Can You Teach What You Know?

by | June 30, 2021

graphic of two knights in front of a castle with a dragon

Do you know what 36+18 equals? Can you solve it?

This isn’t a trick question; the answer is in fact 54.

Now, how would you tell someone to solve that math problem? How would you tell someone to solve it if they had never done addition at that level before?

I found myself in a similar situation recently when I was with a friend’s five year old daughter. They were on their school issued laptop eagerly explaining the fantasy adventure game they were playing which was basically one part World of Warcraft and one part math practice.

I consider myself pretty tech savvy, but I had never felt as old as I did in that moment when a Kindergartener was explaining concepts such as “logging on” and sending their classmates “friend requests.” When I was her age, I was doing basic math sheets with a pencil. And here was a child navigating the World Wide Web in a way that is both engaging and educational.

After the introduction to this game world, I was shown the “store” where you can get various things for your avatar such as apparel, wands, and pets, the basics, of course, for a fantasy universe. Some of the items required “scrolls” to purchase which you could get by completing quests and finding them around a castle.

We went inside a castle and were promptly confronted by a monster! It was quite scary but I was reassured that she would be able to defeat it. In a turn based battle style similar to the Pokémon games I played growing up, it was time to select a spell to cast. After selecting the right spell (a feat in itself to know what type of spells are strong against each type of creature), a math problem had to be solved. If the problem wasn’t successfully solved, the spell would not cast and the monster would be victorious.

I’m sure you can guess which math problem was shown on the screen.

That’s right, it was 36+18.

As her mother had explained, the difficulty had been ramping up because they had completed some problems successfully so the addition got more complex.

I was at a loss because I clearly knew how to solve it but I knew my approach of “just doing it” wasn’t going to be particularly helpful. I also had a fear of scaring a child into hating math at a young age!

I then spent a little over twenty minutes between that problem and a couple of other similar addition problems explaining how the ‘ones’ get added and then the ‘tens’ plus any tens that got carried over. I pointed out a number line on the screen and even drew one out as a reference to leave behind.

 

Explaining What I Know

I may have spent so much time engrossed in discussing addition with a five year old, that after it was done, I promptly rushed home to make my next meeting, barely having enough time to do anything else that I put my entire bag in the fridge with leftovers from lunch because there was no time to take them out beforehand.

Was this excessive? Yes. However I didn’t want to leave the problem unsolved, essentially saying, “I have to head out but good luck with those monsters!”

In the end, the monster was defeated, the scrolls obtained, and I’m sure our Fields Medal will be in the mail any day now for us to share.

Later that evening, I found myself continuing to process what had happened earlier in the day. It took me longer than I expected to explain the concepts needed to solve the math problem and cast the spell successfully.

At the same time, however, it felt familiar and I was unsure why until the epiphany hit me. As someone operating a small business, I often am in the role of having to explain concepts that I may take for granted but others may be learning for the first time. Similarly, when it comes to learning something new, I am often in the role of the “Kindergartener.” You can’t learn if you aren’t willing to be a bit vulnerable in that sense.

One topic area where I find myself frequently learning about is related to typography and graphic design in marketing. Making things look pretty and engaging is something I didn’t completely grasp the importance of until I asked my wife and business partner, Priscilla, to explain why it took so long to create ads and social media images. While I understood that it would have been too extreme to get the message across with Times New Roman on a plain white background (like some things I had created earlier), when she went through and showed me why she moved a letter 4 pixels up or why she chose a specific color, everything clicked. I was the “Kindergartner” and she had to teach me something that came naturally to her. She had to find a way of explaining what was going on in terms I would connect with. I don’t necessarily need to be the number one artist in the world but learning about basic principles of fonts or image placement has helped me when I’ve needed to create some content for use in other projects. I would not have been able to do this without opening myself up to any learning that needed to take place.

 

Bringing It Together

There’s an adage that often comes to mind when teaching is brought up which has had its meaning twisted through the years from a George Bernard Shaw play. However, I much prefer Aristotle’s quote where he says, “Those who know, do. Those that understand, teach.”

Can you truly say that you have mastered something if you are unable to explain it? What started as a simple math problem, led me to rediscover the lesson that one should always brush up on one’s pedagogy.

This type of problem solving approach isn’t necessarily new. In fact, I am a big believer in the “Rubber Duck Approach” to debugging. However, since helping a kindergartener cast a spell to defeat a monster and having Priscilla breakdown the use of marketing design to me, I’ve found myself taking a step back more often and explaining what I’m doing out loud so that I can see if it still makes sense. One recent example is in regards to blockchain technologies and cryptocurrency. As mentioned in my last blog post, I started to learn more about those types of disruptive technologies but in just two short months I know much more now than I did when I started and have already reevaluated whether it makes sense to continue to do things a certain way.

 

Applying It To Your Small Business

Have you ever had a realization about how to do something while explaining something to someone in your small business? A common occurrence can actually be when onboarding an employee. Sometimes something can be done the “wrong way” but the fresh perspective a new employee provides can actually lead to discovering a better way to do things. Experiences like these can make you think about what you can transform about your business and get you out of being stuck in autopilot.

