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19 March
Comments Off on Voges slams pink ball

Voges slams pink ball

The pink ball has found another critic in Adam Voges, with the veteran batsman saying it looked 40 overs older than it should’ve during the Prime Minister’s XI clash with New Zealand on Friday.

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The match in Canberra, which the Black Caps comfortably won by 102 runs, was being used as somewhat a dress rehearsal for next month’s inaugural day-night pink-ball Test in Adelaide.

While Trent Boult and Tim Southee managed to find some movement on the traditionally slow, flat pitch at Manuka Oval, players from both sides said the ball deteriorated quicker than they expected.

“To be honest, it didn’t hold up very well tonight,” said Voges, vying for a Test spot ahead of the series opener in Brisbane on November 5.

“Both balls got chewed up pretty quickly.

“There wasn’t much pink left on it by the end of the game.

“The one that got hit on the roof and didn’t come back was sort of 28 overs old and it looked like it was 68 overs old.”

He said the ball stopped swinging after about 10 overs and, although not out fielding at night, reckoned its condition would’ve restricted visibility.

“It looked as though the lacquer had come off basically, and it was turning green,” he added.

“There were bits of pink left, but there was probably more green than pink by the end.

“The older it gets, I can’t see it being any easier to see.”

The Kiwis had a couple of days to test the pink ball in Hamilton last week.

But opener Tom Latham, who finished on 131 after a 196-run opening stand with Martin Guptill (94), said he had a little bit of trouble judging the ball early and found it difficult to spot square on while fielding.

“The ball deteriorated a little bit more than what we’ve seen,” he said.

“If we can keep that ball in good knick, then hopefully that’ll be one of our weapons the reverse swing.”

Australia’s Test stars will be given an insight into what lies ahead when they play the opening round of the Sheffield Shield season, which starts on Wednesday.

It will be their only pink-ball match practice before the Test opener at the Gabba.

Cricket Australia remain confident the Test will be a success, having produced a million-dollar carrot to convince players on either side of the Tasman.

19 March
Comments Off on What is the secret to being good at maths?

What is the secret to being good at maths?

Steson Lo, University of Sydney and Sally Andrews, University of Sydney

There is a common belief that Asians are naturally gifted at maths.

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Asian countries like Singapore and Japan lead the ranks in first and second position on maths performance in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) tables – an international survey that ranks education systems worldwide – while Australia sits around 12th.

What is the secret to being good at maths? Are you simply born clever, or is it the result of a lot of hard work?

To understand the reasons behind exceptional maths performance, I travelled to Japan to see how Japanese children are able to instantly multiply three- or four-digit numbers together in their head.

How children are taught maths in Japan

From the age of 7 or 8, all Japanese children are taught the times table jingle kuku.

“Ku” is the Japanese word for “nine”, and the title reflects the final line of the jingle, which is simply “nine nine (is) eight-one”.

Children rote learn the jingle and are made to recite it with speed in class and at home.

Local competitions pitch second-graders against each other to see how fast they can rap all 81 lines of the kuku.

This takes lots of practice with a stopwatch. The constant association between the problem and the correct answer eventually allows the child to know the answer to the problem as soon as they see it.

As the popular science writer Alex Bellos noted, Japanese adults know that 7×7=49, not because they can remember the maths, but because the music of “seven seven forty-nine” sounds right.

Some Japanese children also attend after-school maths programs. In May, I visited a school in Tokyo specialising in abacus instruction for primary and high school students. This was one of about 20,000 schools operating independently throughout Japan.

Here, the students start by learning how to use a physical abacus to perform arithmetic calculations. They then progress to using the mental abacus by simply imagining the movement of the beads.

Children at the abacus school dedicate a phenomenal one to two hours on two to four evenings a week to practising arithmetic drills on pre-set worksheets at speed.

This is on top of the four 45-minute maths lessons per week allotted by the Japanese government.

After a couple of years at the school, the very best students can multiply seven- and eight-digit numbers in their head faster than Australian children can say the solution to 7×8.

