Q1: A baseball team had won a game 19-17. No errors. But not a single man crossed the plate. How could this be?
A1: There are two solutions to this one…either every man that scored was married, or it was a women’s baseball team.
Q2: In the basement there are 3 light switches in the “off position.” Each switch controls one of three light bulbs on the floor above. You may turn on any of the switches, but you may only go up stairs one time to see which light(s) were affected. How can you determine which switch controls each particular light bulb?
A2: Turn on one light switch, leave it on for a few minutes, then turn it off. Then, turn a second switch on but leave the other off. When you go upstairs, one will bulb will be off and hot, another will be on, and the other will be off and cold!
Question 1 I like because it challenges the archetypes present in students minds. I see how gender roles are so embedded in student thinking, so when a potential solution has them thinking about female baseball players, I think its a good question. In so many classes that reference a scientist doing work, students (male and female alike) automatically make the assumption that the scientist is a male. Breaking this stereotype that science is a “guy” thing is an important part of being a teacher.
Question 2 I like because it allows for so many different solutions, but the one listed is the simple and elegant one. For students that have not seen this question, I think they will be satisfactorily challenged to think about the implications of their actions outside of what is expected. The question simply says that the students needs to determine which light switch controls which light, which immediately makes the connection between light bulbs and radiative emissions in their head. Students must also consider that light bulbs radiate energy not only in the form of light, but heat. I can see a lot of students making a table (similar to how Tyler did in class) in order to solve the problem.