the result “high-quality racism.”

When I started at Stanford, we were the “Indians.” Home football games started with a dance by “Prince Lightfoot.” My roommate, who was Native American, didn’t mind the Indian name, but hated the dance, which she said was pure Hollywood hoke. By sophomore, we were the Stanford Cardinal — a color, not a bird. I wonder what she’d think of the poster.

Iowa prof: Herky the Hawk spurs aggression

The University of Iowa’s Herky the Hawk mascot is too angry, “conveying an invitation to aggressivity and even violence,” complains a pediatrics professor.

“I believe incoming students should be met with welcoming, nurturing, calm, accepting and happy messages,” wrote Resmiye Oral in an email to UI athletic department officials and the Faculty Senate.

In a phone interview with the Press-Citizen, Oral said university symbols — Fighting Herky, the “Old School” Flying Herky and the Tigerhawk logo — should show a variety of facial expressions.

Aggression is OK for the football field, but not for posters welcoming new students, she argued.

Angry Herky images on posters “are totally against the nonviolent, all accepting, nondiscriminatory messages we are trying to convey through campus,” she told colleagues.

U.S. students win Math Olympiad — again

U.S. Math Olympiad team members Ankan Bhattacharya, Allen Liu, Ashwin Sah, Michael Kural, Yuan Yao and Junyao Peng. Photo: Carnegie Mellon University

It’s hard to miss the hype for the Rio Olympics, writes Michael Mazenko on A Teacher’s View. But very few know that U.S. mathletes won the 2016 International Math Olympiad in Hong Kong last month. For the second year in a row. U.S. students beat competitors from China (Shanghai), South Korea, Singapore and Japan.

This is “just one more example of how in America we are ignoring our best and brightest,” writes Mazenko.

“This year’s IMO featured an unusually large number of non-standard problems which combined multiple areas of mathematics into the same investigation,” Po-Shen Loh, coach of the U.S. team, wrote in the New York Times:

The most challenging problem turned out to be #3, which was a fusion of algebra, geometry, and number theory. On that question, the USA achieved the highest total score among all countries, ultimately contributing to its overall victory — a historic repeat #1 finish (2015 + 2016), definitively breaking the 21-year drought since the last #1 finish in 1994, and the first consecutive #1 finish in the USA’s record.

Here’s IMO 2016 Problem 3:

Let P = AA2 … Ak be a convex polygon on the plane. The vertices A1, A2, …, Ak have integral coordinates and lie on a circle. Let S be the area of P. An odd positive integer n is given such that the squares of the side lengths of P are integers divisible by n. Prove that 2S is an integer divisible by n.

It’s as impossible for me as the gymnastics floor exercise. Does anyone have a clue how to tackle this problem?

At Last Chance U, it’s football first

At Last Chance U, aka East Mississippi Community College in tiny Scooba, young football players who’ve failed elsewhere try to qualify for Division I colleges or the pros.

The Netflix documentary, which recalls Hoop Dreams, shows “the difficulty of getting cocky, athletically gifted kids to dedicate themselves to school work,” reports the Daily Beast.

Ronald Ollie is a big, gregarious defensive lineman who was raised by various relatives, and whose lack of educational discipline is epitomized by his purchase of new headphones (which he constantly wears in meetings with Brittany) instead of basic necessities at the campus store. His marriage of great on-field talent and horrid classroom habits is also seen in running back DJ Law, who has the skills to be a potential pro superstar, and yet comes with so much baggage—a ne’er-do-well ex-con father; a baby son he can’t see while at EMCC—that it’s little surprise to find him struggling mightily to keep his grades at the mandatory level.

The EMCC Lions are three-time national champions known for running up the score. Players who overcome “academic, behavioral and even legal” challenges can make it to Division 1 or the NFL.

The six-episode series is based on a GQ article by Drew Jubera.

Pro loves football, math

Baltimore Ravens lineman John Urschel, who’s working on his PhD in math at MIT, taught a lesson to summer-school students at a Maryland high school.

