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12 Apr 2012

The Walkthrough Lick

by Mike Tanier

The Wonderlic is a joke. What the NFL needs is a test designed by someone who understands football, the draft process, and standardized testing. As if someone like that really exists.

Hey, wait a minute!

I hereby publically ask the NFL to allow me to bid on the rights to create a new pre-draft aptitude test. I shall call it The Walkthrough Lick.

My qualifications: a decade of professional NFL draft analysis, 17 years of public education experience, five years of part- and full-time employment in the standardized testing field (including stints as a project manager for test development and scoring), and a profound love of both the Combine and No. 2 pencils. Match that, Charles F. Wonderlic Junior!

Sample Question: In the diagram below, identify the three-technique tackle and the Will linebacker.
a) 2 and 3
b) 2 and 4
c) 3 and 4
d) 3 and 5
e) 3 and 6

Figure 1: Sample Walkthrough Lick

The Walkthrough Lick will be designed to assess the draftee’s ability to process football-related information, understand coach’s instructions, and make the types of decisions NFL players must make on and off the field. Notice how explicitly those goals are stated. Good standardized tests set very specific parameters about what they are designed to measure. Bad standardized tests are designed to "measure general mental ability, widely accepted as being one of the single best predictors of job success." General mental ability? What the hell is that? Why, it’s what the Wonderlic measures, according to the Wonderlic website.

Here is more elaboration on the Wonderlic: "It helps measure a candidate’s ability to understand instructions, learn, adapt, solve problems and handle the mental demands of the position." What position? Banker? Cornerback? This is one-size-fits-all testing, and it would not fly in the public education field: the designers would have to develop an elaborate set of clusters, benchmarks, and guidelines, then expend a great deal of energy pretending that their one-size-fits-all test meets all of those clusters.

The NFL deserves better than an off-the-rack test designed for middle managers. More importantly, so do the draftees.

Sample Question: While having dinner at a restaurant that serves alcohol, a patron begins to bother you. After a brief exchange, he makes a scene, claiming that you shoved him. Other patrons notice the incident and begin to crowd around you. What is the best course of action?
a) Offer to buy the man a drink and autograph some memorabilia if he settles down.
b) Loudly proclaim your innocence so the other witnesses can hear your side of the story.
c) Tweet about the incident and call your agent so you can get the truth into the mass media immediately.
d) Excuse yourself as calmly as possible and contact the team’s public relations department.
e) Lock and load.

The Walkthrough Lick will be a 20-question, 30-minute, multiple choice test. At 1.5 minutes per question, it will be much more in line with contemporary standardized tests, like the SAT and high-school graduation requirements, than the Wonderlic, which asks takers to blaze along at 14.4 seconds per question.

(The SAT allows over one minute per question in the math section, much longer per question in sections where the taker must read written passages. Even stringent post-graduate tests allow well over one minute per response. The LSAT, for instance, gives 35 minutes for an average of 25 questions in its logic and reading comprehension sections.)

Tests with extreme speed requirements are meant to assess the capacity to process information and make quick calculations or decisions. Unfortunately, they encourage rushed judgments, which are completely contradictory to what a) modern education prescribes and values and b) most employers want. You may think you want employees who can make decisions in 14.4 seconds, but that skill does not prove useful very often. What you want are employees who can make thorough, reasoned decisions under manageable deadlines.

As for football players, they don’t have 14.4 seconds to do much of anything. The quarterback has about that much time to read the defense before the snap, but "reading" is the crux of our problem.

High-speed tests are often simply reading speed tests: if you can decode the information quickly, you can get the right answer. This becomes a major problem for anyone with a reading-based learning disability. People who aren’t familiar with educational psychology or law may think that "reading-based learning disability" translates as "dumb kid whose mom has a good lawyer" or "dumb kid who needs extra breaks to stay on the football team." While there are always cases of system abuse, reading-based learning disabilities are only diagnosed when the reading impairment can be isolated from, and demonstrated to be distinct from, the individual’s overall cognitive ability. The individual can answer the questions when the test is administered orally, for example.

Good special education programs teach learning-disabled students strategies to help them fully comprehend what they are reading. "Rushing like a madman because you only have 14.4 seconds" is not one of those strategies. Students with 504 Plans or IEPs almost always get a flexibly-timed accommodation on standardized tests, but the tests are also designed to minimize the need for additional time by not being intensely timed in the first place. The only test I have encountered in the last few decades that was timed as rigorously as the Wonderlic is the Jeopardy! contestant test.

The NFL deserves a test that is valid and reflects contemporary testing principles. Draftees, particularly those with learning disabilities, deserve a test that is fair. If you think Michael Oher and Morris Claiborne are the only players this affects, you are not familiar with education at any level, from kindergarten through college. But then, you probably did not think that.

Sample Question: You are the left defensive end, and you have lined up on the outside shoulder of the tight end. At the snap, the tight end blocks the defensive tackle to your right, leaving you unblocked. The running back moves to his right, away from you, and the quarterback extends his arm with the ball and prepares to hand off. Which of the following best represents your assignment on this play?
a) Charge into the backfield and try to blow up the play as soon as the ball is handed off.
b) Pursue at full speed along the line of scrimmage so you can bring the running back down from behind.
c) Slow down, flatten out, and prepare for a bootleg or reverse to your side.
d) Pursue the quarterback in an attempt to sack him after a play-action fake.
e) Race downfield in case you are needed as a last line of defense.

The Wonderlic is little more than a "gotcha," and an excuse for lazy jokes by football writers who don’t know much about football. Do we really know if an 18 is that much better than a 15? If a 23 for a wide receiver is better or worse than a 27 for a quarterback? Do we care? We only know the lowest scores, and we only hear about them through unofficial means. It’s seedy, and it runs counter to the philosophy of assessment, which is supposed to be diagnostic or instructive, not punitive. That’s not Wonderlic’s problem, that’s ours as a sports-entertainment industry, but better test design can help take some of the sting out of leaked scores.

The Walkthrough Lick will be administered using the same strict privacy protocols applied to any high-stakes assessment. But what would happen if someone leaks a score? First of all, anyone who publishes the score should be required to post his SAT score in the same article, but since that is impossible to enforce, we can only restate that the Walkthrough Lick is "designed to assess the draftees ability to process football-related information, understand coach’s instructions, and make the types of decisions NFL players must make on and off the field." It does not test intelligence, or "general mental ability," which is a euphemism for intelligence, which is a loaded term. So the guy with the poor score is not dumb, but he did have trouble with questions about recognizing coverages or reacting properly to sticky situations famous people find themselves in, or handling his money. Instead of attacking his intelligence, anyone who finds the need to write about a leaked Walkthough Lick score will be forced to question a specific, football-related skill set, one not that far removed from his forty time.

Sample Question: A long-time friend asks for $100,000 to invest in his start-up company and says that he can guarantee you a 20 percent annual return on your investment. You should be suspicious of this claim because:
a) Friends become immediately untrustworthy as soon as you become wealthy.
b) Start-up companies can never guarantee a high-percentage return on an investment.
c) Twenty percent is too low a return rate on a $100,000 investment
d) One-hundred thousand dollars is too much money to invest in any one venture.
e) Large-scale investments violate the terms of the NFL collective bargaining agreement.

These sample questions may seem a little easy, but they are just samples. Real Walkthrough Lick questions will be developed by a team of experts in pedagogy, cognitive development, football strategy, and professional ethics. They will be vetted by experienced educators, draft analysts, and test developers. They will then be piloted by a testing group similar to the test’s target audience, and any questions that are too easy, too difficult, or reflect any sort of bias, will be removed or reconfigured. Advanced statistical analysis will assure that each question’s difficulty level is accurately gauged and that each version of the test has a proper array of easy, moderate, and challenging questions.

