## Odd One Out: How to and how not to do it!

Many of you are probably familiar with exercises of the type ‘which one does not belong?’  There are many variations of this, but the one that I’m most familiar with is where you have four objects (pictures, words, numbers, shapes, etc.) and you have to decide which one is different from the others.  In the more fun examples there are multiple ‘good’ answers, and in some of them you can even come up with a reasonable explanation for each of the four objects.  Here are some good picture examples made up by my sister on her blog .  If you want to make some examples say with letters, here are a few possible characteristics they can differ by: consonants/vowels, capital/lowercase, color, size, straight/curvy lines, thickness, etc,…  The possibilities are endless!  I have given many different variations of these to Katie and she really enjoys them.  Whenever we do them together, I always try to emphasize the explanation as opposed to the actual answer.

And here is where we get to the real inspiration for this post.  Yesterday Katie went to a Russian class at a Russian enrichment program where the teacher gave them an exercise, of the type described above, with words.  The four words were рыба, лиса, робот, рак (fish, fox, robot, cancer (the animal)).  The teacher then went around the room and asked each child to whisper their answer into her ear.  Given that these were 5-7 year old kids, the whispering could of course be heard by everyone else.  Katie was one of the first one to go and her answer was лиса (which even a non-Russian can see starts with a different letter from the rest of the words).  Everyone, except for the last boy, repeated the same answer.  The last boy’s answer was робот (robot).  The teacher calls this boy up to the front of the class and says, “Finally someone gave the correct answer.  Everyone else just monkeyed the same wrong answer.”  I was in disbelief!  (By the way, if you are surprised that parents got to sit in on the class, I was too.  However, I was glad to witness this).  The teacher then went on to explain that robot was the correct answer because it is non-living whereas everything else is.  So much for letting the kids be creative and think for themselves!

Perhaps if everything else in the lesson was great, this alone might not have turned me away from signing Katie up for this class.  However, a large part of the lesson was fairly boring for the kids and the teacher kept strictly telling them that they have to sit up straight, not turn around, and keep their feet on the ground.  This also less than impressed me.  Fortunately, this is an optional class and unlike actual school where you are often stuck with a teacher regardless of whether you like him/her or not, with this one we can choose for Katie not to attend.  Incidentally, my husband went up to the teacher after the class to discuss the ‘odd one out’ example with her.  Her conclusion?  “Perhaps лиса was the correct answer after all.” Do you think that some teachers feel that there always has to be a right answer?  How would you suggest for your little ones to deal with such teachers?  Would you tell them to try to argue with the teacher or not bother?  How do you prevent them from getting hurt or losing their confidence?

I enjoy thinking about presenting mathematical concepts to young children in exciting and engaging ways.
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### 3 Responses to Odd One Out: How to and how not to do it!

1. Unfortunately, this is so typical for an educational community. Especially now, as a consequence of No Child Left Behind and massive multiple-choice testing aproach. Only small number of teachers still tries “out of the box” approach. That is why it is so important to give kids problems with multiple possible answers and always ask them to explain their answers. Even in school when I give a MC question to my class (they need to learn how to deal with this stuff for the AP exam), I always start asking people who gave wrong answers first, and ask them to explain their logic. The same should be done from day care/kindergarten lessons to colleges. We always should listen to kids’ explanations. Maybe, they see something that we missed. Or, on the other hand, maybe, their view of the problem should be corrected for the sake of their future development.
BTW, really interesting approach is chosen to new AP physics exam. You do not know in advance, how many answers are correct. Maybe, one or all four. That is, to me, the way to use MC questions in education. Sorry, a bit off topic.

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2. Scott says:

One teacher asked her class what the difference between her model solar system and the actual solar system was. My daughter answered that the real solar system has an asteroid belt. Incorrect! The real solar system is larger. The best way to deal with this probably depends on the situation. I think in your case that you were absolutely correct. Your daughter will obviously benefit more from quality time with you than in that particular class. In our case, this was our daughter’s primary teacher for the year. However, we felt that she was still learning enough that we didn’t protest (especially since she had a different math teacher). I did bring this problem to the teacher’s attention at a later time during a conference, but didn’t make much of the issue.

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3. We do what you do – leave. Some people are interested in opening up, and you can always ask. But usually this “little” belief in The One Correct Answer (TM) is a marker of the whole philosophy of life, the universe, and everything. That is, a grown-up is very unlikely to change that in a hurry.

People who want to change can do the exercise called “Total YES.” In that exercise, it is your task to say YES to absolutely, totally everything the other person says – and to find ways to make it true. You don’t just smile and wave, you creatively seek ways to confirm what the other person says. There is an elephant in your pocket, you say? Sure thing, a toy elephant!

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