Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Impossible

I am extremely embarrassed to admit this, but I struggled with a 5th grade math problem. It’s embarrassing because I love math and I’m pretty good at it – usually.

Here’s the problem: 2 = 140 ÷ 2 + 12 – 4 x 2. All I had to do was add parenthesis to make the statement true.

Seems easy enough, but for some reason I really struggled with it. I must have tried at least ten different combinations of parenthesis and I wasn’t getting anywhere close to the right answer.

The problem was that I was focused on the wrong thing. I kept thinking that I needed to get the last four numbers to equal 70 since 140 ÷ 70 = 2. It just wasn’t going to work.

I figured there must be a misprint, or maybe the creators wanted to include one that was impossible. I wrote “impossible” underneath the problem and turned the paper over.

In the split second that it took me to do that, the thought came to me, “Look again. It is not impossible.”

I turned the paper over again, and instantly, I saw the solution:
2 = 140 ÷ (2 + 12) – 4 x 2. It was so easy. Why didn’t I see that before? (Because I was too focused on the wrong thing).

Then another thought came to me:

Sometimes what seems impossible is really rather simple once the solution has been found. We just have to keep looking to find the solution and trust that it is there.

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