Monday, 31 December 2007

1 + 1 = 74:: Abstract maths teaches intelligence students to think beyond the obvious?

Brand Killer Robots reveal::
I watched as he wrote patterns on the window. Formulas, Variables, Graphs and Models.
I watched as the problem was scoped, deconstructed, translated, interpreted, transposed, remodeled and whatever.
I watched as solutions and alternative solutions were demonstrated.
I watched as the audience gasped in amazement in witnessing the process, the outcome and the eventual euforia that ensued afterwards.

I watched it all - and yet although i did not understand the gesticulations of the symbolic number festival - i knew - i just knew that this mathematician was not nearly as smart as he thought he was.

After all, what he had just solved was a problem that thousands of other mathematicians could solve, that robots could solve much faster and that had no real application anyway.

So one day when i was teaching a class of academics how to think about the world in abstract ways I asked them to solve one simple problem. The problem was to consider how 1 + 1 might equal 74 (1 + 1= 74). Many of these students were bound for careers in computer programming, in competitive and business intelligence and others in information security.
I asked them to consider how 1 + 1 might equal 74 and not 2.

Suffice to say - not one student solved the problem.

Here is the answer and workings out.
First you take the number 74 to be an arbitrary number.
If you substract 72 from 74 you get 2, meaning 1 + 1 = 2 and not 1 + 1 =74.
So (1 + 1) is the same as (74 - 72) which = 2.

Here is an application
Say you were auditing a company and you found that there were 72 major risks inside the organisation - you could say that - 1 + 1 = 74 and unless all 72 risks were mitigated 1 + 1 would always equal 74. If all 72 risks were mitigated you could then say that the organisation really added up and therefore the calculation 1 + 1 would then evaulate as expected (1+1= 2).
Mathematics is an interesting language, but you don't always need to take language so literately. Sometimes you need to bend language in ways in which it was never intended.

In any case, in the world of intelligence - students need to learn how to think beyond the obvious. That was the whole point of the exercise.

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