The $5 question

“What would you do to earn money if all you had was five dollars and two hours?”

Stanford University‘s Tina Seelig set this as an assignment for one of her classes, not to talk or write about it, but to do it. Their activities ranged from setting up lemonade stands, to selling their time waiting in line for others at restaurant queues. From this range of money making opportunities came a simple but powerful idea.

“The teams that made the most money didn’t use the five dollars at all. They realized that focusing on the money actually framed to problem way too tightly. They understood that five dollars is essentially nothing and decided to reinterpret the problem more broadly: What can we do to make money if we start with absolutely nothing?”

If Tina’s original problem was framed too tightly, what hope is there for the majority of problems framed by teachers for pupils? Sometimes in our attempts to ‘scaffold’ learning are we really just limiting the possibilities?

There are a lot of problems out there, and many of them are going to need significant reframing and questioning of assumptions in order to solve them. I wonder if this kind of thinking is something we should be paying a lot more attention to in schools.

What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20: A Crash Course on Making Your Place In The World by Tina Seelig








2 responses to “The $5 question”

  1. Julia Skinner Avatar

    This is a really interesting post & such a sobering thought. In my opinion we need to teach children to be able to think about problems and how to solve them rather than ‘support’ them in a way that will ensure they pass tests.

  2. Hannah Jones Avatar

    Give children space to learn and provoke learning through open questions, then step back and observe what they do with it.
    Yes, it’s a scary thought not to be ‘in control’ of everything that happens in your classroom, but I am 100% convinced that amazing things happen when we are given space, time and just enough encouragement to learn.
    …It works for grown-ups too!

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