Thursday, February 18, 2010

  • You can count on taxes — can't you?
  • Agfa announcement today; other notes
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

[Ontario Science Centre in background]

Fired with the Olympic spirit is Kaila Orr, a student in the School of Accounting and Finance, who carried the torch in Toronto December 18 as it made its winding way to Vancouver. The Daily Bulletin mentioned a number of UW-related torch-bearers on December 23, but we're learning about more. Among the others: Sharlene Mohlman, a political science student who had a turn with the flame in Kitchener on December 27, and Jessica VandenBussche, a kinesiology student who carried it that same day in New Dundee. As the winter games progress, meanwhile, yesterday was the big day for mechanical engineering graduate Justin Lamoureux, competing for Canada in the halfpipe snowboard event. He finished seventh, with glamour boy Shaun White of the United States taking the gold.

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You can count on taxes — can't you?

a news release from the UW media relations office

As this year's tax season approaches, a new study by Waterloo researchers shows that anxiety about mathematics can adversely affect tasks as simple as basic counting.

The researchers investigated math anxiety, or the feeling of fear and dread of performing mathematical calculations. In experiments, they examined the extent to which the anxiety affects performance on numerical tasks. Their research will eventually enable teachers to assist students with math anxiety.

Erin Maloney, a graduate student in psychology, and Jonathan Fugelsang, a professor of psychology, conducted the study with colleagues Evan Risko, a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of British Columbia, and Daniel Ansari, a professor of psychology at the University of Western Ontario.

"These data are among the first of their kind to suggest that math anxiety may impact very rudimentary numerical processes that form the foundation of more complex mathematics," Maloney said, adding that the new research has implications on how teachers can try to remedy math anxiety. "Many students and others suffer from math anxiety. Despite its frequent occurrence and impact on people's lives, there is currently very little research on math anxiety and the condition is not well-known."

Previous studies have shown that a weakness in basic math abilities has a greater negative effect on employment opportunities than reading difficulties. Indeed, basic numerical and math skills are crucial predictors of an individual's success in life.

In the past, individuals with math anxiety have been found to differ from their non-anxious peers on measures of higher-level mathematical processes, but not simple arithmetic.

One key finding in the new study is that math anxiety can impact tasks such as basic counting.

The researchers examined differences between math anxious and non-math anxious individuals in basic numerical processing by using a visual enumeration task. The task allows them to assess two systems of basic number processing: subitizing (instantly knowing how many objects are presented) and counting.

Contrary to previous work revealing that math anxiety affects complex problem solving but not simple arithmetic, the new study shows that math anxious individuals, relative to their non-math anxious peers, demonstrated a deficit in the counting range (five to nine) but not in the subitizing range (one to four) of the visual enumeration task.

In two experiments, 28 undergraduate students — 14 with low math anxiety and 14 with high math anxiety — were shown a set of black squares on a computer screen. The squares ranged in number from one to nine and participants were simply asked to identify the number of squares.

Although they were timed, participants were not rushed and the display stayed on the screen until a response was made.

When there were one to four squares presented (the subitizing range), both groups of students performed equally well.

But when there were five or more squares presented (the counting range), the math anxious students were significantly slower and less accurate in counting the squares.

The study, entitled "Mathematics Anxiety Affects Counting But Not Subitizing During Visual Enumeration", was published by the journal Cognition.

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Agfa announcement today; other notes

Executives of Agfa HealthCare, known as “a leading provider of IT-enabled clinical workflow and diagnostic imaging solutions”, will be in Waterloo today to announce “a significant investment in health-care information technology. The investment will create employment for professionals in Waterloo Region and help deliver on a commitment to develop innovative technologies that improve patient care.” Agfa president Michael Green is among the VIPs who will attend a ceremony at 1:30 in the atrium of TechTown, 340 Hagey Boulevard on the north campus. Also expected are Sandra Pupatello, Ontario minister of economic development and trade, and John Milloy, minister of research and innovation.

Waterloo’s team finished out of the medals in the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest this year, winding up in a 22-team tie for 14th place. Shanghai Jiaotong University was the first-place team this year, followed by Moscow State University; no North American institution finished higher than 14th. The world finals were held February 5 in Harbin, a city of 10 million people in northeastern China that’s currently competing to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Members of the Waterloo group, who qualified for the finals by winning the East Central North American Regionals in October, were Peter Wen, Hanson Wang and Gelin Zhou, all mathematics undergraduates. (A second Waterloo team came fifth in the East Central competition.) “This is the 18th year in a row we’ve qualified for the finals, more than any other team,” reports computer science professor Gordon Cormack, who coached the team and went to chilly Harbin with them.

The men's hockey Warriors lost their playoff game against the University of Windsor Lancers last night by a score of 4-2. The team finished the season's league play in second place, with a 20-7-1 record that Christine Rivet of the Waterloo Region Record calls “masterful”, but, as coach Brian Bourque puts it, “It's so close in this league. If you are not on and give everything you have every game, you are going to lose.” Second game of the quarter-finals is scheduled for Friday night at Windsor; game three, if necessary, will go Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Columbia Icefield (tickets $10, students $5).