Translation: I will make interns write the questions for about five bucks each. My wife and I will look them over. Then I will have one of my high school coach buddies give the test to his players. I will keep a "percent correct" matrix for each question on a spreadsheet somewhere, maybe. Rest assured that this is how many, many standardized tests are written, except for those which are cut and pasted out of textbooks. For legal protection, let me state that I have never worked for Wonderlic or its subcontractors, and I apologize to anyone who has ever taken a test I helped construct or score.

Essay Question: You are the offensive coordinator facing an opponent with average players at every position but two. Their right defensive end is an All-Pro pass rusher, and their free safety is an undrafted rookie who, due to injuries, will be starting his first game. Design a play using a base personnel grouping (either 2RB-1TE-2WR or 1RB-2TE-2WR) that you would like to use to generate a big play against this defense. You may diagram the play in the space provided, but you must also explain the features of the play, either as an essay or a series of bullet points.

The essay may seem superfluous. After all, teams will interview the player, and they can send him to the white board or make him explain film if they want. But an essay adds a scoring component. You see, multiple choice tests can be scored by machine, and test purchasers know that does not cost much. But an essay? That must be scored by a "football professional," so I can claim I am hiring ex-college players and coaches for $25 per hour and budget as if only ten tests can be scored per hour. Then, I will grab some teachers who played high school football 25 years ago off Facebook for $12 an hour and "professional development hours" (don’t ask), and when it turns out that they can crank out about 90 tests per hour (read the question again: any max-protect play-action bomb should get a good score, right?), the profit margin ... well, I am licking my chops here. Why, if I didn’t know better, I might think that testing companies add "open-ended" responses simply so they can add sweet, sweet pork fat to their budgets.

Sorry. This test is for the teams and players, not the test developer. Wink!

Of course, the Walkthrough Lick will just be the first in a vanguard of sports testing products. The Walkthrough Lick Decision Maker’s Exam will specifically test quarterbacks, middle linebackers, and other players who have to worry about more than just their own role. It can even be given to coaches! The Walkthrough Lick Kickers and Punters Exam will be 90 points for the name and 10 points for the ability to recognize DeSean Jackson, but it will cost the same amount.

Next, we will branch out to basketball and baseball pre-draft exams. Then, something for hockey players when they reach the age at which they are tracked into those juniors programs. The neonatal features will cost extra. The Walkthrough Test of Sports Blogging Aptitude will allow bloggers to display a seal on their sites, saying they have passed. And if they fail, they can write long rants about how stupid and unjust the test is, right after their entries about which athletes they think are stupid.

The NFL can have the Walkthrough Lick for a song: $50,000 in development expenses to my non-profit development corporation (hehehe), then $5,000 per year to my extremely for-profit administration company. The real money, of course, will come from the prep books: the $20 Barnes and Noble edition, and the much-more-expensive DVD edition for agents and performance institutes (contact me directly for pricing information.)

The Walkthrough Lick: pinpoint accuracy for that three-month period between college stardom and NFL employment when it doesn’t even matter much, anyway.

Top Five Minnesota Vikings Running Backs

No 1930s two-way players who led the league with 439 rushing yards. Hooray! My gut tells me that teams which began operation in the early 1960s will have the most interesting lists. Fifty years of history provide plenty of context without having to sort through guys who played in the single wing.

1. Chuck Foreman

If you want to be historically underrated, have your peak years between 1973 and 1977, the NFL’s mini-Ice Age for offensive statistics. Play on a team that lost Super Bowls, because you will be perceived as having some deficiency which kept you from winning those Super Bowls. (If you never come close to the Super Bowl, you have a much better chance of being remembered as a lovable hard-luck case). Also, have some dud Super Bowl games –- 12 carries for 18 yards –- so all the highlight montages show defenders beating you senseless.

Foreman scored the trifecta of underrated-ness. He was one of the niftiest runners in league history, and he was incredibly productive in an era of grinding football attrition. He had some outstanding playoff performances for some great teams. For all of that, he probably will not be able to hold on to this No. 1 spot much longer.

2. Adrian Peterson

An excellent runner whose DYAR numbers usually hover around 200 for the usual reasons: he gets fed to the line a lot, our stats are not that impressed by one-yard touchdowns, we cannot accurately gauge the effect terrible quarterbacks have on their running backs. If you are tempted to rank Peterson above Foreman right now, as opposed to after a season or two, please take Foreman’s 1975-77 rushing and receiving numbers, multiply them by 1.14 to project to a 16-game season, and compare them to Peterson’s. You raise with Fran Tarkenton, Mick Tingelhoff, and Ron Yary, and I will call with the Dead Ball-like environment of the mid-1970s. It would still be very close, but Foreman’s receiving is the trump card, at least until Peterson has another outstanding season or two.

3. Robert Smith

A historical square peg. Smith was one of the NFL’s fastest players, and he was a high-IQ guy who didn’t fit the football culture, first at Ohio State and then (to a less drastic degree) in the pros. He got stuck behind Terry Allen, then spent two years getting injured precisely at midseason, before stringing together four relatively healthy, increasingly productive, seasons.

Smith’s career arc is actually an arrow that points upward and then stops when he abruptly retired after a 1,521 yard season in 2000. DVOA and DYAR rank him as the fifth-best runner in the league in 1999 and 2000. The Vikings kept Leroy Hoard around as a short-yardage runner, which kept Smith’s touchdown totals low but kept him fresh (and may have helped his DVOA by limiting his non-nourishing carries a bit). Low touchdown totals and a lack of a decline phase make Smith’s raw numbers less impressive than they could have been. He was a heck of a player who happened to prefer science and learning to getting pummeled by linebackers. Who can blame him?

4. Bill Brown

Brown and Dave Osborn shared the Vikings backfield through most of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Either could lead the team in rushing in a given season, but Brown, the nominal fullback (the roles were almost interchangeable), would add 30-40 catches per year. He averaged 14.6 yards per catch and added nine receiving touchdowns in his best season.

Brown also hummed along at 3.3-to-3.5 yards per carry for many years. Norm Van Brocklin was a stubborn coach, and no one was going to tell him not to give 251 carries to a running back averaging 3.3 yards per rush, but Bud Grant did the same thing when he took over. This wasn’t 1936, remember: good backs averaged over four yards per carry in the 1960s. I have no idea what to make of this, but Brown was clearly doing something right.

5. Ted Brown

Brown and Darrin Nelson shared the Vikings backfield in the early 1980s in much the same way that Bill Brown and Osborn shared it in the 1960s. Brown was the "power" back who also caught a lot of passes, Nelson the speedster with the higher per-carry average most seasons. This Brown had a much shorter career than the other one; he was very good from 1980 through 1982, then tailed off into a committee role for several years.

Nelson and Osborn both deserve honorable mention. Both had long Vikings careers. Nelson got thrown into the Herschel Walker trade, then returned a few years later as a return man and third-down back. Osborn backed up Foreman at the end of his career and had the thrill of carrying eight times for minus-one yards against the Steelers in the Super Bowl.

Terry Allen deserves honorable mention for his 1992 season.

I have no idea what to do with Herschel. Maybe we can make a special "other" section for him, Jim Thorpe, and a few others. Who would belong on such a list?

Sample Question Answers!

1. C. By the way, homemade tests have an incredible tendency to have a preponderance of "C" answers. When making a commercial test, it is important to strive for a roughly 20 percent split across five items or a 25 percent split across four, if not on each test version, then throughout the question bank. The College Board does a fine job of this. Other companies appear to fake it.

