Then, I got to high school and met Mr. White, math department head, and, to my good fortune, my teacher for Algebra 2/Trigonometry. He told me there is no such thing as a non-math person: everyone could learn and love math, it just might take a different method of instruction to get them there. He offered to give me and a few other students help during 0 period and after school--whichever worked best. I remember asking him, "You really think you can help me confidently find the answers to problems like these?" and most of all, I remember his answer: "I think I can help you learn to ask the right questions to confidently solve problems like these."
It really doesn't matter what the subject area; asking the right questions is the only way we get to the very best answers. It is how new inventions are born, cures are discovered, and the trickiest of problems are solved. So what is the secret, then? Is there, in fact, an art or skill involved in developing the right questions? We often reply to others, "That is a good question!" when we find ourselves confronted with a question that is difficult to answer. So is that it then? Is a good question characterized by being difficult to answer?
According to Vincent F. Hendricks, professor of formal philosophy and logic at The University of
Open questions are good if you want an answer that includes consideration and assessment, for example: "What's so intriguing about a good detective story?" The danger of asking open questions is that they can be too open. For example, "What is the most important problem we must solve?" A question like this is so open, we don't know how to answer, and it may create more problems than it solves! What type of problem are we talking about? Is it environmental, economic, political, scientific or personal?
Closed questions are good if you want a very clear answer, for example, "Can you ride a unicycle?" You can only answer this type of question very simply, in this case, "yes" or "no." The danger with closed questions is that they often produce answers that make things seem simpler than they are in reality. Hendricks suggests that if you want to become more informed, "A good question is not necessarily one you can answer "yes" or "no" to, but one where your answer depends on conditions or qualifications. Open questions invite reflection, but they need a frame or a context to help us understand and focus on the specific issues that are needing our concentration.
Hendricks has developed three rules of asking good questions that are as follows:
1. Frame the question- give it a context. This is how you avoid talking at cross-purpose.
2. Establish some agreed facts. The more you agree about the framing of the question, the clearer your answer can be.
3. Ask a short, clear, precise question to avoid ambiguity. If any doubts arise over how to answer the question, you'll get a bad answer because you have asked a poorly formulated question.
Click on the link here to read an article in Forbes Magazine about asking the right questions. Tell me the single thing that stood out to you the most in that article. Then, check out the "mystery puzzle below." What three questions must you ask yourself in order to come up with the solution? What is that solution? I am interested in hearing your theories!
Forbes link: http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidsturt/2013/10/18/are-you-asking-the-right-question/#189da4083d38
The Case of the Insured Painting
Conrad Sleuth’s alarm clock and telephone rang at the same time. He turned off the alarm and answered the phone.
“This is Hilda Dean,” a young woman said. “Someone broke into my house last night and stole a valuable painting.”
Sleuth took her address, put on some clothes, and drove to her house. She let him in, and he asked her to tell him exactly what had happened.
“I was asleep,” she said, “When the howling wind woke me up. I got up to close the window, and I thought I heard a noise downstairs. When I got downstairs, I realized that the street light was out, and it was too dark to see anything. So I lit a candle and walked out on the front steps. Sure enough. I saw a man running off.”
“Then what did you do?” Sleuth asked.
“I came back inside and looked things over,” she said. “Nothing seemed to be missing, so I went back to bed. Then, this morning, I noticed that a painting had been taken from the basement.”
“Is the painting insured?” Sleuth asked.
“Well, yes. But money will never replace it.”
Have you called the police, Ms. Dean?”
“No. I’ll call them now.”
“I’ll do it.” Sleuth said. “While we’re waiting for them, you can decide whether you want to repeat your story to them – or tell them the truth.”