I’m always looking for ways to add complexity when planning a lesson. Almost by its very definition, complexity requires a situation with no clearly correct path to success.
When we ask kids “which one is not like the others,” our cleverest students love to find ways to pick the non-obvious answer. So why not use this as a framework for pushing students deeper into our content.
Rather than giving students four choices where one is right, give four choices where none are right and (of course) none are wrong. This moves students’ focus from “am I right” to “let me explain my answer!” And I’m always more interested in thinking rather than remembering the right answer.
Take Away Obvious Answers
What if I asked, “Which country is not like the others?” and gave these choices:
- South Korea
By picking three, closely-related Asian countries, and then one country from across the globe, I’ve created such an obvious outlier that it robs students of the chance to really think. It’s like a bright light shining in my face! We can’t see past Brazil’s distance from the other three.
Instead, consider which of these countries is not like the others:
- The United States
By removing an obvious answer, we immediately start thinking differently. Perhaps it’s England, because all of the other countries were once under the British Crown. Or maybe it’s Australia because it’s in the southern hemisphere. Is it Canada, because it’s the only country with an officially French-speaking region?
You’ll see students start looking the countries up, digging for a fact that will separate each one.
The challenge changes from “spot the one difference” to “think of as many ways that each one of these choices is different from the other three!”
And that’s going to get kids’ brains sweating.
If you’re working with math, look no further than Which One Doesn’t Belong? And over at Byrdseed.TV, I building out a similar idea across other disciplines.