The TouchPaper Problems are haunting my dreams.
Before last Saturday’s presentation about the Problems, I already wrote 7 questions – two of which I revealed in the talk. To decide on them I thought back to the problems that frustrated my own classroom practice and the times when I wondered: “How the heck am I going to do x“.
But I didn’t just want any questions. I wanted problems that would reveal knowledge useful to anyone in education – whether teaching 5 year olds in a sleepy Cotswold valley, or at-risk 16 year-olds in Bradford. There’s also the problem of subject specificity. Right from my first discussion about the TouchPaper Problems people have been asking if there are different priorities for maths, or science, or drama. And this week Mike Cameron asked to the complex by pondering if we need a periodic table of students before we can answer such questions.
These are all great points, and I’m not averse to any of them. Maybe we need subject-specific problems. Maybe a periodic table would be useful. But today I’m keeping things simple.
So here are the problems I wrote 10 days ago. Slightly adapted, admittedly, but still generic and (I think) solvable. There is more to each one than meets the eye, so next week I will blog the thinking behind them. Until then, I’m sticking them out there in the world. It’s a first lighting of the TouchPaper, if you will. Enjoy!
The TouchPaper Problems – Version 1
- What is the shortest period of a time in which any person with dyslexia can be taught to spell the 1000 most common words in English?
- How can one invoke in a class the emotional state most productive for: (a) prosocial behaviour, (b) evaluative thinking, (c) memorization, (d) creation?
- If a child needs to remember 20 chunks of knowledge from one lesson to the next, what is the most effective homework to set?
- What determines the complexity of a concept?
- What are the necessary and sufficient conditions under which students will enter a classroom and most speedily engage in productive problem-solving?
- What rule best predicts teacher ‘behaviour’ ratings of pupils?
- What is the optimal number of times for a student to (a) read, (b) hear, or (c) say information aloud if they are to retain for 1, 3, & 6 month intervals?