Are You Smarter than a First Grader?

numbered parking a

Received a quiz in my email yesterday. It is supposed to be a Hong Kong Elementary School First Grade Student Admissions Test Question, “What parking spot # is the car parked in?” Please answer within 20 seconds.

My mind kicked into hyper-drive right away. “16, 06, 68, 88, ?, 98” Hmmm … what might the missing number be? I immediately think of possible relationships between one number and the next, scanning first from the left and then from the right. No success. The seconds ticked away. No clue! How hard can it be, if it is a grade one problem? Then all of a sudden time’s up. Still no answer.

I am not as smart as a first grader, until I looked at the picture as if I were driving and looking for a parking space. Since I am north of the parking spaces and looking south, reading the numbers from my left to the right, the sequence is a simple “86, ?, 88, 89, 90, 91”! The missing # is 87! Elementary! My dear Watson! Why didn’t I think of that!

numbered parking b

The problem is one of perspective. When I first looked at the picture, I automatically assumed “me” as the point of reference, since I am at the center of my universe. I therefore read the numbers from left to right, which did not make any sense. I was reading them upside down! However, once I put myself into the picture as a driver, I am to the north of the numbers. Now all the numbers are in sequence and made perfect sense.

Life is often like that. We looked at things from one point of view and can’t make heads or tails of it. Sometimes we even argue with others who looked at it from another angle, and have a different set of assumptions or presuppositions. What if we are humble enough to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes and looked at things his way? May be it will start to make sense and the problem is solved! Wouldn’t that be nice?

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