2. D. This one may sound silly, but there are "judgment tests" in most state’s teacher’s exams, and they really do include "should you beat Johnny?" questions, with the correct answer possibly varying on a state-by-state basis.

3. C. If you were fast enough to blow up the play, you would be at right end, buddy.

4. B. "A" is also technically correct but not the best possible answer.

5. Answers may vary.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 12 Apr 2012

169 comments, Last at 01 Jan 2013, 7:55am by mano


by Independent George :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 11:48am

One minor off-topic quibble regarding learning disabilities - there's some pretty good evidence indicating that many (but certainly not all) children diagnosed as dyslexic suffer not from a neurological condition, but from poor reading instruction where they are encouraged to guess words and look for context clues instead of actually decoding the letters. In other words, they were taught with the linguistic equivalent of Everyday Math. I agree with everything else you wrote, though - it's not that the kids are dumb, but they haven't been given the right tools to succeed.

Is anybody else completely grossed out by the words, "Walkthrough Lick"?

by Mike Tanier :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 1:42pm

That was called Whole Language. It was probably the only thing mankind ever invented that was worse than Everyday Math, which was sent to earth by Darkseid. At any rate, though, it is a child with a reading impairment that is not a result of lack of intelligence, caused by a force beyond their control.

by wr (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 2:10pm

Jack Kirby reference wins the thread.

On question 4, 'A' is sadly more than technically correct.

by drobviousso :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 2:59pm

I was in college chemistry with a guy who learned to read via Whole Language. It was pretty painful watching him try to cipher out chemical compound names that were 24 letters long. Of course, as one of those not-particularly-stupid-but-dyslexic kids, I wasn't doing much better...

by Independent George :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 3:06pm

Now imagine a child who spend his first eight years in school with both Everyday Math and Whole Language. What little math he encounters is based on reading skills which he never gets taught in the first place, but it's all ok because the spiral will fix everything eventually. Finally, he gets to high school where he's put in remediation, gets ostracized for it by his peers, and is now convinced he'll never be good at anything.

Now, I'm not saying this actually was devised by Darkseid, but I am saying that Darkseid could not have conceived a plan more devious or effective at ensuring Earth's certain capitulation to his eventual assault. Hmmm. Actually, on further reflecton, this almost certainly wasn't one of his plans, since it actually appears to be working.

by drobviousso :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 3:13pm

As a Proud Pop of a 2 year old who just went with his son to pre-school for the first time (paternity leave for kid 2, so off work), I don't need any more to worry about. I discovered that the curriculum is based on conflict-theory oriented structuralist thought. We had a sharing exercise that was intended to show "the effects of power relationships between parents and children." This pre-school is run by the school district, not some private school.

by Independent George :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 4:15pm
by tally :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 10:28am

I'm pretty sure the Anti-Life Equation will be generated by a million Earth kids raised on Everyday Math and Whole Language taking standardized tests at the same time.

by drobviousso :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 3:07pm

"Well, I know from my context clues that this equation has something to do with antilife..."

by tuluse :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 3:12pm

I feel like I'm missing out on some shared experience by not ever having dealt with Everyday Math.

by Independent George :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 4:12pm
by tuluse :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 5:12pm

After spending far too long thinking about this, I think I've finally figured out what to do on that worksheet.

You answer the first problem, then you fill in the pennies for what you did, and then you use those to fill out the 2nd problem (the 10 is filled in for you the second number in the addition is the number of pennies in the 2nd box, the answers are the same). I think. The problem is that they're listed in the wrong order, and I have no idea what the arrow is supposed to represent.

Why has this evil taken root?

by BaronFoobarstein :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 5:31pm

I don't think that's bad. I've never seen it taught explicitly but identifying the amount by which a sum exceeds 10 is a natural an effective mental math technique and using pennies as visualization for first graders just learning it seems reasonable. I presume better instructions were provided in class than are written on the sheet.

by tuluse :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 5:35pm

You think 1st grade kids are going to remember what instructions the teacher gave once they get home?

by LionInAZ :: Sat, 04/14/2012 - 1:21am

I spent about 30 seconds looking at the problem. The trend that seems obvious to me is the connection 8+3 = 10+1, 9+3 = 10+2, 7+4 = 10+1. The point of the counters is to move things around to get to 10, then what's left over in the bottom box plus 10 (the filled top box) give you the answer.

It's a weird way to me to figure out how to add numbers in decimal notation, but is it worse than
"carry the number of tens"?

The Everyday Math problems are just what we used to call "story problems in the 60s and 70s", except that they use more relatable examples (except for girls, of course). I don't understand what the problem is with the second example.

by Steve in WI :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 3:19pm

Okay, the first link is a real head-scratcher, but I'm having a hard time figuring out how the second one demonstrates a different or worse concept of math. I get that the everyday math problems are significantly easier to solve than the Singapore math problems, but I don't really see conceptual differences. It seems reasonable to me that the first set of problems would be a stepping stone to solving the 2nd set, and that if the first set came at an earlier grade level it wouldn't be such a bad thing.

by jebmak :: Tue, 04/17/2012 - 7:22pm

Anyone else have fun running through these 6th grade problems?

by Shattenjager :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 5:21pm

I still don't even understand what it is, beyond being much reviled and liking the use of calculators (which I despise).

by Mike Tanier :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 7:00pm

I am pro calculator at the higher levels, but that is another matter.

Here is the thing about those Pennies type problems. They are not introductory problems, or classroom activities, or challenge problems or math labs. They are the centerpiece of daily EM lessons and practice. So every attempt to do some problem is addressed in "let's come at it in 5 ways and draw ten diagrams" approach.

So for bright kids, it becomes busy work, and while the multiple approach can help slower learners, it never bridges over into more efficient methods.

Oh, and its division method could set America back about 75 years.

Oh, and 9/10ths of elementary school teachers never get comfortable with the mumbo jumbo in any way, which is more feature than bug because they sneak out the "skills practice" worksheets from the closet first chance they get.

by Shattenjager :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 7:34pm

I have a deep hatred for calculators because where I grew up they were always used as a status symbol for the rich kids. I could not afford one until my second year of undergrad, when I actually had to buy two. I'm sure you know better than I whether they are actually useful.

And "'let's come at it in 5 ways and draw ten diagrams' approach" does sound terrifying.

by tuluse :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 11:52pm

I'm not sure how old you are, but by the time I went through high school everyone in an advanced math class needed a graphing calculator. I do remember in middle school, some kids having them early or having fancy casio calculators with color screens. Which by the way, makes me think about the clearly unethical stranglehold TI has over education. Seriously, a slow ARM processor, shitty LCD, and truck load of buttons should not add up to 90 dollars.

by Shattenjager :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 1:06am

I'm 26, and I was in theory required to have one for all of my math classes from seventh grade on (I was always at least two years ahead of my grade in math and they "required" them starting in algebra.), but I didn't actually have one. I don't know if hardly anyone noticed or if they just didn't care, but I only had one teacher who said anything.

by Jerry :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 7:21am

At least nobody tried to make you use a slide rule.

by Displaced Bolthead (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 11:23am

Hey! Slide rules are efficient and don't need electricity. They are...uh, I'll stop. I'm dating myself

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 9:22am

It should when it can do symbolic calculus to a level of single-substitution rules. It can even do convolutions, although it's tedious in the extreme and more suited for mathematica.

There's even an emulator for them for Android phones.

RPN (Thanks H-P...) is one of those weird hacks which is more straightforward for the compiler, but user-hateful.

by John (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 12:04pm

User-hateful? Are you kidding me? That's like saying the Dvorak keyboard is user-hateful because everyone grew up on Qwerty.

