Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lateral Thinking Exam

Periodically, I will give my students the following test.   The questions are designed to make students think about the questions they are answering and pay close attention to the wording of the question to decipher what is being asked.

Lateral Thinking Exam 
  1. Do they have a 4th of July in England?  (Yes)
  2. How many birthdays does the average man have? (One)
  3. Some months have 31 days; how many have 28? (All of Them)
  4. A woman gives a beggar 50 cents; the woman is the beggar’s sister, but the beggar is not the woman’s brother. How come?  (The beggar is a woman.)
  5. Why can’t a man living in the U.S.A. be buried in Canada? (He is alive.)
  6. How many outs are there in an inning? (6)
  7. Is it legal for a man in California to marry his widow’s sister? Why? (he is dead)
  8. Two men play five games of checkers. Each man wins the same number of games. There are no ties. Explain this. (they play other opponents)
  9. Divide 30 by ½ and add ten. What is the answer?  (70)
  10. A man builds a house rectangular in shape. All sides have southern exposure. A bear walks by, what color is the bear? Why? (White, Polar Bear)
  11. If there are three apples and you take away 2, how many do you have? (2)
  12. I have two U.S. coins totaling 55 cents. One is not a nickel. What are the coins? (half dollar and a nickel)
  13. If you have only one match and walk into a room where there is an oil burner, a kerosene lamp, and a wood burning stove, which one would you light first? (the match)
  14. How far can a dog run into the woods? (half way, then he runs out)
  15. A doctor gives you three pills telling you to take one every half hour.  How long would the pills last? (one hour, now at 30, at 60)
  16. A farmer has 17 sheep, and all but nine die. How many are left? (9)
  17. How many animal of each sex did Moses take on the ark? (0, it was Noah’s ark)
  18. A clerk in the butcher shop is 5’10” tall. What does he weigh? (meat)
  19. How many two cents stamps are there in a dozen? (12)
  20. What was the President’s name in 1980? (Obama, he hasn’t changed it)
While most of these questions test student logic, several of them force students to look carefully at the wording.  For instance, when students look at the question about the butcher, they must understand the difference between what he weighs? and how much does he weigh?   

Common mistakes students will make when answering these questions.
1.  They will think of Independence Day and answer, no.
2.  Students will think of how long a man lives and answer in years old.
3. They will think of February and say one.
4. This question is a little dated, as most students today would be aware of female beggars.
5. This is just a logic question.
6. Some students will say three, which is a half inning.
7. Students may not understand the difference between a widow and a widower.
8. Students will think they had to play each other.
9. Students will divide 30 in half.  They need to divide by a half which is multiplying by 2.
10. Only the poles have all southern exposure.
11.  Students will think how many remain, not how many they took.
12. The nickel is not elimanted, one is not a nickel, the other can be.
13. Logically you need the match to light everything else.
14. They will almost all answer as far as he wants or until he gets tired.
15. They will invaiably say 90 minutes.
16. By now students will have caught on and usually get this correct.
17. Careful of the wording.
18. Students will say 200 pounds, thinking how much does he way.
19. This should be an easy one.
20. The question does not ask who was the president.

I have fun with this, with my students, but always point out the importance of answering the question being asked and reading the question carefully.


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