A Lesson from Math

A teacher who was teaching Math to seven-year-old Roger asked him, ‘If I give you one apple and one apple and one apple, how many apples will you have?

‘Within a few seconds Roger replied confidently, ‘Four!’

The dismayed teacher was expecting an effortless correct answer (three). She was disappointed. ‘Maybe the child did not listen properly,’ she thought. She repeated, ‘Roger, listen carefully. If I give you one apple and one apple and one apple, how many apples will you have?’

Roger had seen the disappointment on his teacher’s face. He calculated again on his fingers. But within him he was also searching for the answer that will make the teacher happy. His search for the answer was not for the correct one, but the one that will make his teacher happy. This time hesitatingly he replied, ‘Four…’

The disappointment stayed on the teacher’s face. She remembered that Roger liked strawberries. She thought maybe he doesn’t like apples and that is making him lose focus. This time with an exaggerated excitement and twinkling in her eyes she asked, ‘If I give you one strawberry and one strawberry and one  strawberry, then how many you will have?’

Seeing the teacher happy, young Roger calculated on his fingers again. There was no pressure on him, but a little on the teacher. She wanted her new approach to succeed.

With a hesitating smile, young Roger enquired, ‘Three?’

The teacher now had a victorious smile. Her approach had succeeded. She wanted to congratulate herself. But one last thing remained. Once again she asked him, ‘Now if I give you one apple and one apple and one more apple how many will you have?’

Promptly, Roger answered, ‘Four!’

The teacher was aghast. ‘How Roger, how?’ she demanded in a little stern and irritated voice.

In a voice that was low and hesitating, young Roger replied, ‘Because I already have one apple in my bag.’

Learning : This was an instance of how different individuals think and learn differently. When someone gives you an answer that is different from what you expect, don’t think they are wrong. There may be an angle that you have not thought of at all. You will have to listen and understand, and not listen with a predetermined notion.