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CHILDREN'S WAY OF THINKING - AFFECTED BY TRIZ AND OTHERWISE

© Natalya Eduardovna Chigevskaya (Simonenko),1997



The theory of solving inventive problems (TRIZ) is also called the technology of problem solving. Today we are trying to give children of school and pre-school age some techniques (tools) of solving complex situations that appear in their small lives. Do you think children consider their lives small? Believe me - no, they don't. A child has no fewer problems than an adult. These include communication with other children and with grown-ups; difficulties with understanding himself/herself, difficulties connected with games and studies, etc. Teaching children to solve problems will not only prepare them for the future adult life, not only build in basics for the future, but also give them confidence in the present.

There is always a question asked - how does a child that has been taught TRIZ differs from the one that was not? Is there a difference at all? Certainly yes. There is a brief list of advantages that studying TRIZ gives to a child:

  • ability to generalize and cross over from the abstractions to specifics and back
  • ability to find in various objects and situations analogies and similar characteristics, and to work with them in problematic situations
  • usage of paradoxical logic along with formal logic
  • not only widely developed but also controlled imagination
  • many variations in solving the same problem
  • ability to transfer a real situation into a fantastic situation and back
  • highly organized way of thinking
  • no fear of contradictions, and ability to solve them
  • less affected by stereotypical thinking
  • more focused attention and ability to work in a team.


  • In several following examples of gamely situations I want to show you how the children think - these children who were taught TRIZ and these who were not.

    Situation 1: GUESS WHAT HAPPENED

    The following dialog belongs to two two-graders of Minsk gymnasiums - S., who's been studying TRIZ for a year, and T., who doesn't know anything about it. According to their teachers' evaluations, both S. and T. are bright and aware of the world around them, have developed imagination and logic.

    The situation: Applauding suddenly erupted behind the wall. It quieted down after an execution that led to a rescue.

    FIRST RECORD

    I: Let's solve this situation using the game "Yes-No". You can ask me any questions that I can answer with only "yes" or "no". In some cases I might say "Unimportant" or "No information". This way we will gradually seek the solution of the problem. Don't forget that I will look at your ability to find the answer with a minimal number of clear-cut, intelligent questions. You can start.
    T: A dangerous criminal was executed.
    I: No.
    T: A human was executed.
    I: No. We are not going to look at any bloody stories.
    T: An artist in a theatre was executed.
    I: No. T., please, pay attention - I said it was not a person.
    T: The one who carried out the execution - was he good or bad?
    I: Doesn't matter. Let S. start to analyze the problem.
    S: This situation can be presented as four problems: who was executed? who was rescued? where did it happen? why applauding?
    I: Very good! Now try to generalize things that we already found out.
    S: Not a human was executed, and it doesn't matter who carried out the execution.
    T: Maybe, a cat or a dog was executed?
    S: T., you can't answer "yes" or "no" to that question. Let's try another way. Maybe, something non-living was executed?
    I: No.
    S: Living?
    I: Yes.
    T: A parrot.
    I: What is your question? And why applauding?
    T: Probably, someone was applauding in a movie theatre and squashed parrot.
    I: Why don't you ask questions? And who was rescued?
    T: Another parrot.
    I: I'll help you. It was not a play, not in a movie theatre, rescued and executed were not parrots.
    T: It was in a circus!
    I: No. S., try to reason further.
    S: Well, something non-living was rescued. If there is applauding, it happened in a place where something was staged - a concert, a show. Right?
    I: No. Let me help you - it has nothing to do with a place of entertainment, a movie theatre or a show, etc.
    S: Was it in a house?
    I: Yes. T., try to generalize things we found out.
    T: In a house they executed somebody and applauded so nobody would hear the sound of shot. At the same time another person was rescued.
    I: You are not following the analysis. Where did a person come from?
    S: Something alive was executed but not a person.
    I: Right. But you are forgetting something.
    S: The situation with rescue!
    I: The main points of the situation we have cleared out. But let's finish analysing - who was executed? It might help us to clarify the situation in general.
    T: A horse?
    I: No. A horse in a house? And why would it be executed?
    T: A golden fish in a bowl?
    I: No. That's not enough. S., ask me systematical questions.
    S: An animal?
    I: No.
    S: Bird?
    I: No.
    S: Fish?
    I: No.
    S: Amphibian?
    I: No.
    S: Insect?
    I: Yes! Finally! T., look at the way S. asks questions. He doesn't mention every living thing in particular - a cat, a dog, etc. - but includes a whole group - animals, for example. Not a golden fish in a bowl, but fish in general. When I answer that it is not a fish, you can forget the whole group; otherwise it could be a salmon or, say, a carp. You could ask, "A butterfly?", and if I said no you would leave the class of insects. Well, let's continue. What insect?
    T: A beetle?
    I: No.
    T: A fly?
    I: No.
    S: A moth?
    I: Yes! And what could happen in the house? Connect the answers to our four questions and try to guess what happened.
    S: The moth was executed because it wanted to eat somebody's shirt. The shirt was rescued. It happened in a house. And applauding was heard when people clapped trying to catch the moth.
    I: Absolutely right. You both did great. Now let's analyze our work. You both were distracted by the mention of applauding - you associated it with theatre, or a show. We are often distracted by stereotypes of thinking. That's why during our exercises I often ask to find words close in meaning and situation similar to one another. Which situations are close to applauding?
    S: Clapping during a dance. Tapping a rhythm.
    T: During exercises. Clapping when it's cold, to keep yourself warm.
    I: Right. Of course, it is not a complete list, but you got the main points.
    Now let's analyze the steps of the work. First we draw an upside house for each of the students. The roof - the sharp end point of which of the houses is the final solution, the answer.
    S. divided the situation into four problems. When the house is divided into four, its parts are the areas of search for the solution. First S. finds out who was executed. He puts the questions very well, concentrating not on separate objects but on the entire groups. If a group does not contain a needed object, he leaves it and doesn't go back. Then he looks at a next group, and so on, until I answer "yes". In our situation S. found out that something alive was executed, but not a person, not an animal, not a bird, etc. Finally he defined the class of insects and found out that it was a moth. To the question who was rescued? he also first defined whether it was alive or not (it wasn't). Asking the question where did it happen?, S. can explain the entire situation. It is now clear what applauding has to do with it, and four solved problems are connected into the final solution - the roof of the upside house. S. was sorting out the areas of search, narrowed them until he got the answer, "dropped" it into the roof of the house.
    T. wasn't very organized, he didn't divide the situation into separate problems, didn't solve them consistently. He would grab one idea, get "no" from me, and go to another one without finishing with the first one. Getting "no" there he would go back to the first idea, asking the same questions several times. He didn't gather objects into groups and got further from the solution instead of closing on it.
    But all in all both of you did great and now you understand the secret of solving a creative problem - you have to use system.