It’s not unusual for star athletes to try to motivate students, but John Urschel, an offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens, is different. The Penn State graduate is working on a doctorate in math at MIT. He loves math.

At a Maryland high school, Urschel told summer school students that he uses quantitative thinking to guard against pass rushes, reports the Baltimore Sun.

He asked incoming ninth graders to figure out the best angle for a kicker to launch a field goal try. When they struggled with the problem, he told them to keep at it.

He recalled revising four different mistakes on the same proof — in his junior year of college, on his master’s thesis and twice in writing it for publication — before he corrected it and published it as the Urschel-Zikatanov bisection.

“People mess up,” Urschel told the class. “People get things wrong. It doesn’t mean you’re stupid. It’s just a learning process. That’s how it goes.”

When he retires from the NFL, Urschel hopes to be a math professor, teaching students and solving “really cool” puzzles.

(Ex-)boy wins state honors in girls’ track 

Tia Goward, “Ice” Wangyot and Joei Vidad competed in the 200-meter sprint in the 2016 Alaska State Track Championships in Anchorage. Photo: Bob Hallinen/Alaska Dispatch News

A (biological) boy won all-Alaska honors in girls’ track and field, reports the Daily Caller.  Nattaphon “Ice” Wangyot, 18, who identifies as a girl, won fifth place in the 100-meter dash and third place in the 200-meter.

“I’m glad that this person is comfortable with who they are . . . but I don’t think it’s competitively completely 100-percent fair,” said Saskia Harrison, who just failed to qualify for the finals.

“Genetically a guy has more muscle mass than a girl, and if he’s racing against a girl, he may have an advantage, ” another runner, Peyton Young,  told the Alaska Dispatch News.

Wangyot, who moved to Alaska from Thailand two years ago, also competed in girls volleyball and girls basketball earlier this school year.

Is it fair to let someone who’s physically male compete against girls?

Winning school

Shawn Young, founder of Classcraft, uses the game in his physics class. 

Competition shouldn’t just be for athletes — or brainiacs — writes Greg Toppo in Game Plan for Learning in Education Next.  Academic competition can engage and motivate students, writes Toppo, author of The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter.

Schools “use sports, games, social clubs, and band competitions to get students excited about coming to school,” he writes, but rarely “use academic competition to improve instruction for more than just a few top students.”

That’s starting to change.

Shawn Young, a 32-year-old Canadian physics teacher, has created a peer-driven classroom learning and management system, dubbed Classcraft, that resembles a low-tech, sword-and-sorcery video game. In it, students work in teams to meet the basic demands of school — showing up on time, working diligently, completing homework, behaving well in class, and encouraging each other to do the same — to earn “experience” and “health” points.

Arete (originally named Interstellar) lets students compete to solve math problems with rivals anywhere in the world. Tim Kelley was inspired by watching the school rowing team compete to improve their personal bests in endurance.

Kelley began to wonder how one might replicate that fighting spirit in the classroom. He soon imagined a computer application that would use students’ day-to-day results to match them up with comparably skilled contestants in head-to-head academic competition — in everything from classroom pickup games to bleacher-filling, live-broadcast amphitheater tournaments.

Yes, Kelley hopes to make math a spectator sport.


Wisconsin athlete suspended for tweet

It’s bad sportsmanship for high school fans to chant “air ball,” “season’s over” (during a tournament) or other insults declared the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association in an email.

Mockery ensued. ESPN analyst Jay Bilas tweeted “WIAA acceptable” chants.

Instead of “airball,” he suggests: “We note your attempt did not reach the rim, but only to alert the clock operator that a reset is unnecessary.”

Also WIAA-acceptable: “We hope for a positive outcome while fully realizing that the result is not a negative reflection upon our guest.”

But the “s word” hit the fan, when a student athlete tweeted a vulgar response:

April Gehl, a three-sport star at Hilbert High, was suspended for five basketball games for her vulgar response. “I couldn’t believe it,” Gehl said. “I was like, ‘Really? For tweeting my opinion?’ I thought it was ridiculous.”

Does she have a free-speech right to use a vulgarity on social media? If not, isn’t a five-game suspension over the top?