We often don’t start by following best practices but we can certainly aspire to get there! By starting from square one, it’s a helpful check to see if you should mix things up. In some cases like the math problem, it does. In some, you might be surprised what assumptions you were taking for granted and how the act of “teaching” makes you realize that there is a better way.

Want to apply what you know to your small business? We can help.

What services are you interested in?

The Business-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

You’ve heard of Marie Kondo’s KonMari method for decluttering your home. Did you know that you can apply the same methodology to your small business to maximize value? Instead of focusing on literal objects, you can optimize your business practices and what it has to offer.

What Mick Jagger and Colombian Street Food Taught Me About Knowing Your Value

While walking through the streets of Bogotá, Colombia, I encountered a street food vendor whose desserts seemed to command a higher value than that of her competitors. That extra dollar was on a lesson well spent.

Your Implementation Is Worth More Than Your Idea

An idea itself doesn’t mean anything if you aren’t actually doing market research, planning your business model, fulfilling a value proposition, and solving a problem for a customer. It’s important to reflect on what ideas we have for our small business but also make sure we formulate the plan to get there.

Why is SEO Important?

Search Engine Optimization allows us to spread our message and story to others and lets us be discovered by prospective customers. If we can’t be found, how can we engage with customers?

EID Visions Celebrates Giving Tuesday 2019

For this year’s #GivingTuesday, each member of the EID Visions team has selected a non profit whose work and mission is important to them to help kick off this season’s charitable giving.

5 Lessons I Learned From Starting a Business

Owning and operating your own business brings its own set of unique challenges and obstacles that must be overcome. Here are five lessons learned about starting a small business.

EID Visions Celebrates Giving Tuesday 2020

2020 has been quite the year for small businesses so we’re starting off the charitable season with three fundraisers for Giving Tuesday 2020!

Why is Marketing Important for Small Businesses?

Marketing is something that small businesses and startups often put by the wayside. For most people, the task may feel overwhelming or difficult. But marketing doesn’t have to be this scary thing, especially if you take the time to understand what marketing really is.

Boost Your Brain, Boost Your Business

Developing your cognitive fitness by going out of your comfort zone and diversifying your skills allows you to see your small business through a different lens. You may find that a new problem you’ll have is having too many ideas and avenues for improvement!

Keeping Up with Social Media During a Pandemic

One of the hardest things for small businesses to focus on, even when there’s not a virus spreading globally, is their social media marketing strategy. There are a lot of moving pieces when it comes to being active and interacting with your audience on social media.

Why is Marketing Important for Small Businesses?

Marketing is something that small businesses and startups often put by the wayside. For most people, the task may feel overwhelming or difficult. But marketing doesn’t have to be this scary thing, especially if you take the time to understand what marketing really is.

3 Social Media Ideas for Halloween [INFOGRAPHIC]

If you’re tired of posting the same things over and over again on social media, maybe it’s time to spice things up a bit. Why not try some holiday inspired social media posts that are sure to up your engagement with your followers?

3 Business Lessons I Learned from Animal Crossing

It’s never been more important to balance work with downtime and self-care. What I’ve been doing to relax is playing one of my favorite video games: Animal Crossing. While a seemingly relaxing game on the surface, I’ve found that you can learn a lot from this game that can be applied to your small business in real life.

Your Website is More Than a Business Card

Whether you’re just getting started or have been around for a long time, a website is a critical tool for your small business. Not only does it tell potential customers who you are and what you do, but a good website will bring new customers to your small business.

Why You Should Create a Customer Persona

Having a single person to point to instead of a broad general idea of a customer allows everyone at your small business to have the same goal of catering to that customer. With a persona, you don’t have to guess about what your customer might want, a persona allows you to figure that out.

What Are You Doing That Doesn’t Scale?

Small businesses and startups often worry about making sure they can scale everything they are doing up, but they shouldn’t! It’s ok to take advantage of your small size to be more agile and be hyper aware of how you will delight customers.

10 Easy Ways to Get Started on Marketing TODAY

70-80% of people research a company online before contacting a business, so why haven’t you made marketing a priority yet? Here are 10 things you can do TODAY to get started with marketing for your small business, startup, or side-hustle.

What Mick Jagger and Colombian Street Food Taught Me About Knowing Your Value

While walking through the streets of Bogotá, Colombia, I encountered a street food vendor whose desserts seemed to command a higher value than that of her competitors. That extra dollar was on a lesson well spent.

Is Perfection Slowing Your Progress?

Oftentimes, by focusing on perfection, we limit ourselves from future growth because we are scared that something isn’t ready yet. The reality is that even if something doesn’t have everything yet, doesn’t mean the current version doesn’t provide value.

How COVID-19 Has Affected Us and Our Small Business

The world has changed a lot in just a few short weeks, both professionally and personally, due to COVID-19. EID Visions has had to adapt to new challenges brought upon by the pandemic and social distancing. Here’s how it’s changed how our company operates.