I haven't used an algebraic calculator in ~25 years, and probably couldn't at this point. Parentheses are for the birds.

by akn :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 11:24pm

Agreed, I used a non-graphing RPN calculator all through high school and college. I was cranking through problems at twice the speed of everyone else during exams.

by John (not verified) :: Sat, 04/14/2012 - 2:14am

'Twas a sad day when Carly killed HP calculator research. When HP announced they were bringing out a limited run of the 15C recently, I was bound to get one; I now have a 41CV, 48G, and 15C.

Admittedly, they're all gathering dust, but still!

by tuluse :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 12:21pm

I think you're thinking of the TI-89. The lesser TI-84 is horribly over priced.


by Scott P. (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 11:34am

I saw my first graphing calculator in high school. It was the size of a brick and cost around $500. Needless to say none of my classmates had one.

by LionInAZ :: Sat, 04/14/2012 - 1:26am

Requiring that students buy a graphing calculator even for simple algebra reeks of product placement. Just 2 years ago my wife was forced to buy a graphing calculator for an algebra-level math class for nursing students. I couldn't believe it -- what a waste of money.

by tally :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 10:32am

Calculators can never give you the inferiority complex that abacuses did in the hands of my cousins who were raised in Asia and could use them faster than I could on my calculator.

by Jeremy Billones :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 11:02am

Abacii or Abacab?

by tally :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 11:44am

Abacuses or abaci are both acceptable according to Webster.

by DFJinPgh :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 1:00pm

Abacii (maybe?) can lead to quick arithmetic, but nothing beats *really* knowing math: http://www.ee.ryerson.ca/~elf/abacus/feynman.html

When I add/multiply/subtract/divide "large" numbers (3+ digits), I rarely bother with going past the first two or so, making an abacus practically useless.

/math grad student

by Whatev :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 10:33pm

The problem is that calculators get faster on more complex operations. Even mental math gets relatively faster on more complex operations.

I still maintain that you should never use a calculator for something you couldn't do with a pencil and paper if you had enough time to waste.

by tuluse :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 10:38pm

"I still maintain that you should never use a calculator for something you couldn't do with a pencil and paper if you had enough time to waste."

I'm not aware of any math teacher who thinks differently.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 04/16/2012 - 8:54am

That's fine -- to a point. And that point was Multi-variate Calculus. Doing the exams sans calculator was fine, it was just excruciatingly slow. I see no need to mechanically calculate a saddle-plot -- that's what calculators and graduate students are for. The processes were sufficiently involved that simply processing the churn along the way was prohibitively slow, and we covered fewer concepts and in less depth due to that lack of calculators than we could have had we had something relatively modern to work with.

Although I got an appreciation for how crippled fluid mechanics was in the pre-digital calculator era.

by RickD :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 11:45pm

Kids really would be better served learning basic arithmetic through memorization.

Add, carry, add, carry.

If they find it easier to think of 8 as (10 - 2) later in life, there's time enough to use that as a shortcut.

Some educators think that what we want kids to be doing is thinking more when it comes to math. But, at the lowest levels, it's better if they're thinking less. Until they have a solid foundation of innate understanding of mathematical principles, the notion that they can pick up more abstract concepts is just a pipe dream. And a waste of time.

I thought "new math" had been killed decades ago. I guess we have an oversupply of people with education degrees.

by Mike Tanier :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 4:09pm

New Math was totally different. It lives on whenever we teach the Commutative Property of Equality to 3rd graders.

The TI-83 is now the Service Revolver of algebra track teachers. I required it in every Honors level class beyond Alg 2 (they never let me teach geometry). Any kid who couldn't afford one could sign one out of guidance for the year, no questions asked.

by Shattenjager :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 7:25pm

I will add this to my extremely long list of reasons why I hate where I grew up.

by Mike Tanier :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 4:09pm

New Math was totally different. It lives on whenever we teach the Commutative Property of Equality to 3rd graders.

The TI-83 is now the Service Revolver of algebra track teachers. I required it in every Honors level class beyond Alg 2 (they never let me teach geometry). Any kid who couldn't afford one could sign one out of guidance for the year, no questions asked.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Sun, 04/15/2012 - 1:06am

Calculators are evil. The only place they should exist is in an actual practical lab. On tests and in homework, the answers should always be obtainable without a calculator.

The most important skill people need to learn from a math class is how to get a roughly correct answer.

by DavidL :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 6:08pm

I would argue that Whole Language is absolutely a result of a lack of intelligence.

But only because I'm Darkseid-agnostic.

by Dales :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 12:41am

My Daughter had the Everyday Math textbook. Fayetteville was a (the?) pilot.

If math were a color, it would be...

Thanks, Chicago!

by akn :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 4:50am

I just saw my nephew's old Everyday Math textbook a few weeks ago. Egads, is that stuff awful, especially at the age he was forced to learn it.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 9:19am

The color Chicago:


by Mike Tanier :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 4:07pm

Real Everyday Math does not have textbooks. True apostles know that. It has "handbooks" and lots of little consumable workbooks. Why, if I didn't know better, I would say that the consumables were selected because the school has to buy new ones every year! No, no, no, it comes from the advanced pedagogy that says having one source where kids-parents-tutors can look things up is somehow bad.

by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 7:30pm

Yes. Made think.of licking thongs.

Was thibking of rehearsal of scene in porn movie where somebody has to lick somethong. So that would be a walkthrough lick.

by John (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 12:06pm

When I'm on my deathbed, one of my regrets will likely be that I didn't lick enough thongs.

by sjt (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 11:48am

The running back moves to his right, away from you

Please clarify. If I'm the left defensive end, and the RB moves to his right, he should be going towards my side. He wouldn't be going "away from me" unless he's flaring out wide as if expecting a pass or a pitchback, in which case how can the QB be giving him a handoff?

by snoopy369 :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 12:25pm

Glad to know I'm not imagining things... I spent about three minutes trying to figure out how that could work.

by RickD :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 4:10pm

I assumed that the RB moved right to a point outside the DE, and then continued to move to the right away from the DE.

Easy enough to imagine if the RB was in motion to start with. It doesn't take that long for a RB to clear the DE. Of course, in this mental picture, the QB is faking a handoff to somebody that's 10 yards away.

Seemed like a good time to charge in and bust up the play.

by Lance :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 12:31pm

I could be totally wrong here, but I'll try to explain it as I understand it. In the formation as explained, it's strong left, so the TE is on your side. At the snap, the TE charges inside to block the DT to your left (but to the TE's right). You take a step in unblocked and see the RB moving away from you (to his right) towards the line. The QB holds out the ball as if to hand off. In other words, this looks like a run play to the weak side, but you're on the strong side. As a DE on the weak side watching a running play develop to the strong side, the correct move isn't to pursue the ball-- you're too far away, and there's too much traffic to imagine that you're going to catch the RB. Instead, as the answer C notes, you should begin to move away along the line of scrimmage towards your sideline. That way, if it's a bootleg, or if there is a reverse, or if the RB simply changes field in a Barry Sanders-like move, you're there to attack.

by snoopy369 :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 12:41pm

LDE is on the Defense's left, so the Offense's right. There is no DT to his left, as he is the left defensive end.

If the RB is running from behind or near the QB to his right, he will be running toward the LDE inevitably, unless the LDE is lined up out of position.

by Birdman84 (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 12:41pm

That would work if you were the right end. If you're the left end, you're actually on the offense's right side. There is no DT to your left; he plays on your right.

