Substitute Teaching Day 1 for Professor Murillo

Below is the email I sent Professor Murillo after I covered his class for the first day.

Things We Covered

We did the entire econophysics exercise. And, during discussion, we did a few things I’ve never done before. Here’s a summary:

  • We had students report their final data (number of rounds and final wealth) one at a time, which I record in a spreadsheet projected on the board.
  • After the first five students reported out, we talked about the idea of the Bayesian Urn, and we tried to make predictions about what the next datapoint would be
  • Then, we had the next person read out their data, re-updated our guessing confidence, then made a prediction about the next student
  • We talked about using available information to constrain our prediction space (there were only 24 coins in play, so if we’ve only accounted for 3 coins among the first N students, what’s the upper bound of coins the next student could possibly have? What’s the likely value of coins?)
  • It culminated in us being able to confidently guess the data for the final three students, and we knew for certain the data of the last student before they even reported out.
  • When we finished reporting out, we talked about large scale patterns we noticed, and possible mechanisms that caused them. For example, pockets of high wealth possibly resulting from people engaging in trades only with those near them.
  • I summed up how the things they experienced were a microcosm of the entire course. I stressed that together we’d already experienced states, state updates, data visualization, time-evolved simulations, update rules, predictions, confidence, updating a bayesian decision unit with new information, and even string processing (I have them tell me the agent codename they want listed on our results spreadsheet, then I type it out, often literally. Examples: “Just leave it Blank” and “Sarah with an H”
  • Finally, I connected our activity out to the world of larger econophysics. I explained how econophysics is about applying statistical physics to financial situations, and how we could easily swap “money” for “momentum” if we were atoms. Crucially, our game concentrates everything to a few people or just one person, but if the universe worked that way with momentum, there would be one atom with all of it, which is clearly not what we see. But we see that in our game. Why? Because students didn’t allow for broke people to still trade and get money, but in the natural world “still” particles can be hit by moving ones and absorb some or all of the momentum of the incoming particle.

In my section, I stress the importance of diversity and making sure all students feel valued and welcome in our classroom community. But, in the flurry of all of the ideas, I forgot to do that with your section.

Action Items for you

Not everyone received the email with the course survey and introductory video, so they asked if you could re-send that to the entire class. (I think some people were late adds to the course)

Best, Brian