Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Adventures in Pedagogy: No Solution

Dawson (12) is ready to begin 7th grade and I'm taking over the curriculum duties. We are starting off with some of James Tanton's Math Without Words

One of the early puzzles looks like this:

Dawson jumps in and devours these things. Right up until he encounters a puzzle like this:

"Dad, I don't get it."

"Get what?"

"This puzzle. I don't understand it."

"What's the rule?"

"I have to connect the two dots by going through each box."

"Is that the whole rule?"

"Yeah. No. I can only go through each box once and I can't go diagonally."

"Does that rule work for all the others you've done?"



I go back to doing the dishes as Dawson and Nevan (9) discuss what's "wrong" with this particular puzzle. Once I'm finished, I chime back in.

"So, have you figured it out?"

"No. I just don't understand?"

"Have you considered that maybe this particular puzzle doesn't have a solution?"

"You mean, that's allowed?"

"Yeah. Sometimes problems don't have answers."

*points to a different puzzle on the page*
"Oh, then this one doesn't have an answer either."

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