Thursday, August 10, 2006

Could Error Be The Rightest Option?

Merovingian: I have told you before, there's no escaping the nature of the universe. It is that nature that has again brought you to me. Where some see coincidence, I see consequence. Where others see chance, I see cost. (source)

I simply dont believe in chance: I believe in premeditation! Even the most -seemingly- random events are caused by a reason, and the reason for a new cause!! Similarly, I dont believe in error either (ie. error yielding correct results)...

Could we justifiably call a premeditated error an error? Is the question even consistent? Does this question even make sense?... You might be wondering why I am talking of such absurdities, here is the thing: I had quite a disagreement with my Electronics teacher, functionally speaking (and actually on every account I took into consideration): I was right... I had the correct answer and nobody can even argue about that!! Nonetheless the teacher decided (mystically) to give a zero mark for that part of the question... The issue was that during an intermediate step, i commited a small inconsistency... An error if you want to call it - The only problem was: It has been a premeditated error... I actually committed two errors, but magically (magically from the teacher's point of view, NOT mine) the two errors cancelled out to give the correct result...

The thing is, I knew where i committed the error, and I planned my correction scheme, and this was PROVED by the correct final answer!

If you were a teacher, do you think such (unconventional) method of solution should get Full credit? Partial credit? Or a Zero?! What do you think?!


Ghaith said...

I too don't believe in chance, and therefore I agree that there is no such thing as an error, people only use the term to describe unanticipated consequences. Also, nothing happens without a reason, and so everything in the universe that has a reason exists or takes place. Hence, such words as a "coincidence" are as much invalid!

I think we both agree that "errors" don't yield correct results. It must be known to us, thus, that the correct results have reasons, but the question is: are these reasons "relevant"?

I mean, consider a student answering a multiple choice question. Suppose the student had no idea what the correct answer is, and so chooses (A) because it's one of his initials (or for any other stupid reason :P), and it turned to be the correct answer!

It is wrong to say that the student chose the correct answer for no reason! There is a reason! But is it relevant to the subject of the question?

Your Prof will not give you credit for getting the answer due to a reason (a solution method) that is irrelevant to the thing that the exam was set to test you in (the specific method taught to you by your teacher). To him, you got the correct answer "for no reason", just like the student in the above scenario.

Remember, your Prof is only teaching you some scientific method(s) to get the answer. To him, you should prove mastery of the method(s) he taught you, not mastery of obtaining the result.

In my own view, you should be given Full credit if you can explain and prove your "unconventional" method of solution to your Prof ... the thing that I know you can do :)

Devil's Mind said...

I see we agree, maybe with one questionable part...

To start with, my method can be proved to yield correct results for the physical quantity required..

Secondly, the question was a written one (ie. Not multiple choice - Which could have saved me the trouble :S )... I gave the answer upto to 3 significant figures! We know that a 3 significant figures answer is in the form: #.## * 10^X , where # represents one digit, and X represents any integer value... The probability of obtaining the correct answer by chance is: Probability(#)^3 * Probability(X).
The probability of a correct # is 1/10, and the probability of correct X is 1/infinity = 0... Assuming I magically obtained the correct X value, there remains a 1/1000 probability of obtaining correct three digits!!

Finally, the place where we might disagree: "To him, you should prove mastery of the method(s) he taught you, not mastery of obtaining the result." - I believe the result is more important than the method!! Whatever method they might teach in textboxes or classes are nothing but tools or means to obtain the required results, so I think the objective should be to test the ability of the student to obtain correct results rather than the method taught to them!!!

I might also add that I personally think the multiple choice questions are invalid ways to test the students, because in real life you are NOT given a pool of answers to choose from!!

Ghaith said...

Yeah, it is nearly impossible to get a correct number-answer by guess work. However, if you did all calculations correctly, and (say) swapped a sign somewhere then swapped it back again (reversed the error), there would be a good probability that you get the exact correct answer, and I think that that's what your Prof thought happened in your solution sequence.

The statement you quoted is not a point that you and I disagree on; I too believe it's more important to get the correct result! But that's what (you and I) on a side, and some freaky university Profs on the other side stand against. It's one of the faults of Jordan's educational system.

Sorry because I didn't make myself clear :)

Tala said...

i think errors exist. and there is a difference between errors, coincidence and consequences... an error a measure of deviation from what is right. so its an adjective. it describes a state of a certain quantity. it could be a coincidence or a consequence. but it exists... how would you say that an answer is exactly precise and correct if there was no erros attempted by others in deducing the answer.. the method you used to get the answer is what you are learning and is the most important.. if you learn it right, consequently you get the right answer.. now if your professor mentioned that he wants the answer using X method, and you used Y .. you are wrong. if he didnt say anything. and you used your skills and knowledge and its a valid scientific method, you should claim your grade.
but most professors get head strong after a while .. and they just dont know except what they are limited to teach .. il 3a2el iza ma btista3milo bisaddi!!! don't worry, a friend of mine told me once when i was very upset at a Dr. what does he differ from you : he just double your age and in couple of yours you'll have the same degree he has, except that he is stuck here, you are not!!

Devil's Mind said...

I agree with your claim that error exists as a deviation from ultimate precision... But what i meant was: I dont believe correct results can be achieved by error, quoting myself: I dont believe in error either (ie. error yielding correct results)...!! In other words, if an "error" lead to the correct answer, then it is wrong to categorize it as an error!! Some people say thing like: "PersonX got the correct answer, but he committed ErrorY, so his correct result was a coincidence." - This kind of claim i am against!!

I am really inspired by your view: he just double your age and in couple of yours you'll have the same degree he has, except that he is stuck here, you are not!! - I guess thats whats important: that one doesnt get stuck at a point and fails to advance past that point!!