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Going beyond the first right answer


Sridhar Ramanathan

Sridhar Ramanathan

Sridhar Ramanathan also blogs at www.ideasrs.com.

My friend was telling me about his daughter and how she enjoys school. He told me about how her class teacher teaches maths. Apparently one of her techniques is to help children discover different answers to the same problem.

Example: “In how many ways can you arrive at the number 75?” Children can use addition, subtraction, multiplication or division to arrive at the answer. He then mentioned how his daughter would come back every now and then and show him and his wife a new way in which she arrived at 75.

He then said something which set me thinking: “I never thought that in maths there could be more than one right answer. This has opened my eyes to new possibilities.”

As adults most of us value “the right answer”. We have learnt from our childhood being right is important and there can be only one right answer to any issue. Most intelligent children will not accept this. We never realise this because we do not listen.

Let me give you an example. This happened several years ago. We had some family function at home and there were several relatives staying with us. My wife had employed a part time cook. He was working in our place and was also doing another part time assignment with another family down the road, a couple of buildings away. At one point my wife wanted the cook to be available immediately. So she asked our 11 year old daughter to go and bring him. I was watching this. My wife did not tell my daughter the flat number or the floor on which the cook would be working.

As our daughter was leaving, I asked her “How will you find out in which flat he is working?” Pat came her answer: “I will look for a flat with lots of footwear outside the front door.”

I did not say anything. She returned with the cook within 15 minutes.

“Did your idea work?”

“Yes, Dad.”

“Tell me why did you think of the footwear outside?”

“Look at our place. All the visitors’ footwear are outside. So I thought if there are lots of shoes, then there must be lots of people. If there are lots of people you need a cook for help.”

It seemed so simple after she explained it. However I must admit, when she left looking for the cook, I was not sure she would find him. Because I could not connect the dots like she did. My mind said “Ring the bell at every flat and find out till you locate the cook.” Of course, I am sure we could have found him this way. However, I was not right to think that that was the ONLY WAY to do it in.

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Sridhar Ramanathan is the Founder of IDEASRS, where he is also a Strategic Innovation Coach. Sridhar’s mission in life is “to help those who want to do things better and differently”. His work involves conducting creative problem solving workshops for clients, and buidling competencies in creativity and innovation. He also blogs at www.ideasrs.com.


2 thoughts on “Going beyond the first right answer

  1. Meera

    Great post Sridhar loved reading it — this will serve as an eye opener to many parents (including myself here), especially the ones who strive for perfection and think there can be only one way…

    Reply
  2. Ramya Srinivasan

    Children tend to teach us small things every day! Nice post, Sridhar, and so true – in our eagerness to help the child, parents tend to sometime give them too little to figure out for themselves.

    Reply

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