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The Problem with Monty Hall

Sunday 11 May 2014

The 'Google' generation

Those of you familiar with the Monty Hall problem will know what a wonderfully rich bit of mathematics it is. Those of you who are not are faced with a problem the Internet has brought us. I would suggest that you just google it and get stuck in, but the problem is that the Internet ,as it is today, offers many more answers than questions and it is difficult to find things that dont give the answers away before anyone has had time to experience the richness of the problem.

This post was prompted by a post I saw on facebook yesterday from the Khan Academy about the Monty Hall problem. Infact, it was a video explanation of the solution to the problem. I am not going to turn this post into a KA bashing session and there are some wonderful explanations of the Monty Hall problem out there. The one I enjoyed most is the simple one printed in the novel 'The curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime'. In fact the novel offers a lovely summary of the whole story. I particularly enjoyed the quotes from famous mathematicians who were arguing that Marilyn Vos Savant was wrong. This is a lovely story for ToK lessons. Again, though, the problem is that this is only a wonderfully rich problem if people experience engagement with it themselves. Going straight to the solution is like watching the end of the 'Sixth Sense' first. Actually, I like that analogy, because that film is really good the second time too, because you look at everything differently, but the first time is the real experience.

The google generation need to be wary that they have so many 'soultions' on offer to them that they are in danger of not experiencing problems. Knowledge will become a collection of solutions, rather than experience of problems. Teachers have the challenge of presenting problems in a way that lets students experience them. This is a must for Monty Hall. I would love to see a web page on the Monty Hall problem, that did not offer a solution anywhere! In fact, In think I'll put it on my to do list!


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