Thinking Outside The Box

, , , , , , | Learning | July 19, 2020

I am a private tutor. I’ve given one of my students, a fifth-grader, an exercise which I call “reverse word problems”. The student gets a list of equations, and for each equation, they have to come up with a word problem that could fit the given equation. I am reading the answers he’s written.

Me: “You’re a scientist with four-fifth of a dead cow. You’re in a duplication room and you duplicate two-fifths of it. How much of a cow do you have?”

The equation for this one was “4/5 x 2/5.”

Me: *Laughing* “A… a scientist with a dead cow? Really, kid?”

Student: *Giggles* “Well, obviously. It has to be a dead cow. If you have four-fifths of a cow, how can it possibly still be alive?”

Me: *Pause* “You got me there.”

I keep reading.

Me: “You have one dollar and six friends, and you decide to split the dollar evenly between your six friends. How much of a dollar does each friend get?” *Pause* “Wait a minute; this doesn’t work.”

Student: “Yes, it does.”

Me: “No, think about it. Can a dollar divide into six equal parts?”

Student: *Indignantly* “Yes, it can!”

Me: “Okay, how?”

Student: “You take a pair of scissors and cut the bill into six equal parts!”

Me: “I— Well. That’s…”

The student laughs.

Me: “…genius. Forget I said anything.” 

This kid is going places.

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