Do You See What I See?
December 13, 2011 3 Comments
Over the past week, I’ve been observing how my kids take in and process information. This little experiment has been fascinating. What I’ve come to realize is that although we might be looking at the same thing, my kids and I “see” different things. This is particularly true with my 8-year old son.
My son had just finished a few pages of his multiplication workbook and asked me to check his answers. He’s much (much, much) more mathematically inclined than I am, so I wasn’t surprised when he answered all the math problems correctly. What did surprise me was a pattern he saw when multiplying by 5.
Take a look at the 5’s multiplication table below and describe all the patterns you see.
What patterns did you see? I saw a pattern of skip counting by 5’s…5, 10, 15, 20 and so on. Yet, my son saw something entirely different. In looking at the 5’s multiplication table, he noticed that when you multiply 5 by an even number (like 2, 4, 6, 8, 10), the answer is the same as taking that even number, dividing it in half, then multiplying it by 10. Take a look.
5×2 = (2/2) x 10
5 x 4 = (4/2) x 10
5 x 6 = (6/2) x 10
My son’s observation astounded me. In all my years, I had never seen, nor had I ever heard, anyone describe this pattern. At first there was disbelief. I had to try my son’s trick for myself. I grabbed a piece of paper…and, gosh…no matter what even number I used, my son was right! Then, I began to doubt my own math abilities. How could an 8-year old see something that I, as an adult, didn’t see (nor would I ever see had he not pointed it out to me). I was baffled.
I began to realize how perception can be a powerful thing. For, what we “see” is made up of how we’re naturally wired (math abilities, language abilities, physical abilities, etc.), as well as, what we are pre-programmed to see based on cultural, societal, and personal experiences. After a bit of introspection and contemplation, I decided to spend more time asking people about what they perceive. The world gets a lot more interesting when you see how others organize information and how they interpret it. Fascinating!