29 August 2011

"Dammit, I'm a Doctor not a Mathematician!"...Well I'm a Librarian, But I'm Still Not a Mathematician

 I recall my parents telling me over and over how math is important and I must learn to love it: well guess what, it is, but I don't. My go-to reply was always:  "There's a calculator for that!"  I can blame the teaching system, my gender (I always proposed that guys were inherently better at math than girls), or how I'm righ-brain-heavy.  Aside from my clearly misogynistic take on numbers and the physical evidence that I don’t walk disproportionately tilted to the right I'm still at the end of the day not a fan nor a star of math.  I thought being a Librarian, even a Medical Librarian, would keep me in the clear.  Enter the day I found out about NNT/NNH, Likelihood Ratios, Absolute Risk, and Confidence Intervals.  Even as I write I shiver.

Although I'm a self-confessed 'smart-cookie' (despite my calculation ineptitude) these concepts were difficult. Nevertheless I learned what they were for, and even how to properly calculate them. Hooray!  That's the end of my story right?  Wrong.  Just a few weeks later when I proudly slipped in ‘Numbers Needed to Treat (NNT)’ into a conversation with a physician (who seemed surprised I knew) it was swiftly followed by my blank stare and a "Boy it's warm in here" comment as I tried to recount its proper use.  Now, after many more moons have passed I can at least take solace in the fact that I know they exist, even if I can't recall much more.

Let's pretend then that there are more people like me including those people who simply don't have the time to draw out the calculations (see even when I write about math my right brain wants to 'draw'). Enter Alan Schwartz from the University of Illinois, Chicago who so wonderfully offers a Risk Reduction Calculator as well as the Stats Calculator offered by the University of Toronto's Centre for Evidence Based Medicine. Now it's as easy as plugging in your numbers and the calculator does the legwork for you!

Though I'm not saying that you shouldn't be able to do the calculations on your own, I would like to end on the old argument to my parents, the argument that I like to think was a precursor to the 'There's an app for that" argument of today's youths: that there really is "a calculator for that" (and yes there are even apps for that as well). :)


04 August 2011

Relearning How to Learn? Try These Study Skills Resources

Despite the workplace looking like a deserted island while everyone seems to be holidaying except yours truly I am being told via the newspaper and TV that not only is it Fall in the Mall but it's again that 'most wonderful time of the year' for our back to school stores.  Apparently August is a mere stepping stone to the annual launch of the "back to" mentality everyone both loves and dreads.  You may even be back to work and school at the same time, a situation very familiar to many health care professionals undertaking advanced degrees and CE.  That said it's an opportune moment to highlight some Study Skills tools a colleague of mine sent my way( thank you to Elaine Bernstein, Director of Library Services at NYGH in Toronto) .

University of Guelph's  A Guide For University Learning
University of Guelph's (Guelph, ON, Canada)  A Guide For University Learning:
This is an excellent and fun-to-navigate resource advising everything from how to properly take notes in lectures to test-taking strategies for exams.  There's also a 'Resources' section that has a time management guide, a mark calculator alongside videos and podcasts.  All in all it's a fantastic way to get back into the groove of getting through school whether it be University, College or Distance Ed.

Athabasca University's Learner Success Study Skills

Athabasca University's Learner Success Study Skills page:
Another wonderful site with lots of information and printouts from writing a term paper to multiple choice exams.  You can also find time management tools alongside advice on how to study when you have a family.  Athabasca also lists some external resources such as the University of Victoria's Learning Skill Program and Joe Landsberger's Study Guides and Strategies site which has an amazing amount of resources and in 37 languages!!

Joe Landsberger's Study Guides and Strategies

Getting back into the swing of studying doesn't have to be too stressful or daunting, even knowing these resources are out there mean there are others in the same boat as you! So take a browse around these resources to help lighten your load in the upcoming semester :)