We Can Work It Out
Seeking the help of others
by Helen Gwynne-Kinsey
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To consider the importance of asking for help when faced with an apparently unsolvable problem.
Preparation and materials
- You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (We Can Work It Out) and the means to display them.
- You will also need a whiteboard, a whiteboard pen and an eraser for a student to use.
- Have Slide 1 displayed as the students enter the room.
As the students enter the room, direct their attention to the whiteboard, which should show the mathematical problem-solving task on Slide 1. Explain that the challenge is to arrive at the number in the centre by using each of the numbers at the corners of the board only once.
Ask for a volunteer to come up to the whiteboard to show how he/she has worked it out.
Alternatively, show Slide 2 and explain the calculation.
- Ask the students to consider another mathematical conundrum by telling the following story.
A long time ago, there was a man who lived with his three children in the desert. He had a successful business buying and selling camels, and when he grew old, he made a will in which he left half of his camels to his eldest child, a third of his camels to his middle child and a ninth of his camels to his youngest child. When he died, there were 17 camels in his herd.
Ask the students to work out how many camels each of the old man’s children should receive, according to the instructions in his will.
- Explain that this is an impossible task because 17 cannot be divided by 2, 3 or 9, so the three children were left with a dilemma.
Fortunately, they had good neighbours who advised them to visit a wise woman who lived nearby and might be able to help them. They took their neighbours’ advice and went to explain their problem to her.
Surprisingly, the wise woman told the children to borrow one of her camels and their problem would be solved.
- Ask the students to consider how the loan of a camel in this situation could help to solve the problem.
Pause to allow time for thought.
- Show Slide 3.
Explain the solution: the loan of the camel meant that the children now had 18 camels altogether. The eldest got nine camels, the middle child got six and the youngest got two. This left one camel, which was returned to the wise woman.
- This may be an ancient story, but we can all sometimes feel that we are facing a task or problem to which we can see no logical solution. It’s therefore important to realize that sometimes, we need the help of others to sort out our problems.
Time for reflection
Ask the students to consider whether they are facing a problem that they are struggling with or a situation where they need some help at the moment.
Pause to allow time for thought.
Remind the students of the saying: ‘A problem shared is a problem halved.’
Point out the importance of asking for help. Encourage the students always to be willing to seek advice and speak to someone.
We all arrive at times in our lives when we find things difficult, and when we cannot work out the best way forward.
Help us to remember that there are people around us who have wisdom, and who can help if we ask.
Help us never to be too proud to ask for help when we need it.
Please help us also to be willing to help others when they ask us.