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A Lesson from Maths

A story about how different individuals think and learn differently.

A teacher teaching Maths to seven-year-old Shrina asked her, ‘If I give you one apple and one apple and one apple, how many apples will you have?
‘Within a few seconds Shrina replied confidently, ‘Four!’
The dismayed teacher was expecting an effortless correct answer (three).
She was disappointed. ‘Maybe the child did not listen properly,’ she thought. She repeated, ‘Shrina, listen carefully. If I give you one apple and one apple and one apple, how many apples will you have?’
Shrina had seen the disappointment on her teacher’s face. She calculated again on her fingers. But within her she was also searching for the answer that will make the teacher happy. Her search for the answer was not for the correct one, but the one that will make her teacher happy. This time hesitatingly she replied, ‘Four…’
The disappointment stayed on the teacher’s face. She remembered that Shrina liked Strawberries. She thought maybe she doesn’t like apples and that is making her loose focus. This time with an exaggerated excitement and twinkling in her eyes she asked, ‘If I give you one strawberry and one strawberry and one strawberry, then how many you will have?’
Seeing the teacher happy, young Shrina calculated on her fingers again. There was no pressure on her, but a little on the teacher. She wanted her new approach to succeed.
With a hesitating smile, young Shrina enquired, ‘Three?’
The teacher now had a victorious smile. Her approach had succeeded. She wanted to congratulate herself. But one last thing remained. Once again she asked her, ‘Now if I give you one apple and one apple and one more apple how many will you have?’
Promptly, Shrina answered, ‘Four!’
The teacher was aghast. ‘How Shrina, how?’ she demanded in a little stern and irritated voice.
In a voice that was low and hesitating, young Shrina replied, ‘Because I already have one apple in my bag.’
‘When someone gives you an answer that is different from what you expect don’t think they are wrong. There may be an angle that you have not thought of at all. You will have to listen and understand, and not listen with a predetermined notion.’