# Math Geek Mom: The Naughty List

Do you qualify?

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December 10, 2015

I usually teach the “binomial probability distribution” in my Statistics classes. This is a distribution that describes the probability of the outcome of an experiment when there are only two possible results, as when one flips a coin to see whether it comes up “heads” or “tails.” I found myself thinking of this recently as my daughter has been assigning people to the “nice” list or the “naughty” list as Christmas approaches. Apparently, being on the naughty list has negative implications for how many gifts one will receive for the holiday.

Since I am usually the one to buy gifts, and seldom get many (which is absolutely fine; I also buy whatever I need when I need it), I guess that means that I have been on the “naughty” list for many years now. Indeed, if you ask her, my daughter would definitely put me on the naughty list right now, as I make a point of making her do her homework and listen to what my husband and I tell her to do.

Indeed, if you asked my students, many would also put me on the “naughty” list right now. It seems that assigning a final project and a final exam in the same semester is not something that they feel is fair. However, when all is done, I believe that they will have a better grasp on the material and that someday, perhaps next semester, perhaps not until graduate school, they will be grateful that I pounded Statistics into their brains. Until then, I am listed under “naughty.”

I am sure that, as the presidential political season unfolds, people of both parties have ideas as to which candidates (probably from the opposing party) they believe should be on the “naughty” list right now. Indeed, I have spoken to people from both sides of the aisle that have strong opinions on such matters. For now, I am doing my research to try to make an informed decision in a few months.

Sometimes it is difficult to know if someone or something is really on the “naughty” list. When a tornado ripped through Ursuline College in July of 2013, the destruction on campus made us all immediately label the event as “bad.” However, once the clean-up and repairs began, a new campus footprint began to emerge. Today, we have a new gym and a new building dedicated to the “creative and healing arts.” My daughter, who has wanted to play in the new gym since she first saw it, will be participating in a basketball tournament in it later this winter. Her teammates have (correctly) heard that the gym is very cool, which makes me wonder if the tornado was such a tragedy, after all.

Sometimes one can work towards redemption from bad decisions, even if those decisions are far too evil to be labeled with the fun title of “naughty.” I thought of this as we celebrated the 150th anniversary of the passage of the 13th amendment to the Constitution of the United States this past week. This amendment made slavery illegal in our country, abolishing the horrible practice of denying people rights that are intrinsically linked to their humanity. It is heartbreaking to think that, for many years, our otherwise great country participated in such a tragic practice. I am glad that we can look forward with hope that those dark days are in the past, however imperfectly we are able to live out the implications of this amendment.  I celebrate the fact that we have made it a goal to work (and at times stumble) to get to a place where we can embrace values that reflect the better part of who we truly are.

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