If you are interested in using problems like this one to make a point, you might want to know about a video I use. I encountered a version of this story in "Why didn't I think of that?" which is a video on creative problem solving. It was published by Learning Seed in 1990. Their address is 330 Telser Road, Lake Zurich, IL, 60047. I don't have a phone number. Maggi Miller Austin Community College >>From: Barak Rosenshine <[log in to unmask]> >>Subject: Not a true story >>A not true story: >> >>Some time ago I received a call from a colleague. He was about to give a >>student a zero for his answer to a physics question, while the student >>claimed a perfect score. The instructor and the student agreed to an >>impartial arbiter, and I was selected. >> >>I read the examination question: >>"SHOW HOW IS IT POSSIBLE TO DETERMINE THE >>HEIGHT OF A TALL BUILDING WITH THE AID OF A BAROMETER." >> >>The student had answered, "Take the barometer to the top of the building, >>attach a long rope to it, lower it to the street, and then bring the rope >>up, measuring the length of the rope. The length of the rope is the height >>of the building." >> >>The student really had a strong case for full credit since he had really >>answered the question completely and correctly! On the other hand, if full >>credit were given, it could well contribute to a high grade in his physics >>course and to certify competence in physics, but the answer did not confirm >>this. >> >>I suggested that the student have another try. I gave the student six >>minutes to answer the question with the warning that the answer should show >>some knowledge of physics. At the end of five minutes, he had not written >>anything. I asked if he wished to give up, but he said he had many answers >>to this problem; he was just thinking of the best one. >> >>I excused myself for interrupting him and asked him to please go on. In the >>next minute, he dashed off his answer which read: "Take the barometer to the >>top of the building and lean over the edge of the roof. Drop the barometer, >>timing its fall with a stopwatch. Then, using the formula x=0.5*a*t^^2, >>calculate the height of the building." >> >>At this point, I asked my colleague if he would give up. He conceded, and >>gave the student almost full credit. While leaving my colleague's office, I >>recalled that the student had said that he had other answers to the problem, >>so I asked him what they were. >> >>"Well," said the student, "there are many ways of getting the height of a >>tall building with the aid of a barometer. For example, you could take the >>barometer out on a sunny day and measure the height of the barometer, the >>length of its shadow, and the length of the shadow of the building, and by >>the use of simple proportion, determine the height of the building." >>"Fine," I said, "and others?" >> >>"Yes," said the student, "there is a very basic measurement method you will >>like. In this method, you take the barometer and begin to walk up the >>stairs. As you climb the stairs, you mark off the length of the barometer >>along the wall. You then count the number of marks, and this will give you >>the height of the building in barometer units." >> >>"A very direct method." >> >>"Of course. If you want a more sophisticated method, you can tie the >>barometer to the end of a string, swing it as a pendulum, and determine the >>value of g at the street level and at the top of the building. >> From the difference between the two values of g, the height of the building, >>in principle, can be calculated." >> >>"On this same tact, you could take the barometer to the top of the building, >>attach a long rope to it, lower it to just above the street, and then swing >>it as a pendulum. You could then calculate the height of the building by the >>period of the precession". >> >>"Finally," he concluded, "there are many other ways of solving the problem. >>Probably the best," he said, "is to take the barometer to the basement and >>knock on the superintendent's door. When the superintendent answers, you >>speak to him as follows: >> >>'Mr. Superintendent, here is a fine barometer. If you will tell me the >>height of the building, I will give you this barometer." >> >>At this point, I asked the student if he really did not know the >>conventional answer to this question. He admitted that he did, but said that >>he was fed up with high school and college instructors trying to teach him >>how to think. >> > > > >********************************* >Norman A. Stahl, Acting Chair >Department of Literacy, >Intercultural and Language Education >GH 223c >Northern Illinois University >DeKalb, IL 60115 > >Telephone: >(815) 753-9032 {office} >(815) 753-8563 (FAX) > >Email: [log in to unmask]