The students are teachers learning different hands-on ways of teaching math.
Little did she know that her rounds with this set of students would include some discipline. As she steps into the hall, she finds the mirror group already using the laser for trial and error, instead of calculating the angles first, as they were instructed. “You naughty monkeys,” she reprimands. When she gives the laser back later, they find they’ve missed the mark.
“It’s a visceral experience,” Coughlin says. Students sometimes have to go back and analyze what went wrong and try again. And that makes them remember. On her comprehensive exams at the end of the school year, she’s found that they do best on subjects they’ve explored through these kinds of labs.
If the teachers as students have to be disciplined, doesn’t that mean there is something wrong here? And yes, I think there is something wrong. Why does she discipline the students at all? Apparently, the trial and error method will not work and won’t the students learn and perhaps even appreciate the calculation of angles even more so if they learn the hard way? Doing it her way, they haven’t learned to appreciate the power of math or the worth of the scientific method, they’ve learned to follow instructions.
This is what I like about Odyssey of the Mind. The problem would have been phased differently, something along the lines of:
Using a laser and a minimum of three mirrors, direct the laser to hit the target. The entire length the laser beam must travel is a minimum of four feet. After you hit the target the first time, the judges will move the target to a new position and you will have the remaining time to adjust the mirrors to hit the target in the new position.
Hit or miss is less likely to score the team as many points. This results in the students finding and trying different methods to solve the problem rather than being told how to solve it.