The desire to hire people who look at problems differently is growing. The Harvard Business Review published a 2017 article, Neurodiversity as a Competitive Advantage , which discussed how a growing number of companies are now changing their hiring practices. These businesses were finding that people with learning differences had some incredible skills that the companies badly needed but very few people with learning differences were actually making it through the interview process. As part of their changes, these companies were also providing assistance to these new hires to help them with some of their weaker skills.
Most students do not think of mathematicians as being creative. Math was created long ago, so their story goes. Geometry was created 2,300 years ago; algebra 1,200 years ago; and calculus 350 years ago. No math has been created since long ago, they speculate.
In a previous blog about Emoji Algebra, I presented the idea of using pictures (i.e., emojis) for variables. I will now add to that idea by using the physical structure of a mobile to represent the balance (i.e., equality) that must take place between the two sides of an equation.
Inspired by the game Settlers of Catan, I constructed a game-world that requires using math as the players manage their crops, livestock, natural resources, and defenses. Thus was born Skellig, in which each player manages an island—or skellig, using an Irish word for rocky island.
Students of mine who have great difficulty with algebra have little problem solving the puzzle below, which uses pictures of food instead of standard variables (i.e., x, y, and z). (The solution is at the end of this blog.) Further, two of my current summer students are a 3rd grader and a 4th grader and they can also solve the food puzzle below, even though they are at least two years away from studying algebraic equations in school.
In “Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?,” Frans de Waal discusses how the study of animal cognition is recently breaking free of lumping diverse animals into one category and judging them on one dimension of intelligence. Before this recent shift, researchers would often give the same puzzles to diverse species without any accommodations. For example, chimps easily use long sticks to reach up for elevated food, but elephants do not. Are chimps therefore smarter than elephants? Not if you notice that an elephant does not pick up sticks with the tip of its trunk because the stick would block its nasal passage. Replace the stick with a sturdy box and the elephant will kick the box into position so it can stand on it to retrieve the food.