Why Australian schools are against rote learning

Despite the impressive performance of these Japanese children, the intensive “drill and kill” approach used by abacus schools is derided in countries like Australia where educators explicitly discourage such practice.

In Victoria, schools have recently been encouraged to throw away textbooks and old worksheets, teachers discouraged from teaching mathematical formula, and children warned against learning their times tables by rote.

These recommendations follow from the ideas of American psychologist Jerome Bruner who argued that learning is most effective when children actively discover concepts for themselves.

Since then, rote learning methods in which children spend most of their time memorising facts, following prescribed formula and completing drills are widely perceived to contribute poorly to deep understanding of mathematics.

However, research suggests that memorisation and rote learning remain important classroom techniques.

According to cognitive psychologist Daniel Willingham, children cannot appreciate the relationship between mathematical concepts if all of their mental resources are used to execute simple arithmetic operations.

As problems become more difficult, practice and rote learning are essential in speeding up some of these operations so they become automatic. This allows the child to devote more of their cognitive resources towards higher-level understanding.

Unfortunately, repetitive practice is not always fun.

One reason educators shy away from rote learning techniques is because they undermine children’s engagement and motivation.

The drive to succeed

But Japanese children at the abacus school enjoy performing calculations at speed.

Many treat mental calculation like a sport and participate in various local, regional and national competitions. These are not restricted to boys. I attended a regional competition for young girls while I was in Japan.

This contrasts with an increasing avoidance of competition in Australia, where children are cocooned from the realities of failure as well as the rewards of success.

In junior Australian Football League sporting policy, for example, children under 10 now play football with no points, no scoreboards, no awards and no recognition of individual performance.

Removing these objective benchmarks of performance leaves children with nothing to strive for.

When passion breeds talent

Stars are made, not born. Research shows it takes at least 10,000 hours of intense training to become expert in a particular area. High achievers in maths sustain these hours because they are motivated to excel.

But deliberate practice is hard work. From ever faster times in kuku recitation to increasingly longer mental arithmetic problems, my observations in Japan show that Japanese children use competition to fuel their passion for maths.

Such competition is lacking in Australia.

Discovery-based methods for maths instruction might be more enjoyable, but they are also less effective at producing fast and accurate performance at an elite level.

How can we encourage Australians to share the Asian love of competitive maths?

In China, the television game show Super Brain attracted 22 million viewers in March as contestants battled to solve increasingly difficult arithmetic problems.

So given the recent success of The Great Australian Spelling Bee in generating renewed interest in spelling, perhaps what we need now is The Great Australian Times Tables to motivate children to achieve the same levels of maths performance as our Asian neighbours.

Steson Lo received funding from the Australian Government and the University of Sydney to conduct research in Japan.

Sally Andrews receives funding from Australian Research Council.

19 March
Comments Off on Bashir seeks review of terror conviction

Bashir seeks review of terror conviction

Radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir will soon lodge a bid to be freed from jail, a year after he pledged allegiance to ISIS.

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Bashir was acquitted of conspiracy in the 2002 Bali bombings, but is serving 15 years’ jail for supporting a terror training camp in Aceh.

The Muslim Defender Team’s Mahendradatta confirmed to AAP on Friday that Bashir will seek a judicial review of his case with a Jakarta court within the next two weeks.

“Hopefully next week,” he said. “We still need to gather signatures from all the lawyers.”

Bashir hopes new evidence will free him.

Considered the spiritual leader of the group responsible for the Bali bombs, Bashir last year pledged his support to ISIS before members of Jama’ah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT), who visited him in central Java’s notorious Nusakambangan prison.

It reportedly alienated some followers, who deserted JAT.

The legal team will argue that Bashir knew of plans to train youths from Islamic organisations at the camp, but thought it was only “marching training” and didn’t give the orders.

They claim he wanted Rp40 million ($A4000) in funds “be used to purchase ambulance for humanitarian assistance,” Indonesian news website Detik杭州桑拿会所, reports.

