[IAEP] How can we help kids get into the habits of looking for all possible causes and counter examples to problems?

Maria Droujkova droujkova at gmail.com
Sun Oct 2 07:07:09 EDT 2011

On Sun, Oct 2, 2011 at 5:11 AM, Steve Thomas <sthomas1 at gosargon.com> wrote:

> Early in the Alan's talk<http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-124161889929978086>(~34:30, sound terrible, content good) Alan talks about a survey done at the
> Harvard commencement ceremonies where students, teachers and faculty were
> asked:
>    1. Why are there seasons?
>    2. What causes the phases of the moon?
> Most got it wrong (usually along the lines of "the seasons are caused by
> the distance from the earth to the Sun").
> Alan tried this at UCLA and got the same results (about 95% got had severe
> misconceptions about one or both of them).
> He then asked the follow up to question #1; When its Summer in the Northern
> hemisphere, what season is it in the Southern Hemisphere?  They all got that
> right, then after about 20 seconds the contradiction hit them
> Then he asks, why is it, that they didn't come up with
> this contradiction when they were asked the first question?
> So what can we do about this, and how can we help kids look for all
> possible causes and find counter examples?

Maybe we should stage less idle talk, and invite kids to spend longer,
in-depth time doing something. As the example above illustrates, if you
spend even a few minutes with a problem, a lot of misconceptions go away. In
my experience, when people need to DO something using a piece of knowledge,
their understanding becomes robust.

Looking back at my life, I have never had to do anything with REASONS for
seasons or phases of the moon, outside of curriculum design. Have you?

Maria Droujkova

Make math your own, to make your own math
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