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edu180atl: julia simmons 1.20.12

I was sitting in math class learning about variables and rational numbers when my teacher, Mrs. Story, began to talk to us about how to algebraically solve for a variable. At first, I thought I knew how she was going to teach this, but it turned out I was wrong. Earlier that week, my dad had explained to me how to solve these equations in a completely different way from how Mrs. Story taught them. My dad had showed me the long way, but Mrs. Story showed me a useful shortcut. Although my dad’s way took longer, it was more reliable than the shortcut.

I thought about that very carefully, and then it hit me.

I have always heard multiple interpretations on how to solve math problems, but something about this occasion made me think…

I began to think that there might be other problems that can be solved multiple ways. Maybe difficulties or challenges in life can be overcome using multiple methods. When people run into a problem in life, usually, the first solution they think of they use. It might not always work. Perhaps if they thought a little bit longer, they could think of a better and more efficient resolution.

People always teach to choose between right and wrong. I have noticed that choosing between right and wrong is not the problem for most people. Most people can tell the difference.

But maybe it’s more than just that. Maybe it’s that there is more than one solution to a problem. Both of them could be correct, but one might take more effort than the other. It’s not always natural to back away from the easy choice, but sometimes the more difficult way is what’s necessary.

So today I learned not only that there are multiple ways to solve a problem — related to or not related to math — but that there can be two choices: the easy way or the right way. Although the right way might be more difficult, it will often be more effective than the easy way. The challenge in life is to figure out the best solution.

About the Author: A violinist and a lacrosse player, Julia Simmons is enthusiastic about learning. She is a sixth grader at Trinity School who has always wanted a dog.

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5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thank you for this thoughtful post, Julia.

    January 21, 2012
  2. Maryellen Berry #

    Julia, thank you for sharing your wisdom. I have found that the easiest way is inevitably the path to avoid. And, despite the time and sweat required, the hard way reaps benefits of a more lasting kind.

    January 22, 2012
  3. George Maxwell #

    Excellent! Life lessons in math class. Your Grandmother will be thrilled. I’m impressed that you are more interested in getting things right than getting them done. Here, of course, you have done both.

    January 24, 2012
  4. Stephen G. Kennedy #

    Julia — I love this writing. For many reasons. One is that you pose “easy vs right,” which is always a big ethical issue for all of us — and increasingly it becomes a concern in our quickandeasy world. Another is that you reflect so beautifully on complex issues for which math is such a perfect metaphor. But the third is the most profound for me, and I read it “between the lines.” It pertains to those pesky gray areas between easy and right.

    Wrong is a no-brainer – we can readily write it off. Even easy can be dismissed — picking right can be something that comes to many of us with maturity. But — what I find so thought-provoking here is that you arrived at your insight by reflecting on the whole process — by teaching yourself about something crucial — by learning by learning! Your “epiphany” is one that many adults miss. The gray areas of life — the ones that dwell between right and right at times — are ethically complex and difficult — those are the ones that require us to really wrestle with big-time dilemmas.

    And you are someone who will grow into the kind of individual who can tackle those complex matters, think through them, see the implications — and arrive at judgments that have importance for yourself and for others. That’s what I see in the wisdom of your writing. And I thank you for that!

    January 24, 2012
  5. Beautiful post, Julia! I continued to be amazed at what thoughtful students Trinity produces. I love the subtlety of your insight here on the gray areas of life and the need to pause before we reflexively choose the easy path.

    January 25, 2012

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