In Tanier's write-up, the running back needs to move to his left to run away from the left end.

by Lance :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 12:47pm

OK, so the situation is fine if you just imagine the situation I described but using weak side and strong side instead of left and right.

by Authentic Sellout (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 12:48pm

It's a trick question.

by grady graddy (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 1:28pm

It's not a trick question, it's a gotcha question.

by tuluse :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 1:31pm

Tanier is part of the lamestream media?

by akn :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 4:53am

Can he can see Russia from his house?

by commissionerleaf :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 1:29pm

I think Tanier just got his rights and lefts crossed, easy to do when you're writing, not diagramming. The description makes sense if the RB is (a) moving to his left, not his right; or (b) facing away from the line of scrimmage a la Donald Brown picking up a blitz.

The correct answer is probably to slow down and watch the ball (widening sounds like it is creating a lane inside since the TE blocked down). If the QB keeps, you rush the passer. If the Qb hands off, you are either the unblocked backside DE or you are about to get stoned by a 350 pound pulling guard on the counter play.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 3:28pm

I read it as a sequence. The RB moves to his right. Then he moves away. Looks like a counter or a play action fake. What do I do? Well am I a 3-4 or a 4-3 DE? Because C sound like the LOLB's job. Wait a sec. Am I Ziggy Hood?

by tuluse :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 3:30pm

How often do 3-4 ends get lined up outside the TE?

by BaronFoobarstein :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 3:57pm

Even less frequently than 4-3 ones do.

by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 7:02pm

Unless Jim Washburn or a Dungy acolyte is in charge. (I kind of like the wide-9 in the right circumstance)

by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 2:40pm

My favourite football question like this was one of Dr Z's:

You are losing by five points with one minute fifty seconds left on the clock and no timeouts, you have a 4th and four at your own four yard line, what's your call?

I've put Dr Z's answer at the bottom of the thread.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 6:20pm

Take the safety.

\Also known as the "shooting the hostage" method.

by Eaglesfanatlarge (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2012 - 9:48pm

I think it's a Ronnie Brown run-pass option thing.

by Bill (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 11:50am

Herschel and Jim Thorpe, all by themselves to afford lots of space and thought, would be fine by me.


by CeeBee (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 12:03pm

Lemme guess - Matt Dodge got a 90 on the Kickers and Punters exam?

by Lance :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 12:33pm

This is a brilliant piece, Tanier.

by Displaced Bolthead (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 12:38pm

I've taken the Wonderlic and thought it was pretty tough, but not in a SAT/GMAT way. There's stuff about math and logic, but it's more about pattern recognition. I bombed it too, but that was crappy of whatever team to release Claiborne's score. Wouldn't surprise me if that was the Dolphins or Bengals pulled something like that.

by snoopy369 :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 12:42pm

For some reason I wonder if his agent released it, to get him picked higher. (Teams, who are in charge of picking, already know it; so it couldn't hurt in that aspect to release it. But the only bad publicity is no publicity, right?)

by 40oz to Freedom (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 12:44pm

I'm charging that backfield, tweeting my agent, and collecting 20% at the same time!!! Oops, I guess I'd fail.

Great piece.

by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 1:17pm

The Walkthrough Lick? 9 pf them get to center of Tootise Roll pop

by Hurt Bones :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 4:02pm

Unfortunately, the Owl was notorious for making conclusions based on very small sample sizes.

by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 7:04pm

Amazing, a response to Raiderjoe that makes even less sense, what bloody owl?

by Shattenjager :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 7:20pm
by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 7:29pm

Very helpful, what is a tootsie pop? What's a tootsie centre, is it surrounded by tootsie?

by Shattenjager :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 7:39pm

Tootsie rolls are little chewy chocolate candies: http://www.tootsie.com/products.php?pid=165

They make suckers/lollipops that are like regular suckers/lollipops but the middle is made of the tootsie roll material (in a little different shape, so it's not really a tootsie roll). Those are tootsie pops: http://www.tootsie.com/products.php?pid=168

by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 7:43pm

Tootise pop is lollipop with tootsie roll substance in center. When done suckig lollipop stuff you get to chew on tootsie roll. Tootsie roll is brown colorrd chewy candyy.

by jshameless (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 2:52am

I dont know why but this is my favorite raiderjoe ever

by John (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 12:07pm

RJ is on a roll, talking about lollipops, tootsie rolls, porn, and licking thongs.

by RickD :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 11:34pm

Welcome to American culture, comrade.

by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 8:48am

Bah, Capitalist confection!

by akn :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 4:54am

RJ's joke is ruined.

by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 1:22pm

Going to reaf whole arricle later. Must say vukes lidt good. AD not there yet. Need one more gerat yr to surpass c. Foteman . CF high quailty back for half decade on top trams. Of course get mangandled by gerat 1976 Raiders team Super Vowl 11

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 1:30pm

Love the word "mangandled". A high-effective portmanteau of "mangled" and "manhandled".

by Jonadan :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 2:17pm

Perhaps a descriptor for a victum of Nick Mangold's virtuosity?

"When you absolutely don't know what to do any more, then it's time to panic." - Johann van der Wiel

by DGL :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 2:03pm

Remove the snark, get a Ed.D. to front you, and wrap it up in a professional-sounding package and I bet you could sell it to the NFL.

By the time they figure out what happened, you'll be sitting on a beach, earning twenty percent.

by Tom Gower :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 2:14pm

And cue Ode to Joy.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 2:55pm

Where. Are. My detonators!

by akn :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 4:55am

Shoot the glass!

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 6:21pm

You figured out step 2!

by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 2:39pm

For the play I was thinking some kind of double move off a pump fake or a dagger combo, both with a back or tight end chipping the defensive end. That might be as a result of playaction not really working in Madden.

The Dr Z question I posted higher up is a trick because you can't have a 4th and goal from your own four. He said that the best answer he ever got from any coach was Bill Walsh's idea of a sweep, giving you the chance to pick up the yards and stop the clock. It must have been a while ago because nowadays most offensive coordinators would probably see 4th and 4 as a passing down.

by drobviousso :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 3:04pm

"The Dr Z question I posted higher up is a trick because you can't have a 4th and goal from your own four."

In a league with Dan Orlovsky, DeSean Jackson, and the Man Who Shot Plaxico, that sounds more like a challenge than a statement.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 3:19pm

4th and goal on opponent's 6. 18 false starts. QED

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 6:22pm

Aaron Brooks was entirely capable of losing 86-95 yards in a series of downs.

by Wikitorix (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 6:39pm

That last false start penalty would be "half the distance to the goal," only moving you back three yards. You would need to have 4th and goal at your opponents' 2.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 9:57pm

My school did everyday math.

by Sophandros :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 3:25pm

You wrote it as "fourth and four from your own four", which may lead to confusion.

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

by Shattenjager :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 3:32pm

The first post says 4th and four and the second post says both 4th and goal and 4th and four ("nowadays most offensive coordinators would probably see 4th and 4 as a passing down"). I'm completely confused now.

by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 7:06pm

Yes, I screwed that up. It is supposed to be 4th and four from your own four. Drat and double drat.

by RickD :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 4:13pm

"You are losing by five points with one minute fifty seconds left on the clock and no timeouts, you have a 4th and four at your own four yard line, what's your call?"

