Thursday, November 13, 2014

By MaryAnn Slavcheff

What is thinking outside the box? It is looking for new solutions. What if I ask you what is the missing state in this list?

New York
North Dakota
West Virginia

It is clearly not alphabetical order.
It isn’t the states in the order they entered the union. That would start with Delaware and New Jersey. The states are certainly not in order geographically.
By population? That doesn’t make sense either.
As we try different solutions, we are exposed to new knowledge. Be it the historical like the order states entered the union or geographic. We are learning as we solve a puzzle, but we are learning other things as we look for the answer.

With this puzzle we are doing something that students seldom do. We are thinking. It might take us a while to come around to thinking about state capitals. Most of us learned the in alphabetical order according to the state.

Montgomery, Alabama.
Juneau, Alaska
Phoenix, Arizona. And so on.

But what if we put the state capitals in alphabetical order according to their names.
Then we get:
Albany, New York
Annapolis, Maryland
Atlanta Georgia
Augusta, Maine
Austin, Texas
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Bismark, North Dakota
Boise, Idaho
Boston, Massachusetts

The answer to the puzzle is Nevada because the next capital in order is Carson City, Nevada. Puzzles are fun and certainly less threatening than tests. They inspire real thinking and real learning. Teachers often find puzzles take long chunks of their time and puzzles also have to changed often as the answers become common knowledge. People share puzzles, but rarely share tests. Therefore, teachers prepare tests instead of puzzles.

Serious students can make up their own tests and puzzles to help them learn. They can also try to stump each other. Tests we give ourselves are less threatening than tests given by a teacher. They give us an idea of how much we have learned.

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