Interesting Problems…

18 01 2011

What kind of interesting problems are you trying to solve?

Inspired by a mixture of Seth Godin and my students trying absolve themselves from not completing work, I have come up with a new activity for them: Interesting Problems.  This activity will not be given consistently but rather when I have inspiration for a new one.  My goal is to give them vague minimal assistance and have them solve what ever problem I have subscribed to them.  They must record their process while trying to solve the problem or they get a zero.  This insures they do their work for it, which is my goal anyway.  I had a student tell me they couldn’t complete the assignment because the ONE person they called didn’t have the book .  Our students must learn to try until complete-failure not semi-failure!  You might feel differently about this but here is my perspective: if they get the sense they are going to fail they will give up before their failure is certain.

Those who are willing to pay the greatest price will receive the greatest reward.

This activity is due Thursday, I will do a follow-up post on how this all plays out.

The Problem: “You don’t know the answer.”

The Hint: Big fish, two opposing forces meet.

What do you think it is?




5 responses

19 01 2011
Matt Willis

I love it! I love love love it! I’ve been thinking lately how the American educational system is so ridiculously focused on the “right” answer vs. the “wrong” answer, what with systematic testing and all that. It’s taken me a long time to get over the idea that in life, there are no purely “right” or “wrong” answers. It’s all about solving problems in creative ways, and most importantly, about the process.

Take any job interview as an example – this is exactly the sort of thing any job (technical ones, at least) is almost certainly going to have you do. “Here’s a problem, how would you go about solving it?” It’s not about finding the “right” answer, it’s about finding a creative answer, and the process you use to do so.

Good stuff, Mason.

Also, The Hint definitely reminds me of Moby Dick, but I can’t say as I’m certain how that may or may not play into the Problem.

19 01 2011
Mason Stanley

I don’t know if you’ve read Seth Godin’s “Linchpin” but he hints at the same premise. A lot of the talks that I’ve been listening to have been saying the same thing, “the industrial revolution is dead.” So when you think about the fact that our standardized educational system was established for the factory you can’t help but infer the end is near for schools doing school the way we know it…or that they are about to mass produce ill-equipped students for the world.

19 01 2011
Matt Willis

About to? I’d say they already are.

19 01 2011
Mason Stanley

Fair enough. There are some types of “factories” and industries that are still functioning with successfully, and industry will never fully go away. People will never stop being “cogs” so we will still need cog training but that training should also go beyond “what is the correct answer?”

4 02 2011
Interesting Problem Follow-up « Rock in a Pond

[…] the post “Interesting Problems…” I stated, “Our students must learn to try until complete-failure not […]

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