A stick has two ends. If you cut off one end, how many ends will the stick have left?
This pre-kindergarten math problem was given to me by Maxim Kazarian who lives in Moscow, Russia. That got me thinking about math education in the US. Actually, just about anything can get me thinking about education in our country. One of our math education patterns is to provide simplified templates and to train kids to plug numbers into them without thinking.
Math education should be about thinking. We need to give kids a lot of math problems that do not fit into standard templates, in order to encourage creative thinking. Here is another puzzle from Maxim:
A square has four corners. If we cut one corner off, how many corners will the remaining figure have?
I invite my readers to invent additional problems that sound as if a subtraction by one is needed, when, in fact, it is not. Here is my contribution:
Anna had two sons. One son grew up and moved away. How many sons does Anna have now?