The Method May Change, But the Answer is Always the Same

Good morning, and happy Friday! I hope your day is off to a great start.

If you’ve ever tried to help a first-grader learn the basic art of addition … as taught by teachers who seem to think the old way of simply adding two numbers together is outdated … you can truly appreciate the impact of what the world has come to not-so-affectionately refer to as “2020.” There’s no other explanation.

As I tried showing my granddaughter how to simply count up on her fingers, my wife informed me that this isn’t the way they’ve been taught to add. If the sum goes above 10, you have to subtract, add, subtract again, add again, and do the hokey-pokey with a marshmallow stuck to your nose. I kid you not.

Let’s take a simple equation: 8+5. To me, it’s simple … starting with eight, count five numbers higher, right? No. First you determine the difference between 8 and 10 (subtraction). Then you add enough numbers to reach 10. Then you determine how many are left over (subtraction), then add those numbers to 10 to reach the correct answer. Wow, what could be easier???

So, the equation turns into 10-8=2, 8+2=10, 5-2=3, and 10+3=13. I may be missing a step or two, but you get the basic idea. And to think I’ve been doing it wrong all these years! I sure am glad this new generation of educators came out with the “correct” way of doing something kids mastered in just under two seconds on an abacus.

It reminded me of a time years ago when I was helping my youngest with a math problem. I can’t remember the details, but the bottom line is she had the wrong answer. My slide-rule proved it. But she insisted I was wrong. “In the ‘new math’ this is the answer!” Seems I’ve heard that one before. I may have even tried it myself.

So, for the next ten minutes I tried (unsuccessfully) to explain to her that, for any given equation, there is only one correct answer. Always and forever, every single time. It doesn’t matter how you arrive at that answer, which “new math” technique you employ, or how many sheets of paper you fill up, there’s still only one correct answer. All the rest is fluff.

And it occurred to me this morning that we hamstring ourselves in the same way all too often. We see a goal – a dream we’d like to achieve – and think there’s only one way to get there. Of course, there’s only one way. It’s the same way everybody before us has done it, and they must know something we don’t, right? Just follow the same travel-worn road.

So, what if the road is closed? Do you turn around and go home, or do you break out the map and look for a detour? I’m laughing right now, because I’m NOBODY carries a map these days. That’s so “old school.” Now we turn on the GPS. The one that’s in our phone that we carry in our pocket so we can look at pictures of whatever our friends ate last night.

But the point is, we don’t just quit. There’s still only one correct answer, and for whatever goal we have, it’s called success. If you can’t get there the way you’d planned, you find another way. It may take longer, you may burn more gas, and you may even find yourself in very unfamiliar territory. But the goal, the one and only correct answer, never changes.

That is, as long as we stay focused on the goal and reaching the one correct answer. If we allow ourselves to accept whatever pops up as the “new math,” we’ll never achieve our goal. When obstacles stand in the way, look to the right and left instead of beating your head against a brick wall. There’s an easier way. It may not have been the desired way, but it’ll still get you there.

It’s good to have a plan and to know how you think you’ll reach your goal. But situations change, and sometimes there truly is a more desirable path. Don’t limit your thinking to only what others have done, and don’t be so smug as to think your original plan was the best and easiest way to get things done. Be willing to adapt.

There are lots of different ways to solve an equation, and there are just as many ways to achieve your dreams. Find one that makes sense, but open your mind to other ideas. Some may seem so simple you’ll wonder how they could possibly work. But in the end, it doesn’t matter how you got there as long as the answer is still the same.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2020 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

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