Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Moral right and right answers

I've been trying a few approaches to helping my daughter with her maths. One problem with maths is that the stress of finding the 'right answer' can induce a state of mind where it is harder to think. Instead of focusing on the answer, I've been trying to focus on the different possible methods. Some methods are easy, but long; others are quite hard, but very efficient. Choosing the best method is important. Much of the anxiety in my daughter seems to be based around "we weren't told to do it that way!" - as if there are ways of doing it that might get her into trouble.

I'm wondering about the extent to which a 'moral sense' is as much at the heart of knowing the right answer as it is in doing the right thing. If that is the case, what teaching approaches could be used to relate choosing (and learning) effective methods? In computer programming, there is clearly a link between the best method and doing the right thing (my predominant feeling when programming is often guilt!).

I'm finding that by emphasising the moral dimension and moral choice in finding the right answer (by contextualising the problem in a moral framework), some of the stress can be overcome. "If someone's life depended on this, which method would you choose?" To understand why, I think it's useful to see the stress as emerging from the 3-4 homeostat which gets itself into a double-bind situation. Morality sits at System 5, and so takes more of a direct control over the balancing between the two.

3 comments:

John Hardie said...

Like the idea; so the point is to dwarf the sense of moral obligation associated with the choice of the method with a much more compelling, but fantastical, sense of moral obligation to find the answer? Perhaps i'll try it.

Susanne said...

I'd like to hear more about this idea, Mark. Please continue... :-)

Mark Johnson said...

I'll flesh this out in the next week or so...