Adding Up

From an early age, Mike was instructed by his artist parents that 1+1=3. Of course, any math teacher would tell you this was crazy, but artists see the world a little differently. When two lines are drawn parallel to one another, there is also a line created between them, like an aisle in a supermarket. Art was always on Mike’s mind while he was at school, but he was equally capable of understanding his math teacher’s conflicting answer of 1+1=2.

Meanwhile, Shawn, a boy in his class, was purely logical. He held no conflicting beliefs, and always got the highest scores on tests and essays. His papers always presented his arguments as concisely as possible. Shawn used his grades as proof that he was better than his classmates, but Mike wasn’t conceding so easily.

Mike knew why his grades weren’t as impressive as Shawn’s. He took too many risks. When writing his essays, he had a tendency to change his argument half way through, because he changed his mind. Sometimes he would over-think questions on a math test. If a question asked, “If a girl leaves her house at 8:25 to walk to school .5 miles away, how long will it take her to get to school if she walks 5 mph?” Mike would wonder if the road was flat or bumpy. This would cost him ten minutes on a question that only took Shawn three.

In a single moment of insecurity, Mike asked his mother, “Why do I over-think everything?”

“It will benefit you in the future,” Mike’s mother said, “You think outside the box.” Mike knew this to be true, but it was still difficult to accept. He wanted school to come easily to him. He wanted to prove he was just as smart as Shawn. Unfortunately, Shawn and Mike’s relationship remained unchanged until college. Suddenly homework questions were less easily defined.

Mike and Shawn both majored in chemistry engineering, but Mike’s ability to think outside the box, and his willingness to improvise, led him to several new discoveries in the field. Shawn, on the other hand, was lost without the use of direct instructions. High school had taught him to digest information, but not how to explore its greater potential. In the end, this kind of teaching would ensure him a job, but not career.

This story was written by Alex Schattner (8/5/12)

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4 thoughts on “Adding Up

  1. Some teachers enlighten, others squelch dreams. Mike’s parents sound like they were good teachers, showing him alternate ways to look at a problem. Some teachers (and parents) forget that if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. But if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.

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