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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Eleven Plus Habits

When your child is tackling an eleven plus question you may feel, sometimes, that the he or she is going round and round in circles. Of course it may not be your child that appears to be fixated on a certain mode of answering – it could even be others members of the family. In one sense we want a true eleven plus child to feel so well prepared that the finding the correct answer is almost a habit – but we don’t want the habit to be so ingrained that answering certain types of questions is only done in a certain way. (This is almost the same as: “But my teacher says we do it this way. I can’t do it your way.)

William James, a philosopher (1842 – 1910) stated that `habit is the flywheel of society’. Did he mean, in eleven plus terms, that a habitual approach to a problem makes it harder to break the habit and come up with a fresh approach?

Children on our eleven plus courses are often presented with questions designed to make them `think out of the box’. They are asked to measure a certain quantity of water.

A Chinese rice farmer wants to water a section of his field. He has three containers, three litres, twenty one litres and one hundred litres. The stream that runs through his paddy field provides unlimited water. How does he measure one hundred litres?

The solution, as all eleven plus mathematicians will immediately solve, is to:

Fill the 127 litre container.
From this fill the 21 litre container
Then fill the 3 litre container twice.

This leaves the desired 100 litres in the biggest container.

This provides us with a happy farmer, a well watered rice field and a neat solution.

Some members of your family will offer the solution in a flash. Others will need to read and re-read the question hoping for a solution. Some may actually understand the question while others will simply guess and then argue that their answer is correct.

If one of you recorded all the different attempts on the water question you may come up with a picture of how you, your spouse, your eleven plus child and any possible siblings approach the problem. You will naturally hope that your eleven plus child finds the neatest, the quickest and the most accurate solution.

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