The Philosophy Shop’s Blog

A place to exchange ideas about philosophy

Tell them the answer!

Posted by Philosophy Foundation on December 1, 2010

Reasoning is like joining the dots. It is all about making connections, step by step, between different points in a chain to reach a conclusion. Sometimes, in order to establish a route, you need to know the starting point and the end point. So, it can sometimes be logically fruitful to tell your class the answer but to withhold the reasons why it is the answer. Explaining the answer then becomes the task for the class and they have a clear end-point to navigate towards. To make things a little more challenging you could give them a choice of answers with the stipulation that they must justify the answer they choose. This is a process-orientated style of teaching rather than goal-orientated. Try the following puzzle in this way and see how the children deal with it much better than if you simply give them the problem, which will often leave them very confused. Use this puzzle with the problem-solving procedure I described in an earlier issue of Teach Primary (Vol. 4.6) ‘Any answers?’ (included on this site as ‘A Socratic Method for Problem Solving’).

The Way to Larisa

You are standing at a fork in the road and you are trying to get to the city of Larisa but you don’t know whether to take the left fork or the right fork. There are two brothers at the fork and you know that one of them always lies and the other always tells the truth. What single question could you ask them that will reveal the correct path to take?

The answer is: ‘Which way would your brother say to take?’ I shall leave it to you and your class to say why this is the correct question to ask!

(Originally published in Teach Primary magazine)

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