Last weekend a daily newspaper published a question of a Hong Kong elementary school admissions test. The children had as much as twenty seconds time to answer the question.

I myself could not figure out the answer within that time. I was too eager to see what kind of a trick was involved in that question and looked the answer without racking my brains over the problem any further. When I realized what the question was all about it felt brilliant.

In the discussion after the article people were telling what kind of a logic they tried to use to solve the problem. According to the article it was a mathematical question and some people said that it does not evaluate mathematical skill, but something totally different.

It is said however that mathematics is a universal language. The most simple language exercises are these kind of tasks, in which one has to fill an empty space in a sentence or in an equation.

Someone asked annoyed why must we prepare our children for Mathematical Olympiad from the very first grade. Someone laughs secretly as one observes university students pondering the problem: What takes an elementary school student just seconds to do, takes a high school student several minutes, a college student half and hour and a Ph.D a lifetime.

“We can never solve a problem on the same level of thinking on which it was created”, would Albert Einstein say here. So, what is the real problem when we look at the task?

We are looking at the parking lot from a bird’s-eye view.
In order to solve the problem we have to go in our minds to the parking lot and see it with the eyes of a car driver. In doing so we realize that there is no problem at all.

In the Thrive movie it is said that when a story doesn’t make sense follow the money (43:10). It is just another way to say that we should follow the practises that are used in real life.

In order to solve problems we must be capable of seeing things from another person’s perspective, not only look at them from bird’s-eye view. This applies to every aspect of life, because imagination is a true sign of intelligence.

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Discussion in Hong-Kong Elementary School Admissions-Test Question 21