Why do some people find ‘simple’ mathematics problems so impossible. I used common fractions for my research but it wouldn’t matter which specific concept I had chosen.
The answer I discovered and proved was that children and adults alike, who had a mental model of the concept, could solve the math problems. Those who didn’t were using rote rules that had no meaning, no models in their mind, so they made mistakes or gave up. They often could follow the rules successfully as long as the next problem looked exactly like the last one. If presented a problem that looked different, they couldn’t picture how to modify the rules, they couldn’t see where or how it matched up to the last one or something they had seen before.
Mental models are built by drawing, building with objects, and imagining.
One type of mental model that can help with thinking clearly and making strong decisions is the mind map. It helps you brainstorm lots of options and then it organizes those options for consideration.
Every new day is a beginning. Some days you may feel that your day, your schedule, your time is all pre-planned with no room for exploring new ideas or places or new friends. That would be a shame. Every new day is filled with opportunity. Read something interesting to think about and then share. Write something that is a result of your experiences or deep thinking and share that. Start asking questions that create a conversation in your head or with others. You don’t have to find world changing solutions to make a difference. You just have to have a open mind to see and hear beyond what you already know, or think you know.
What sites, blogs, or newsletters do you subscribe to now to improve your thinking and decision-making?
Everyone and anyone can improve and it should get better the older you are and the more you have learned and practiced over the years. So what do you do to get better all the time?
Please respond to let me know. Also if you ask your friends and associates the same question, you will start a great conversation.
Recognizing and overcoming mental blind spots.
It may seem strange to say that you see with your brain. Yes, the eyes are the windows. They let in the light waves and movement that get interpreted by the brain. If the ocular nerve (going from the eyes to the brain) or the part of the brain that interprets the signals is damaged, you don’t see. You are blind even though there may be nothing wrong with your eyes.
We can also have a mental blind spot or mental lack of hearing spot because we are not paying attention. Our brain has learned to ‘block out’ sights and sounds that have proven in the past not to be important to you. You may not notice that there is music playing or people having a conversation in the next room until someone brings it to your attention.
Mental blind spots can be there in a person’s brain about any subject and not just about sight or hearing. You may be listening but not paying attention to someone talking to you, maybe even your spouse or parent, until suddenly they say something you really care about. At that point it is as if your brain suddenly wakes up and pays attention.
You can be driving along the streets in your city and not take any notice whether parking is readily available until you get to the street where you will need parking.
There was a story several years ago about a man who had a large family but not much income. During a hot summer spell his children started begging for an above ground pool for the back yard. He told them he couldn’t afford it. Then he left for work driving on the same highway and streets he took five days a week. Suddenly he noticed a sign behind a house he was passing that said, “Above ground 15’ pool, free, to anyone who can pick it up.” He pulled off at the next exit and found the house. When he rang the doorbell he asked,”is the pool still available? How long have you had that sign up?” To his surprise the sign had been up for two months. He had been passing it nearly every day and not taken notice until his children raised his awareness of wanting a pool. His children got the pool they wanted.
We have to turn on our brain to a subject. We have to be paying attention. That is why trying to multitask gets in our way so often. If you are looking at your phone you can’t be paying attention to the meeting you are attending, or the road while you are driving.
Young children are naturally curious. Too often we get impatient with their incessant questions and dampen their curiosity. Curiosity is a good thing, even a great thing.
With associates as with children, it may be advantageous to ask them a question when they ask you for an answer. How have you tried to answer this so far? Or how could you explore the idea yourself to find possible answers? Be sure to encourage the thought that there may be several good answers not just one. What options have you thought of, so far? How can you search out multiple options and then make a choice among the options?
As with all questions you ask, unless you are a teacher testing your students, only ask questions you are not already certain of the answer. You have to be open to the ideas and answers you will hear. You have to want to hear creative and unusual answers.
Ask, how will you explore options and compare them?
Here are some ideas to share as ways to compare and contrast possible paths to make thoughtful conclusions.
Force yourself or your team to write down as many options as possible. Challenge yourselves to list at least 10 ways to solve the problem, or some number that requires a bigger list than you think is possible. The reason for the stretch list is that the first ones you think about will be the same old boring over-used answers. It is only when you have to come up with larger numbers of answers that you get into the creative and interesting solutions.
Some ideas that would normally get rejected without exploring will make it on to the list.
Every option listed deserves some what-if and how-could-it-work analysis.
Combinations and permutations of the various options can sometimes evolve into a better solution than any of the answers listed individually.
The process of brainstorming options will get your brain on a roll allowing you to keep coming up with more ideas after you thought you were finished. Keep paper and pencil or a recorder handy and record every idea no matter how far-fetched.
Your brand, your organization and you yourself will be differentiated by all the great ideas, solutions, and the ideation process itself. People are attracted by and buy from organizations that are clearly differentiated.
The word brainstorming has gotten a bad rap from some who write on the www. The problem they seem to have is that their experiences with the subject have been the antithesis of purposeful brainstorming. So I propose to use ‘idea generation’ instead of brainstorming. That is the purpose of most brainstorming sessions any way. A good idea generation session has a clear goal but also leaves lots of room for playing around with ideas and exploring several different avenues that turn up. A good idea generation session also will produce some ideas and directions that seem immediately applicable while others should be put in the parking lot to be reintroduced and explored at a next meeting.
The word brainstorming has gotten a bad rap from some who write on the www. The problem they seem to have is that their experiences with the subject have been the antithesis of purposeful brainstorming.
So I propose to use ‘idea generation’ instead of brainstorming. That is the purpose of most brainstorming sessions any way.
A good idea generation session has a clear goal but also leaves lots of room for playing around with ideas and exploring several different avenues that turn up.
A good idea generation session also will produce some ideas and directions that seem immediately applicable while others should be put in the parking lot to be reintroduced and explored at a next meeting.
Powerful questions are ones that dig deeper into a subject and bring up interesting ideas and options. Avoid asking questions that you know the answer as if you are testing someone to see if they know the answer you have in your head. There is no new information, ideas or combinations when you are just testing them. Powerful questions are open ended so that the person answering is free to take the subject in a new direction.