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Friday, April 06, 2007

Beware The Underpants Gnomes

It's getting near to the end of the semester, so I get a bit weird at times. Today was one of them. I was lecturing on Efficient Markets, and I asked them what happens when new information arrives. Their answer was that prices change. Hence the reference to the Underpants Gnomes.

The Underpants Gnomes come from a South Park Episode where one of the kids says that Underpants Gnomes are stealing his underpants. After a while the gang finds the gnomes' cave, and ask the gnomes why they're stealing underpants. Their answer was that they have a three step plan:

  • STEP 1: Collect Underpants
  • STEP 2: ?????

Then I told them that their answer was like the Underpants Gnomes - they were missing something. So, one said "After the information arrives, they analyze it." So now, they have Step 1: Information arrives; Step 2: The information is analyzed; Steep 3: ???; Step 4: PRICES Move!

This went on for a while, and they finally got it (they didn't realize that there had to be trading taking place). But from now on. whenever they're missing one or more steps in a process or algorithm, I'll tell them they're acting like Underpants Gnomes.

It's a pretty common occurence - a student give a response that has "some" of the puzzle. But they think they're correct. The hard thing is to get them to understant ALL the steps in the solution or logic chain. Since I'm going to beat them over the head with this idea for the rest of the semester, hopefully they'll retain it. And I know I'll use this in my repertoire in future semesters almost from day one.

With my luck, they'll mention Underpants Gnomes on my evaluations. I can just imagine what the Dean will see when he sees that in the comments section. Ah well -- he's already has figured out that I teach a bit differentlyt than his other faculty.

In case you're interested, here's a You Tube Clip of the episode, and here's some background (from Wikipedia).

And yes - I am well past ready for the semester to end. Boy, am I past ready - only ten more days in the classroom before finals (but who's counting?)

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