Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Metacognition is the ability to understand your own thought processes.
It is extremely important for success in life, and in the Economics
class I am teaching.

I tried a metacognition lesson in my class, and it seems to have
worked well. In my introductory email, I asked the students to answer
the following three questions:

It takes five machines five minutes to produce five widgets. How long
does it take 100 machines to produce 100 widgets?

A patch of lily pads doubles in area every week. It takes the patch
28 weeks to fill the entire pond. How many weeks does it take the
patch to fill half the pond?

A bat costs one dollar more than a ball, and the two of them together
cost $1.10. How much does the bat cost?

These questions are designed by psychologists to be easy to get wrong
if you don't think. The instinctive answers are incorrect, but it is
easy to find the right answer if you think a little. In class, I
explained this and added that the exams would be similar to these
questions. I gave the right answers ( 5, 27, 1.05), but did not
explain them.

Most of the students missed at least one of the questions, and several
missed all three. I told the students who got the wrong answers to
send me an email telling me why they answered the way they did, and
why the right answer is what it is.

One student has already responded with a good email. He had gotten
all of the questions wrong, and I think it shocked him a little. He
now realizes that the class will be challenging, and that it is easy
to make mistakes if you do not think. Hopefully this little exercise
will help get his mind in the right gear, and give him an idea of what
to expect on the exams.

No comments: