March 11, 2010

It's Not About The Answer

Yesterday my son came across this beautiful problem set from a packet about combinatorics by Lexington teacher Vaag Mosca. Try it.

When working the set, you will realize very quickly that all the answers are the same. You could easily "finish" the problems by copying the same answer in each slot. But that would be totally unsatisfying.

When Anthony worked the problems and got some different answers, he was puzzled. "I know I got it wrong. What am I missing?" I have never seen Anthony work so hard to double-check his work.

Even better, after he got the right answer several times, he felt compelled to understand why it was the same. "I got it, and I see how it is related to seven, but where is the three?" He was really taking a new approach to math.

What you learn from this little problem set goes way beyond combinatorics:

The lesson is that math is not about the answer.

Posted by David at March 11, 2010 07:23 AM

Hi, David,
I'm so glad that your son has gotten so much out of working through my packet! Check out this organization, one that I worked with for 30 years in MA:
Your son may have even more fun and opportunities ther!

Posted by: Vaag Mosca at December 25, 2012 09:15 AM

In the Wallis's Rational Expression you can read 113 355 off the denominators of the first 6 fractions. Write the first "2" as "2/1" to see it clearly.

Posted by: Billy Lee at July 4, 2020 03:47 AM
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