I think you tricked yourself there.

by Theo :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 4:20pm


by Adam (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 4:39pm

I love screen passes, but the problem with the screen here is the length of time it can take to develop. Plus there's less room to operate at the ends of the football field. For 4 yards I'm a big fan of the slant, particularly if I can get the defense in man and I have a good slot receiver (e.g. Welker, Cruz, etc). If I read zone I make sure I have an RB going out into the flat and hope he can draw an LB away to open up a hole, or throw it out to him and force a DB to make a tackle.

by commissionerleaf :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 6:12pm

I agree the screen is out; maybe curl/flat to the strong side with the slot running a weakside slant and the X running a fly route. You probably can't throw the flat here because it isn't a guaranteed 4 even if you hit it, so probably read Y-Z-X-RB releasing up the middle somewhere, which is obviously atypical but it's better than running a screen when getting tackled anywhere in the first 6-10 yards of running is a game loss.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 4:26pm

Edit - Same comments about 4th & four posted by others while I was writing my eloquent post!

by Peregrine :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 11:31am

Assuming the situation you meant to describe was down five points, 1:50 left in the game, no timeouts, with 4th and 4 at your own 4 yard line...

Two part answer.

1) First, do you punt, go for it, or - ahem - take the safety? Punting loses you the game, of course, because the opponent only needs to kneel. Going for it is an option (see #2 below) and I sort of like the idea of taking the safety too. I'd be curious about the difference in win probability between the given situation and being down seven with 1:40 left and, say, 1st and 10 at your own 25.

2) If you go for it, what's the play call? Anything that gets a first down and then if you can get out of bounds, even better. I think 1:50 is enough time that getting out of bounds isn't crucial, so you do have the middle of the field to work with. Walsh's suggestion of a sweep isn't outlandish, but these days it'd be simple enough to dink a short route over the middle.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 11:57am

Designed shaalow-drop rollout with your surest handed TE or RB mirroring the QB at the sticks. Try to force a choice between covering the receiving threat and preventing a 1st down scramble.

by Anonymous-45 (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 2:57pm

How do you get 4th and 4 from your own 4? That means the first down is on the 8. Where did you start.

by nat :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 12:45pm

The correct answer is to put 15 men on the field. If the refs could put the first down marker on the offense's own 8 yard line (How? Did they have first and ten from the negative two?), they might not be able to count, either.

by Eaglesfanatlarge (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2012 - 10:02pm

Taking the safety also loses you the game, because you then ahve to free kick to the other team. An onsides kick is not an option, becuase it is considered the same as a punt, so even if your team recovers, the ball still goes to the other team (unless they touch it first and then you recover, which is unlikely).

by akn :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 11:20pm

"The correct answer to this question and any like it is of course to say fuck it and release the dragon."

--Rex Grossman

by Theo :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 4:23pm

c) Slow down, flatten out, and prepare for a bootleg or reverse to your side.
CBR: Cutback, Boot, Reverse.
You defend the Cutback of the runningback, the QB Boot, the Reverse.
I wonder how many people would go 100m/h and lose outside contain. Oh wait, still happens in the NFL.

by CathyW :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 4:50pm

Slightly off topic rant about the state of public education in the US today...

As the parent of a 6th grader and a 3rd grader going through public education in a supposedly top notch school district in the great state of Pennsylvania, I can tell you from first hand experience that Everyday Math is the tool of the devil. What happened to teaching kids how to add and subtract and multiple and divide? What happened to just teaching them how to spell, for God's sake? I can still remember memorizing the entire multiplication table up to 12x12 in 3rd grade. I can still see it in my mind's eye 35 years later. My 3rd grader is not so fortunate.

*Rant over*

by Will Allen :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 4:52pm

Foreman was terrific, and Peterson is overrated in some respects, but I would posit that playing with Tavaris Jackson at qb, and Bobby Wade as the number one wide receiver, is no different than being a running back in the dead ball era. Are you benefitting from rules that favor the passing game, if none of your teammates can pass or catch?

It's a close question, but given that I will argue that Tarkenton is the greatest qb ever, or at least very close to it, I'll give the nod to Peterson.

by LionInAZ :: Sat, 04/14/2012 - 1:36am

To me this also introduces the problem that Robert Smith, although he became a very productive RB, played in the era of Carter and Moss during Culpepper's up years. How much do you discount for that?

by Ryan :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 5:22pm

Damn, do I love football. Is it September yet?

by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 7:26pm

in 5 months month will be Seprember

by Ryan :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 4:23pm

I love you, Raiderjoe.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 6:24pm

Is it bad that Perry Fewell would have gotten question 1 wrong?

by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 7:24pm

Having finally got round to reading the Viking running back section all I have to add is that I really loved watching Terry Allen, he was a running back coach's running back.

Actually I have one more thing, I always felt that Smith benefitted from the presence of Randy Moss and a pretty damn sound offensive line. Moss livened up running games wherever he landed for most of his career (though I doubt his coming tenure in San Francisco will add to that list) and whilst Dennis Green will probably be remembered more for one post game rant, Green and Mike Tice put an outstanding line together. That line and Randy helped a string of journeymen quarterbacks to a season of greatness and Smith, a greatly fast but not great runner, profited from that group as well.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 11:01pm

In today's game particularly, Terry Allen would be wonderful. He was a good pass blocker, a runner who made the most of the room available, and just generally dependable.

I really expect the Bears offense to be very efficient with Tice running things.

by akn :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 4:57am

Will, your love of Tice gives me more confidence every day. I hope you're not playing a cruel trick.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 8:37am

As a head coach, the guy had obvious deficiencies, in terms of management. None of that will matter nearly as much as an offensive coordinator, and with Martz gone, the Bears will no longer be doing the dumbest thing in coaching, constantly asking players to do things that they aren't any good at. No more 7 step drops for a talent challenged o-line to protect. If they get a little luckier helathwise, they could be better by a mile.

by Andrew Milne (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 8:00pm

I feel like I am Tanier's twinsie sometimes, only stupider and more ignoranter on football matters. I wrote GRE questions at ETS for a while, and they are truly professional about them and know what they are doing. Questions were reviewed at four or five levels, internally and externally, and field tested extensively before they ever went "live" in a test that mattered. It cost about $15-20k for each question that actually ended up being used. But in the end, what were we testing? That our questions correlated well enough with prior questions. Which were presumably handed down on a tablet at some time... We all knew it was kind of a joke. But a professional and statistically valid joke.

Now I teach public school, and am supposed to give benchmark test from the county (written by teachers stupid enough to volunteer to write them), end of course tests (written by the state by some company in Florida that only has a post office box address...). All in the name of accountability etc.. And none of it defensible by anyone who knows anything about testing.

Now I believe that the only tests that mean anything are the ones I give on the things I have taught. And then when they do badly, I learn that I haven't done as good a job teaching them as I would have liked. But they sometimes do well!

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 9:39am

Math questions on the GRE were laughably easy.

by jimbohead :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 12:56pm

My understanding is that math questions on the GRE are adaptive. That is, as you answer more questions correctly, you get harder and harder questions, and that the top level of these questions are actually quite difficult. This is what I understand from my grad-school friends. Having got a real job, I managed to avoid that experience.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 2:45pm

The average score by someone with a science degree was something like a 720 (out of 800), with on the order of 45% of engineers, physicists, and mathematicians scoring 800. The average score is so high, that the GRE cannot discriminate ability for science majors, and loses substantial utility.

The GRE math test does not even include calculus. As such, it reflects high-school level math for most hard science majors. The most difficult part is often remembering the geometry rules you haven't used in 7 years, which the business majors learned yesterday.

by jimbohead :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 4:09pm

Fair enough. Though in that context I'd imagine that engineering schools aren't looking at your GRE score to figure out if you can handle the math; they're looking at your GPA in your math/math-heavy classes.

by jebmak :: Tue, 04/17/2012 - 7:36pm

Business majors? Really? I majored in econ (and later accounting) and took freshman math with the engineering students. Granted, I got to stop after a year, and they had to continue, but still.

by jimbohead :: Wed, 04/25/2012 - 1:38pm

hey, all I want to be is a monkey of moderate intelligence that wears a suit, which is why I'm transferring to business school. ;D

But yeah, non-finance business majors really don't go after the same math that STEM graduate students play with.

by Subrata Sircar :: Wed, 06/20/2012 - 6:10am

As an engineering student, the GRE general exams were easier than the SATs; I had more practice at most of the things being tested.

