everyday847 wrote:Okay, so here are some problems. First, there don't really exist tournaments of *entirely* new teams, so I don't care if they convert 85% of tossups. Until you get all the elite teams to stop playing easy tournaments (which is difficult since on a given weekend, you'll pretty frequently not have an alternative to the A-series tournament within reasonable driving distance), your point is moot. Moreover, I could ensure conversion that good if I wrote thirty tossups per IS-A set on states. As long as I end with its biggest cities and its capital, I'll get conversion.

I don't quite see why this makes my point moot; NAQT has certainly supplied questions to tournaments that consisted of entirely new teams. Certainly those are rare, but it is not rare at all for a tournament to have some completely new teams and many completely new players. It is important that there is a minimum level of accessibility to keep those players interested.

If NAQT had more writers, we'd produce more regular Invitational Series.

But have I done anything worthwhile? Obviously not.

I disagree with that. Well, perhaps your particular example would make for a pretty bland tournament, but as I tried to emphasize, NAQT doesn't write polity questions only because they are answerable. We try to use them to ask about harder topics in areas like World Literature (e.g., "_Japanese_ literature") that better teams will get early and worse teams will get at "Tokyo" (or "geisha," or whatever).

I say that conversion--particularly when you're talking about teams that might literally know nothing at all besides general knowledge and cute giveaways--should take a back seat to distribution. (And if you do, in fact, make the geography distribution so much less in IS sets (the three to one ratio we observed being on IS-80A; the 11:9 stat you cited being on an IS set), and those geography questions had been critical to new teams getting tossups, when and how do they move beyond IS sets?)

All Invitational Series, A-level or not, have the same distribution. The 11:9 ratio applies equally to IS #80A and IS #79.

They move beyond A-level sets once they've attended a few tournaments and gotten a feeling for the answers that come up. I've personally watched this happen in Minnesota; my first tournament in 2003 used an A-level set and scores were average-ish (10 to 20 ppb). Scores at the state tournament, using a regular series, were not so good (4 to 17 ppb). Five years later, a majority of the tournaments use regular sets and the local circuit is fine with it. But the regular sets are too hard for new schools to find enjoyable. It took probably two years for a critical mass of programs to move beyond A-level sets to regular sets. I think it's a natural, and entirely non-mysterious, progression.

But I don't even know if conversion is that threatened. Since fine arts and geography are two of my worst areas, I'll leave it to others to talk about whether there's an A set worth of answers on fine arts that can be converted at rates as high as "For ten points-- name this largest city in New York State," but I'm confident that there is.

Even if I grant that there is, are there nine Invitational Series' worth of such questions? Or even more if we don't want every year to duplicate the same answers? Maybe so; if there are, we are missing them and would love to get people writing such questions (or even just sending us the answers).

I don't have the time at the moment to go through a ludicrously complex statistical analysis to illustrate why four lines is enough to distinguish teams at all levels, but I can raise a logical objection. Five years ago, when the circuit was weaker, was three lines enough? Ten years ago, was two? Moreover, the State College evidence is completely invalid. They're perennially top ten in the nation and usually better than that. Is any team in their area even vaguely close to that? If you have me box Muhammad Ali, I'm going to lose even if we're both blindfolded.

My point is just that even very short questions are not so much of a crapshoot that any team can win.

I think it's entirely possible that, at some point in the past, carefully written three-line tossups would have sufficed. I don't see anything shameful or logically objectionable about that.

You're setting up a pretty weak defense for the presence of math calculation--that hosts can remove it if they want to. That doesn't change the fact that NAQT endorses it and produces it and has it in their national championship. If I want to have a solid shot at winning HSNCT, I learn the dozen stupid, unacademic tricks that it takes to power math calculation tossups. What would be my motive to attend tournaments with those questions omitted? Only if I want to play quizbowl, not 90% quizbowl, 10% unrelated crap--and if I want to be disadvantaged at the HSNCT. Why would I not care about being disadvantaged there? Because I would question that tournament's validity for including math computation.

I think I'm being somewhat dense here, but I don't quite understand the thrust of this paragraph. If regions of the country want to play quiz bowl without computation questions, they may do so using NAQT's questions and NAQT is not vindictive enough to punish them by refusing to allow their teams to attend nationals. If you want to prepare for Nationals, buy the packet sets and practice the computation questions by yourself or with your team outside the context of the tournament.

If your region enjoys computation questions, leave them in. Heck, copy additional ones out of unused packets if you don't feel that there are enough.

Honestly, I just want an argument that math computation is good quizbowl. I don't care about survey data saying that ten billion schools want it. If there were a massive outpouring of requests for tossups on pornography, you wouldn't cave. Prove to me that an apyramidal, unacademic "tossup" on

My impromptu pencil and paper ready tossup wrote:**Mike wants to paint his room, which is 10x13x8 and has one 2x2 window on each wall. If you don't know how to solve this, then I will explain it to you. Take twice ten times eight plus twice thirteen times eight plus ten times thirteen, since he won't paint his floor, and subtract four times (*)** four. For 10 points-- how many square feet of paint does Mike use?

is better quizbowl and a better subject for a high school student to learn about than a queer theory tossup on Deep Throat.

The ability to interpret word problems, cast them into mathematical notation, and solve them is a fundamental skill that is taught in math classes and is incorporated into every standardized test that I have ever taken. Math is a fundamental part of the sciences and I have continued to solve math problems throughout my life, many of which bear some resemblance to computation tossups. (And I'm not talking about my editing work here).

In fact, computation questions probably come the closest to actually resembling the work that I did in my high school classes: Here's a problem, solve it. My literature classes generally had me identifying themes and writing essays, my history classes had me writing papers, and my science classes had me doing experiments and deriving theorems. All of which are fairly far removed from typical quiz bowl questions.

In my opinion, knowing and applying mathematical techniques to calculate answers is a valuable skill and belongs in quiz as much as knowing the authors and main characters of major works of literature. It's certainly more widespread and valuable than queer theoretic analyses of pornography.