Now, I think this is somewhat funny, and mock outrage is all fun and games until someone loses an eye. Just in case you want to take this seriously and get your panties in a bunch, read my rebuttal.
I’m not necessarily for these weird exercises (as I’ve gotten them with my kids, and they make me feel stupid), but I do think that being able to approach unfamiliar problems in different ways is a good learning tool.
It dawns on me that these sorts of things are ways in which to experience learning in a classroom that is decoupled from one’s previous education. For example, in a mixed ethnic and socioeconomic classroom you have kids who have previous experience with particular problems and the manner in which they are solved. They have parents who have given them a head start, so to speak – flash cards at home, reading at bedtime, camps, computers, etc. Others in the class may come from single parent households, lower economic strata, or have some sort of cultural obstacle when faced with the “standard” pedagogy. They may not have had those experiences outside of school, like others in the classroom.
As a result of the standard exercises, those who are disadvantaged in that system come to believe they are not as smart as their peers, when in fact they are just not as educated. These new and abstract exercises, I believe, push boundaries of excellence in the classroom, while not necessarily disempowering those with advantage. The more educated kids will still have their experiences (no one is taking that away), but what you are doing is evening the playing field and not allowing the artificial inequity of society to intrude into the classroom learning environment.
The way we get to the right answer has changed so much in recent years. Even the tools we use to solve differential equations have changed. Mathematica anyone? The tools we use to accomplish tasks in this world are many and varied. Slide-rules used to be heavily used in engineering, but I doubt you’ll find anyone proficient these days. At one time, the slide-rule was the “right way” to solve the problem. We adapted and invented new tools, a new “right way” to get the answer.
If nature hates a monoculture, why have it in the classroom. Make the ways of learning as many and varied as there are little brains on this earth.
So I think that focusing on learning new and varied approaches, good and bad, creates an agility for learning that one might not get doing it the “right way,” especially when the “right way” may become obsolete in a few years.
The most important future skill is going to be:
Solve this problem which you have never seen before with tools that haven’t been invented yet.