The GRE subject exams, on the other hand, were cast-iron b!tches 20 years ago. IIRC, I managed to answer ~50% of the questions correctly and placed higher than 81% of the examinees - and I'm still not sure how I managed to get that many correct. Part of the problem was that the subject exams covered a very broad area with very specific questions e.g. the Engineering GRE had specific questions from mechanical, electrical, and civil engineering, with some computer stuff thrown in for good measure.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 04/12/2012 - 11:06pm

I'll also add that when Bill Brown was assigned to blocking somebody, they pretty much got blocked. A rb who could average over 14 yards per catch for a season, and make his blocks when asked to, is pretty damned valuable.

by Anonymous234234 (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 12:58am

we all know the Wonderlic and released scores are just a way for sportswriters to wag their fingers at athletes who get low scores but will make millions of dollars more than they ever will.

by Independent George :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 10:38am

I'd love for sports reporters to take the wonderlic and have their scores made public. Frankly, I don't think they'll score any higher than the average player, and I suspect quite a few will score significantly lower.

by akn :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 11:18pm

Reporters should also be forced to list 40 times. If they are fast enough, they may be able to get a job writing about the Raiders.

by clark :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 1:30am

Shouldn't Rickey Young be mentioned at least as an honorable mention?

by Will Allen :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 3:23am

I have an irrational dislike for Rickey Young, because the Vikings traded a borderline HOF guard, Ed White, to obtain Young, and the trade was mostly due to the perpetually cheap Vikings ownership group being unwilling to pay him what he was worth. Go ask Dan Fouts if he was worth it.

by jshameless (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 2:49am

"Then, I will grab some teachers who played high school football 25 years ago off Facebook for $12 an hour and "professional development hours" (don’t ask)"

Aaaaaaand this is where I almost died. Spot on critique of both the Wonderlic and standardized tests in general. As a former teacher now working in manufacturing (for more money, too, which is pretty ridiculous) you hit on a lot of reasons why I am not in the profession anymore. (OMG WE GOTTA MAKE AYP... /vomit)

by BaronFoobarstein :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 2:57am

I know you're playing it up for laughs, but it does come across that you have real problems with the NFL using the Wonderlic. The Wonderlic test is an intelligence test plain and simple. The say "general mental ability" to avoid the technical terminology "general cognitive ability" or simply 'g' and more common terminology "intelligence" which would probably offend people it measures to have low intelligence. They market the test for personnel evaluation even though it's a general intelligence test, so "the position" means whatever position you're considering them for. Presumably you think intelligence is a factor since you're measuring it.

The Wonderlic does have some issues. You noted an important one with the ability to read quickly. In fact, scoring the test takes in to account that adults tend to read more slowly as they age. But it is not well suited to people for whom English is a non-native language or people with non-intelligence based reading disabilities. It's also not very good at making fine gradations. It is especially poor at the margins and can't at all tell the difference between an IQ of 60 and of 20, or between 160 and 200. But I'd suggest that the NFL doesn't care about accuracy in the extremes at all, and really doesn't care about fine grained differentiation too much either. As for reading disabilities and non-native speakers - avoid the Wonderlic in those cases. On the other hand the Wonderlic takes much less time to administer than, say, WAIS IV and has decent correlation with it.

You might argue that intelligence doesn't really matter in an NFL player and have a decent case to make. Success and intelligence don't seem to correlate all that much among NFL players (it varies by position). But there's definitely sample bias there since that only considers people who were able to succeed to some degree in the NFL. I also think it's up to the teams doing the drafting to determine how they will use the data just like they are for any other measurable, like height and 40 time.

by Scott P. (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 12:39pm

The Wonderlic test is an intelligence test plain and simple. The say "general mental ability" to avoid the technical terminology "general cognitive ability" or simply 'g' and more common terminology "intelligence"

The problem is that 'g' does not exist as such. There is no single general intelligence factor.

by Scott P. (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 12:40pm

Sigh. We can haz HTML please?

by Dean :: Fri, 04/20/2012 - 10:03am

Can we HAVE remedial spelling please?

And actually, I don't WANT HTML on these threads. It takes too long to load a bunch of signatures and crap that I don't care about in the first place.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 4:49pm

That's quite the assertion. The existence of g is pretty solidly proven by science. What makes you claim it doesn't?

by usernaim250 :: Sat, 04/14/2012 - 12:31pm

How so? Science can prove the existence of general intelligence no more than it can prove the existence of "loveability." There is no such thing--it's just an abstraction.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Sat, 04/14/2012 - 6:31pm

Let's not get hung up on word choice. Fine, science hasn't "proven" that g exists just like it hasn't "proven" that natural selection exists. It's an abstraction that just so happens to describe and predict the observation. How about instead of "the existence of g is pretty solidly proven by science" I go with "science has found that modeling human intelligence including a general intelligence factor matches observation and experimentation very well and successfully makes falsifiable predictions." It seems a bit too pedantic for the setting, but I suppose it's more accurate.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 04/16/2012 - 11:43am

Ranking "intelligence" along an ordinal scale is ludicrous for a variety of reasons. If a test can track things like spatial relations, cognitive comparisons, numerical associations and speed as a "positive" factor in those contexts, that's still not the same thing as tracking "intelligence" which is a far more complex, compartmentalized and mysterious thing. Peyton Manning is a genius (as in having a huge amount of intelligence) at QB, but I highly doubt he would be a great economist, or inspire debates about if he is the greatest economist of all time. Also, see Charles Darwin, lazy dullard who didn't impress his teachers, or Vladimir Nabakov, mediocre lepidopterist, genius novelist. Intelligence isn't one set thing that manifests in clear ways, like machine that is "the best" just because it runs the most quickly and efficiently. Grad schools are littered with guys & gals who can dominate standardized tests, but who will never produce work of any note or quality within their chosen fields.

Of course, this just might be a disagreement about what the word "intelligence" means, but if those tests define it as "being quick and efficient at certain mental calculations separate and discreet from any real manifestations of the attribute in question" then I can't really argue with their subjective definition because things will get circular quick. "They came up with this definition and their test meets this definition!" type of arguing. But this test measures "g!" and therefore people who possess high "g" scores are intelligent is the same as saying, "this guy is a great WR, he had an incredible combine workout and has not played a single down in the NFL."

(And the statement that there is general, field-wise agreement amongst those who study these things is wrong, or maybe dishonest-ish. IQ tests in their various forms have been heavily disputed from all corners of science.)

by BaronFoobarstein :: Tue, 04/17/2012 - 1:40am

It's not ludicrous at all. It's entirely reasonable and shown to be reliable as well. There are lots of things we don't know about intelligence that could lead you to describe it as mysterious. But whether it exists and how to measure it to some degree of effectiveness are not among them. Your examples serve to demonstrate that intelligence isn't fate. Being smart doesn't automatically make you good at everything or successful.

I don't think there's any need to haggle over what intelligence means in this context. You very well know what it is, I know what it is, and everyone else does too. Everyone here is well aware from experience that some people are smarter than others. And why shouldn't that be the case? We're all different heights and weights, stronger and weaker, optimistic or pessimistic or lighthearted or melancholic as the case may be.

