Father’s day musings: solution vs problem focus

  • WhatsApp Image 2017-06-18 at 3.08.01 AM

Today is Father’s day so I thought of sharing some past memories.

In our school days, we had 5 tests in a year. One half-yearly test preceded by two minor tests and annual one preceded by another minor test.

I have never been the topper of the class. I was always an average student. Average as in top 20% of the class, until I joined IIT.

The average pattern took a hit when in 7th grade I failed in mathematics in the first test. I scored 3.25 out of 10. I was clueless why it was happening. I was neither a sporty nor a spoiled student. I was not a student who would study all the time but I was not inattentive either. Was lack of retention in the memory an issue. Well, I remember most of content of my classes still, 30 years down the line.

Anyway, coming back to this small blip in my life which was such a great gift looking back. I told my mom, not to tell dad and she did not. I thought it was simple blip which would automatically disappear by the second test.

Two months down the line came the second test. I tried harder this time and again failed but the score was 3.5 out of 10, if that was any relief. This time I requested mom not to disclose to dad again but she felt it will go beyond control if she did not.

So she told him. I thought dad would get mad at me. On the contrary, he did not react at all. Love for mathematics runs in the family and you would guess that pattern would even shock him but on the contrary he was calm. For those of us who grew up in India in 80s know that dads being calm was unusual trait and even physically hitting the kids was more of a rule than an exception.

Dad reminded me of what I later came to know of as carpenter’s rule. He said “all you need to do is to be cautious at every step of calculation. Go slow (as in carefully slow not lazily slow) and pay extra attention to small mistakes being made which are leading the end result being wrong. In mathematics this extra caution is what makes all the difference”.

This small advice was life changing. I never had challenges in maths, at least not for regular one. I do feel challenged at abstract math (which is my hobby) but that goes to topics like Reimann hypothesis or how sum of 1..infinity is -1/12. Luckily rest of the humanity is also finds it challenging (may be divinity does not but another day, another topic) .

This advice extended beyond maths. Even for other subjects, somehow I had the impression that I should get (as in memorize) everything in one reading. I made it a point to read everything up to 2 times though most of the time 1.5 times was all I needed to get complete understanding.

Happy Father’s day everyone.