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Grey Matters, January 26, 2015; Volume 3, Number 20

posted Jan 25, 2015, 6:35 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jul 6, 2015, 6:53 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,

I’ve recently been reading a bit on cognitive biases, which refers to some common tendencies many of us have when trying to make sense of information that comes before us.  The clustering illusion refers to a tendency to “overestimate the importance of small runs, streaks, or clusters in large samples of random data.”  Noting that a basketball player has a hot hand because she sank a few straight baskets would be one (I think).  Then there’s the gambler’s fallacy. The best way this mindset has been described is to point out how if someone flipped a coin and it landed on “heads” five times in a row, he might have the inclination to believe that the law of averages means there is a greater chance that the sixth coin flip will be “tails”.  The reality is that each coin flip is an independent event, and so the chances of landing heads or tails will never change from being 50-50.  If this has piqued your interest, I found an interesting article from Business Insider that summarized 58 cognitive biases.  

Other than simply being an interesting topic to learn more about, my recent motivation to be more educated about this topic was because I desperately needed to better understand the idea of frequency illusion.  This is the illusion in which “a word, a name or other thing that has recently come to one’s attention seems to appear with improbable frequency shortly afterwards.” Why am I so interested in this? Because right after I made the commitment to all of you last week to move on from our collective fixation on all things bacon, there emerged a flurry of news reports coming out of New Hampshire that I simply couldn’t ignore.  I know at least a few of you also saw the headline reports noting that on January 5, the New Hampshire lottery had started selling bacon-scented scratch tickets.  Read the story and see the video clip by clicking here.  As much as I understand that this is simply a great example of the frequency illusion, there’s still a part of me that believes that this was no coincidence (which probably is also the same irrational part of me that is convinced that whenever the Mega Millions lottery jackpot rises above $100 million, I am eventually going to win just because I’m a good guy and would be smart with my winnings).  

Some things for you to be be aware of this week and next:

  • The 8th grade math mid-year assessment is scheduled for this Wednesday and Thursday (January 28 and 29).  There is currently exam review being led by your student’s math teacher, so you might want to check in with your child(ren) to see how things are going.  

  • The Yoga Club will be starting another 10-week session this Tuesday, January 27.  This is available to all interested students, and anyone can sign up in the Main Office.  Email Kate Murray ( with any questions.  

  • There is an early release for students on Thursday, February 5.  Dismissal will be at 10:40am and buses will travel on their standard routes.  

  • Our Exploratory rotation (i.e. Art, Music/Drama, Minuteman Tech, etc.) will be switching this week. Students were enrolled in two of the four Exploratories for the first half of the year, and now they will switch to the other two for the remainder of the school year.  

  • The District will presenting its proposed budget for the 2015-2016 school year, next Saturday, January 31st.  Known as “Budget Saturday”, this presentation is delivered to the School Committee, and members of the community who choose to attend.  The event starts at 8:30am in the RJ Grey Library.  

We had our latest round of Everyday Leaders take place last week. It’s always great for me to have the chance to spend time with a number of our students and see how the year is going. Congratulations to this group of Everyday Leaders: Kirtana Krishnakumar, Connor Spaulding, Franklin Wu, Stella McDermott, Guin Jones, Will Johnson, Eric Sun, Viraj Lawande, Cole Eppling, Song Issah, Nick Glover, Zack Volinsky, and Joey Pittorino.

An 8th grade parent emailed me last week with a question about the event on February 11 for 8th grade parents about the transition to the High School.  This particular event is geared towards parents and guardians, not for the 8th graders themselves.  In early March, the 8th graders will participate in a series of workshops that provide them with a comprehensive overview of course registration, requirements, and opportunities.  These sessions are led jointly by our counselors, and staff from the High School.  

The Student Council put on a successful Summer Fun in Winter event last Friday, that included a lively volleyball tournament.  Many thanks to Ms. Ahl (8 Gold English) for her work with the Student Council, and the parents who volunteered to provide food, and also staffed the tables during the event.  If you go to our Twitter page (now more than 100 followers behind Glenn Brand!), you can see a photo from the festivities.  

We also made the decision last Friday afternoon to postpone our school’s ski/snowboard trip to Waterville Valley, given the weather forecast for Saturday.  That trip will now take place (weather permitting) this Saturday, January 31.  On a related note, there seems to be some growing confidence by our local meteorologists that we could encounter a snowstorm this Tuesday or Wednesday.  If school is delayed or cancelled, we will notify families through our all-call system, and will also post announcements on the local news channels.  

Finally, we had another installment of Poetry Fridays at the end of last week.  That morning’s poem, entitled “Where the Rainbow Ends”, was dedicated to the memory and ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  The poem’s author is Richard Rive, who grew up and spent most of his adult life in Cape Town, South Africa.  He was known for fighting against the racial injustice of apartheid through his literature.  You can read the text of the poem by clicking here.  

Have a great week, everyone.