Hey, Linda here with a super simple math question you must ask your students. This question is so simple, your older students will look at you like you’re crazy. The answer is so obvious, or is it?
Simplicity is the beauty of the question. Here in lies the power of the question. The answer seems so easy, yet when you think more creatively, there are many alternate, unexpected answers. Your strugglers and Math haters will love it. This is how they think, outside the text booky, orthodox box.
I was listening to my mentor talk yesterday and he posed a question.
Here is what he asked.
Consider this problem. 1 + 1 = ?
Of course you immediately think 2. Duh…
Then he said, “Ok, you’re probably thinking the answer is 2, but is it always 2?
Math teachers might then think well, in binary system it would equal 10.
But he went on to say, “If you add one puddle to another puddle, how many puddles do you have?”
Wow! Nice perspective!
Now my mentor is not a math teacher, and in fact, has nothing to do with schools. His point was that what we believe to be undisputable truth, can actually hold us stuck in limitation.
It felt good to be caught off guard like this and experience a mental dissonance. It was a great reminder that students who are bored or “hating” math might just perceive the world from a different angle. Questions like this might actually be a fun way to engage them and get all your students thinking more deeply about the problems they are asked to solve.
Here is what you can do. Give this problem to your students as a do now. Just write the 1 + 1 = ? problem on your board in whatever form that is appropriate for your students. After they have all had a chance to answer, ask them, “Who has a different answer?” They may look puzzled, or you may have a few who actually do have another answer. Ask them to explain. Then give your puddle answer and challenge them to work with a partner to identify other solutions. Make a list of all the solutions.
Use this problem as a springboard to welcome them to a new year of math and a new way of thinking about math and their life. Introduce them to the idea of “mindset.” Encourage them to think of this problem when they are “stuck” on thinking that isn’t producing the results they want. Encourage them to find other problems like this that have multiple, unexpected solutions. And…….for yourself, remember that the problems you experience with students have multiple, unexpected solutions as well!
But more on this as the year progresses!
In the meantime, look for the next blog. You’ll get a peek at more of these cool questions with a twist as we look at the Walley Test!