I recently discovered that Popular Mechanics, a magazine I remember hearing about from when I was a kid, has a riddle of the week, given by Jay Bennett. I used to love Click and Clack's riddle of the week from Car Talk (anyone remember Dewey Cheetham and Howe? I am dating myself again!), so I was pretty excited when I found Jay's puzzles.
I decided that we would dedicate a day to going through the problems in my Honors Problem Solving Seminar. It was pretty cool to see that we had already solved a majority of them, and even cooler that there were a plethora of ones that we haven't solved yet.
When we got to "The Airplane Problem," I saw it was deemed "hard."
I remembered when this came out as a Ted-Ed Riddle (see video at the top), I heard it was one of the hardest riddles. So I never watched it.
It's interesting, considering that on day 1 of Problem-Solving, we talk so much about grit and struggling to work through a problem, and yet, I really did not want to tackle the airplane problem.
There are definitely times when we can't solve a problem in class, and we have to look it up. I think it's good for students to see that the teacher can't solve every problem, and sometimes there is a twist that we just never would have thought of.
Well, my students dug into the problem. We talked it through for a while and after about 15 minutes, I said, are we ready for the answer?
K, a great thinker, said, "I need more time." She was on to something. OK, I said and started shuffling my papers, cleaning my desk, graded a question or two...I was done. I couldn't do it, so I stopped. A few times, I stopped the students, feeling bad that the problem was deemed so hard and maybe they were 'wasting' time, thinking maybe it was one of those impossible ones that you just don't totally understand even after watching the video, i.e., I'm still lost on the three gods riddle.
I said, "Should we watch the answer?" K said, "Wait, I need more time." OK, I said and really began to look at her work. Within a few minutes, she stepped back, admired her work, said, "I think I finished", and proceeded to explain step-by-step, how to solve the problem that I gave up on.
SPOILER ALERT! Here is her work:
As we watched the answer on the video, K nodded at each step, as it matched her solution. I thought, wow, K just taught me a thing or two about grit today. K put the "possible" in "impossible" for me.
I am so proud of K's accomplishments in this class. It's great to learn things from your students, both knowledge, and perseverance!