Ways of looking at a problem

A friend posted this “IQ” problem on Facebook.

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Now I have always had my doubts about the validity of the questions on an IQ Test.

I started to try and solve the problem using algebra. I was taught at school to transfer a term to the other side of the equals sign.
I tried this and got myself immersed in combinations of 76 + 38 or 76- 38, which yielded meaningless answers when I considered the third  division problem to solve.

I therefore decided to completely revise my thinking. I ignored the top of the problem that said IQ test, I slowed down and I thought about things carefully and with no pressure of time.

I will not give away the answer because I felt I would leave it to my readers to try it themselves or maybe (if you teach) with students.
It does though raise a number of things that concern me about IQ tests in particular and tests generally.

(1) The pressure of time is a problem. Whenever we are forced to hurry in order to finish we induce a “fight or flight” reaction in our brain that can often lead to mental shutdown, that “can’t think of a thing” moment.

(2) We often use taught techniques that can be misleading or just plain wrong.

(3) We see the problem as important only for the answer and the mark for correctness as the end of the process.

(4) The “mark” we get can determine our position in school, possibly  chance of a job.

I have always hated (and done quite poorly) at IQ Tests. They have never really measured intelligence but have always measured test preparation and taking ability. If we can continue to let them  dominate our student’s futures we will suffer from holding back the potential of so many who may, if given the chance, be great contributors to our society.

The real shame of the question above is the potential it has to be a basis for group discussion and problem solving. Just take away the opening “IQ TEST” and give the students time to think and explore and this becomes a useful learning process not a timed torture!

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