The statement that there is field wide agreement that intelligence exists and is measurable is neither wrong nor dishonest. It's well-informed. There is much debate over what sub-types of intelligence there are, how best to measure intelligence, how well it correlates with various types of achievement, how it related to brain structure and activity, what environmental factors affect it, etc. But there isn't a lot of credible scientific debate as to whether it exists and can be measured.

by Alex51 :: Tue, 04/17/2012 - 11:58am

I don't think there's any need to haggle over what intelligence means in this context. You very well know what it is, I know what it is, and everyone else does too. Everyone here is well aware from experience that some people are smarter than others.

Wow, I wish I could win all my arguments that way. "I don't need to prove (p). You and I both know that (p) is true. Everyone knows from experience that (p) is true. Therefore, (p)."

Unless you're willing to define intelligence in a non-circular way, I see no reason to concede that it exists. And if you can't tell us what it is, then I guess you don't really know what it is, do you?

by BaronFoobarstein :: Tue, 04/17/2012 - 1:31pm

Okay, fine. Here you go, from "Mainstream Science on Intelligence":

A very general mental capability that, among other things, involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly and learn from experience. It is not merely book learning, a narrow academic skill, or test-taking smarts. Rather, it reflects a broader and deeper capability for comprehending our surroundings—"catching on," "making sense" of things, or "figuring out" what to do.

Happier? Like I said everyone already knows what intelligence is without needing to or necessarily being able to articulate it. So I'll defer to another group's attempts to do so. Next up, Potter Stewart on pornography.

by jebmak :: Tue, 04/17/2012 - 7:40pm

"It is known."

by Jerry :: Tue, 04/17/2012 - 6:36am

Why is it that every damn football website I go to compares Manning to Nabokov?


by BaronFoobarstein :: Tue, 04/17/2012 - 1:32pm

They both produce something beautiful.

Unless Manning is playing the Steelers.

by Joseph :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 12:58pm

If I were a NFL GM, I'd make sure to mention to any prospect that I interviewed that I want to see at least an average score on the Wonderlic. IMO,
1. It may indicate how well he can pick up the playbook. Now, for an OG, maybe there isn't too much difference on a per-play basis for his assignment. But at other positions (e.g., QB, RB, WR, LB, S) there is a multitude of sight adjustments FOR EVERY PLAY.
2. It shows me how he performs under pressure with a "short" time limit. Esp. important for QB's.
3. Is he motivated to do well at whatever task he is given? (Think "star" player in college needing to play ST in the pros, or pass blocking for a RB, or a WR selling a "go" route when he is the 4th read.)

Now, is it an end-all? No. But I'd be willing to bet that players who are known for being "cerebral" made good scores; players who seem to get the most out of their ability despite physical shortcomings (e.g., Drew Brees) made good scores; and that prospects who seem to never "put it together" despite obvious physical talents scored lower than average. I'd also be willing to bet that WR's who seem to jump from team to team late in their career and still put up respectable #'s as the 3rd/4th WR scored well (Stokely, Jurevicius, Proehl, McCardell, etc.)

by akn :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 11:17pm

Like many other professional tests, grade point average (normalized to account for university fudging) provides a better correlation with all those abilities than a standardized test. Generalized standardized tests are actually not that great a measure. SATs mainly test how well you will do on future SATs. The Wonderlick tests how well you will do on future Wonderlicks. This is less true of specific tests (LSAT/bar exam, MCAT/USMLE, etc), which have better correlation with that profession's specific knowledge/skills.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Sat, 04/14/2012 - 12:14am

LSAT,MCAT, etc are tests of domain knowledge/expertise. Wonderlic is an IQ test. It tells you how smart you are. Of course it predicts retakings. It also predicts other IQ tests. Intelligence in adults doesn't vary much at all over time without something severe intervening, like brain injury. The SAT is also mostly an IQ test with a veneer of domain knowledge thrown in.

by Lance :: Sat, 04/14/2012 - 3:50am

It's been awhile since I looked at SAT info, but my recollection is that there is a strong correlation between doing well on the SAT and doing well in one's first year in college. Of course, this was material from the 70's (or earlier). I suspect that such correlations are much weaker now, as someone with a bit of cash can plot down a grand or two to Kaplan and get trained in how to do well in the SAT, thereby bypassing to some extent the purpose of the test to begin with.

by usernaim250 :: Sat, 04/14/2012 - 12:33pm

I read that a major state university studied which factors on graduate school applications correlated best to performance. The winning attribute: how early the application arrived.

by Alex51 :: Tue, 04/17/2012 - 12:27pm

1. It may indicate how well he can pick up the playbook. Now, for an OG, maybe there isn't too much difference on a per-play basis for his assignment. But at other positions (e.g., QB, RB, WR, LB, S) there is a multitude of sight adjustments FOR EVERY PLAY.
2. It shows me how he performs under pressure with a "short" time limit. Esp. important for QB's.
3. Is he motivated to do well at whatever task he is given? (Think "star" player in college needing to play ST in the pros, or pass blocking for a RB, or a WR selling a "go" route when he is the 4th read.)

Every argument you make in favor of a good Wonderlic score would also apply to a test in which prospects are required to recite from memory as many Shakespearean sonnets as they can in under 3 minutes while unicycling across a tightrope backwards. Would you also require at least an average score on the Shakespearean Circus Clown test if they administered that at the Combine?

But I'd be willing to bet that players who are known for being "cerebral" made good scores; players who seem to get the most out of their ability despite physical shortcomings (e.g., Drew Brees) made good scores; and that prospects who seem to never "put it together" despite obvious physical talents scored lower than average.

FWIW, Dan Marino got a 15 and Terry Bradshaw got a 16. Both in the Hall of Fame.

Ryan Leaf got a 27, almost twice as high as either of them. He is not in the Hall of Fame.

by akn :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 4:48am

Maybe I'm still on the high of watching the Bulls bench beat the Heat, but this article and thread is full of win. Great job guys.

by Eddo :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 12:41pm

Agreed; Tootsie Pops, licking thongs, quoting Die Hard. And yeah, a Bulls win.

by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 1:13pm

Huge fan of Derrrick Rose.. did you see lattest shrts at nba.comm? Have Bulls/rose one with half bulls log and half rose's face. Looks good. Others not as good such as Z. Randolph/Grizzlies shirt. Think 7 temas have shot to win nba title hos yr which is more than normal. Normallly only 2-5 have legift shot. Thos season? Bulls, Jeat, celticz, Tjunder Grizzlies, lakers spurs. Think Spurs have worst shot of those 7. Will root for Grizzlies

by BCSJ (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2012 - 10:41pm

Amen. This thread reminded me why the Internet is great, i.e., it provided the means for the existence of FO, the single best website, ever.

by John (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 12:11pm

My favorite standardized test is the LSAT; took it on a whim about 10 years ago to see how I'd do. Came a few points shy of a top score, and I'd love to try it again someday.

by Tom Keiser (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2012 - 7:59pm

I don't know which team would work better for Herschel Walker, the New Jersey Generals or the 1992 U.S. Olympic Bobsled Team.

(Anything to get Maurice Carthon, Rod Pegues and Vickey Ray Anderson on a Top Five list.)

by mano (not verified) :: Tue, 01/01/2013 - 7:55am

Walker is out this week with a http://www.fresh-tests.com/exam/642-374.htm broken jaw (wierdly kneed in the head accidentially in the week 16 Seahawks game). Not positive how replacing him with non-receiving threat Peelle is going to mess up 642-374 tests those plays (fewer TE arounds for positive).