The lawyers will bring three previously unheard witnesses to court, two of them leaders of Islamic organisations.

“We hope that the judicial review decision will be more objective in sentencing this case involving our client,” the lawyer said, according to the report.

The bombing of two Kuta nightclubs in 2002 killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.

19 March
Comments Off on France road crash: 43 killed in country’s worst incident in 30 years

France road crash: 43 killed in country’s worst incident in 30 years

Two people, including a young boy, died in the truck.

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A total of eight people were injured.

The bus and the truck collided near a forested bend on a two-lane road cut into a hillside near Puisseguin in the Gironde region, about 60 km (35 miles) east of Bordeaux, the local prefect’s office said in a statement.

TV footage showed two blackened vehicles, with the bus facing the wood-transporter’s trailer, the truck’s cab skewed to one side, and scorched vegetation around the site, which was sealed off by police.

The bus was carrying about 50 pensioners south to the Bearn region from their homes in the village of Petit Palais and surrounding hamlets. The crash occurred just a few minutes after the pensioners had boarded the bus.

Among the dead were the driver of the articulated lorry and a young boy who was in the cab, according to the local prefect’s office. News reports said the child was about three years old.

The driver of the bus was among the survivors, who were able to exit through the front door he opened, according to a source close to an inquiry that was under way within hours.

The source said the truck apparently veered onto the wrong side of the road as it came around a bend.

A spokesman for the interior ministry said that, as far as he could tell, all the bus passengers were French and from the region.

President Francois Hollande, speaking on a visit to Athens, said he had been “plunged into sadness by the tragedy”. Prime Minister Manuel Valls went to the scene.

It was the worst road accident in France since 53 people, mostly children, died in a bus crash in Burgundy in July 1982, according to the independent road safety organization Association Prevention Routiere.

Stricter road regulation and lower speed limits followed, and traffic deaths in France have fallen steeply since. According to official statistics, more than 16,000 people were dying on the roads every year in the early 1970s. In recent years the annual death toll has dropped below 4,000.

19 March
Comments Off on Muscat denies hoodoo talk after Jets loss

Muscat denies hoodoo talk after Jets loss

It’s been more than six years since Melbourne Victory have beaten Newcastle at Hunter Stadium, but Kevin Muscat still baulks at any suggestions of a hoodoo.

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A 75th-minute David Carney strike consigned the A-League champions to their eighth straight defeat at the venue.

The Victory coach, who was still playing for the side the last time they prevailed at Newcastle in 2009, was adamant history did not affect his team’s mentality during the clash.

“I don’t believe in it,” Muscat said.

“You can suggest all you please but I truly don’t believe in it. Our performance didn’t warrant to get beaten tonight.

“So if you want to analyse the result that’s one thing. If you analyse the performance, we were the better football team.”

Victory were the more dominant side throughout the frustrating deadlock littered with defensive errors, promising build-up play and some genuinely appalling finishing.

They held the larger share of possession, yet the much-improved Jets were rewarded for the mettle they have demonstrated in every match so far this season.

It’s the first time Victory have lost since Newcastle defeated them by the same scoreline in April’s shock 1-0 reversal at AAMI Park.

The Jets also have the highest win rate against the long-time heavyweights of any team in the competition.

Muscat said his side should have won but also expressed disappointment about the players’ profligacy when it came to converting chances – they had 21 shots on goal while the hosts had 12.

“We were camped in their half for long periods of time and the onus was on us to find a way to score.

“We created enough of those situations where we could create that dominance into a good chance, and when we did we didn’t take it.

“It’s something we’re going to have to work on obviously, but I was pretty pleased apart from the result.”

Newcastle coach Scott Miller paid respect to the champions but was glad the Hunter fortress remained unconquered.

“Our mentality is that anyone who travels to Newcastle must find it difficult to play here,” he said.

“That’s testament to the culture and values of Newcastle people, they demand that.

“And I think we’ve certainly shown them.”