[Book cover]Lynne Taylor of UW’s department of history is the author of Polish Orphans of Tengeru, just published by Dundurn Press. The publisher explains that Taylor’s book “is the story of 23 Polish Catholic orphans who were brought to Canada from East Africa in 1949 as part of the settlement of the post-war Displaced Persons crisis. They came to East Africa as part of a mass exodus of Poles out of the gulags of Siberia in 1942 and 1943. In the process of moving them in 1949 from Tanganyika, through Italy and Germany, to Canada, the situation became an international incident, with Warsaw protesting that Canada and the International Refugee Organisation, with the active collaboration of the American and British governments, was kidnapping these children to use as slave labour on Canadian farms and in Canadian factories, tearing them from their families in Poland in the process. It even reached the floor of the General Assembly of the UN and dragged in the Italian, British and American governments before all was said and done.” The book is primarily about the political and historical events, though Taylor does use some material drawn from interviews with individual members of the group who are now living in Canada.

Betty Beninger, payroll supervisor in the plant operations department, will officially retire March 1, ending a UW career that began in 1984. • The Ontario University Athletics squash season is at an end, and Kumar Erramilli of the Warriors has been named to the OUA second team all-stars for 2009-10. • Word arrives from the department of biology that a breakfast event held on February 8 raised $1,733.20 for Haiti earthquake relief through the Canadian Red Cross.

A number of retired UW staff members have died in recent days, the human resources department reports. Charles Waugh, who died November 24, was administrative assistant in the department of electrical engineering, as it was then called, from 1969 to 1980. Jana Czerny, who died January 28, was a cataloguing and information service associate in the library from 1974 to 2004. Raymond Israel, who died February 7, was a custodial foreperson in the plant operations department from 1973 to 1986. Catherine (Kathleen) Martin, who died February 8, was a housekeeper in the Married Student Apartments (now UW Place) from 1975 to 1983.


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Link of the day

Watch for science news this week

When and where

‘What is Chinese New Year?’ presentation by Waterloo International on traditional culture, Chinese calligraphy and traditional treats, noon to 1 p.m., Needles Hall room 1116.

Dana Porter Library hot water shut off Thursday 3:30 p.m. to Friday 7:30 a.m.

Warrior sports Thursday: OUA figure skating championships hosted by Laurier, RIM Park, last day • Swimming, CIS championships at Toronto, continuing through Sunday.

Last day for 50 per cent tuition fee refund, February 19. Drop (penalty 1) period ends, February 26.

Centre for Family Business, based at Conrad Grebel UC, breakfast seminar: “Dealing with Increasing Work Demands” Friday 7 a.m., Bingemans Conference Centre.

Pension and benefits committee Friday 8:30 a.m., Needles Hall room 3004.

Information systems and technology professional development seminar: Mike Patterson, “What to Do When Your Systems Are Compromised” Friday 9 a.m., IST seminar room.

RefWorks advanced workshop, presented by UW library, Monday at 10:00, March 10 at 10:00, or March 11 at 1:30, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

Waterloo Institute for Complexity and Innovation panel discussion: “Open Source Democracy”, Monday 2:00, Tatham Centre room 2218, RSVP info@ Details.

Graduating students’ information session and lunch sponsored by student life office and alumni affairs office, Tuesday 11:30, Student Life Centre multipurpose room. Details.

Staff workshop: “Exploring Your Personality Type” February 24, 2 to 4 p.m., Tatham Centre, register lkoblyk@

Surplus sale of UW furnishings and equipment, February 25, 12:30 to 2:00, has been cancelled.

TEDx Waterloo “journey into the future” of “Technology, Entertainment, Design”; speakers include Raymond Laflamme, Institute for Quantum Computing, and Philip Beesley, architecture, February 25, 1 to 8 p.m., the Gig Music Hall, downtown Kitchener. Details.

Co-op job ranking (main group) opens February 26, 1:00 p.m.

Brain Bee for high school students, sponsored by department of kinesiology, February 27, 10 a.m., Lyle Hallman Institute room 1621. Details.

Application deadline for UW admission: spring term, March 1; fall term, March 31, with some exceptions; Ontario secondary school student deadline was January 13 (or later if spaces still available). Details.

PhD oral defences

English language and literature. Cameron Reid, “Gone Critical: Towards a Co-Creative Encounter with the Book.” Supervisor, Kevin McGuirk. On display in the faculty of arts, PAS 2434. Oral defence Tuesday, February 23, 1:30 p.m., Modern Languages room 354.

Electrical and computer engineering. Abhirup Chakraborty, “Processing Exact Results for Queries Over Data Streams.” Supervisor, Ajit Singh. On display in the faculty of engineering, PHY 3004. Oral defence Tuesday, February 23, 1:30 p.m., CEIT room 3142.

Computer science. Reza Dorrigiv, “Alternative Measures for the Analysis of Online Algorithms.” Supervisor, Alejandro Lopez-Ortiz. On display in the faculty of mathematics, MC 5090. Oral defence Friday, February 26, 9:30 a.m., Davis Centre room 1331.

Mechanical and mechatronics engineering. Seyed Hamidreza Alemohammad, “Development of Optical Fiber Based Sensing Devices Using Laser Microfabrication Methods.” Supervisor, Ehsan Toyserkani. On display in the faculty of engineering, PHY 3004. Oral defence Monday, March 1, 2:00 p.m., Engineering III room 4117.

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