Puzzles such as the one above fascinate me. It seems as though every few days a new one is posted on the various social media cites. When I first look at these things, they look like fun simple little problems to test one’s mathematical skills. However, as I think about these puzzles I start to view them a little differently. I start to wonder what the creator’s true intent was. Did they just decide to put something out there for the fun of it? Were they creating it to give people the opportunity to occasionally renew their mathematical skills? Or, is there an even bigger reason?
With the puzzle above, I began contemplating the concept of problem solving. By problem solving I don’t mean mathematical problems, but problems or difficult decisions that one may be faced with. How do you solve problems? What steps need to be taken to ensure the correct solution is arrived at?
When it comes to problem solving it is all about information. The number one thing that must be done to correctly solve a problem is to OBTAIN all the necessary information and carefully REVIEW that information. Don’t assume that the first piece of information you are presented with is all you need, or assume that the first thing that comes to mind when presented with that information is the correct thing. Furthermore, don’t ignore other pieces of information because you are pretty sure the information you have already reviewed is enough to come to the correct solution.
For example, consider the presented problem. One could look at the first image in the problem above and the first thing that comes to mind is 2+3=5; the bird weighs 2kg and the rabbit 3kg. You then automatically assume this must be correct, ignoring any other possibilities, and begin to review the next piece of information. Based on your assumption of the first image, you come to the conclusion that the pig must weigh 101kg and the answer to the second image is 101-2=99. You now come to the conclusion that you have all the necessary information. You think you know how much each one weighs and decide to skip the the third piece of information (image). You come the conclusion that the solution to the problem is 106kg. Unfortunately, because of the assumptions that were made and the ignoring of the third piece of information, you don’t realize that you have come to the wrong conclusion.
When problems are not properly solved, incorrect solutions may be implemented and ultimately lead to more problems. To come to the right conclusion one must invest the time and energy needed to OBTAIN the necessary information and then conduct a thorough REVIEW of that information. This is one of, if not, the key element(s) of problem solving.