    Situation 2: GUESS THE STORY

    The analysis of the situation is done by two three-graders of Minsk schools - N. who is a part of "Development of creative thinking based on TRIZ" club, and K., a good student and a smart girl, who is not familiar with the basics of TRIZ. Every conversation is recorded separately. As you probably understood by now, the game consists of asking questions that can be answered "yes" or "no". With the help of this game, the girls were trying to solve the problem, to receive information about the situation.

    The situation:
    They were upset with her behaviour.

    SECOND RECORD:

    I: Well, N., start asking questions.
    N: Are "they" people? No, I'll ask in a different way; is it a historical situation?
    I: No.
    N: Is it real life?
    I: No.
    N: So this is not real. Is it a fairy tale?
    I: Yes.
    N: Are "they" people?
    I: No.
    N: Animals?
    I: Yes.
    N: Pets?
    I: No.
    N: That means these were wild animals. Wolves, maybe?
    I: No.
    N: Bears?
    I: Yes, they are bears.
    N: The one they were upset with - is it an animal, too?
    I: No.
    N: A human?
    I: Yes.
    N: A girl?
    I: Yes. Now summarize. What did you find out?
    N: Bears were upset with a girl's behaviour.
    I: Right. Now I'll help you - you have to find out how many bears were there.
    N: Two?
    I: No.
    N: Three?
    I: Yes.
    N: Three bears were upset with a girl's behaviour. Now I understand - this is a story "Three Bears". The bears went for a walk, and the girl came into the house, sat on their chairs, ate their food, lay on their beds. They were upset about it.
    I: Good work, N!

    THIRD RECORD:

    I: K., try to analyze the situation.
    K: Parents were upset with their daughter's behaviour?
    I: No. Don't try to get to the answer right away. Search for it gradually.
    K: Teachers were upset?
    I: No.
    K: Friends?
    I: No.
    K: Do I know that girl?
    I: Are you sure it's a girl? You are right, it is, but you didn't ask that question. All right. I agree that "they" were upset with a girl. But go back to what you've started asking questions about - upset were not parents, not teachers, not friends - they all are real life. Continue.
    K: It means our story is not from real life, right?
    I: Right.
    K: Means it's science fiction; and I don't read that.
    I: K., that's not science fiction, just fictional life. Which other genre has fictional life?
    K: A fairy tale?
    I: Right. Now you're close.
    K: "They" - are goblins?
    I: No.
    K: Magicians?
    I: No.
    There follows long non-systematic search - gnomes, knights, etc. Then I tell K. that she can recall fairy tale characters endlessly, if, of course, she doesn't stumble upon the answer by accident. We discover the necessity to form groups (classes) - people, birds, animals. Here K. with help of "Yes-No" finally gets to the answer.

    Situation 3: GUESS THE WORD

    During lessons in development of creative thinking we teach children to classify and systematize objects according to their traits. The game "Yes-No" is good to use when finding a separate object. The search for the answer is conducted in stages, gradually leading from abstractions to specifics.

    A brief scheme of finding an object of natural world looks as follows.

    For example, my word (object) is spruce.
    Natural world or man-made world.
    Living or non-living
    People, animals, birds, fish, plants, etc.
    Grasses, mushrooms, bushes, vegetables, trees, etc.
    Coniferous trees or deciduous trees.
    Spruce, pine, fir.
    The answer is spruce.

    A brief scheme of finding an object of man-made world looks as follows.

    For example, my word (object) is a glass.
    Natural world or man-made world.
    Objects of everyday use or other objects.
    Clothes, shoes, furniture, electric appliances, housewares, etc.
    Kitchenware or dinner ware.
    China, copperware, glassware, etc.
    A cup, a glass, etc.
    The answer is a glass.

    FOURTH RECORD.

    I: Guys, my object is from the material world.
    Kids: Is it natural world?
    I: No.
    K: Means it's man-made world. Is it an object of everyday use?
    I: No.
    K: Machinery?
    I: Yes.
    K: Is it used on the ground?
    I: Yes.
    K: It is meant to do some work?
    I: Yes.
    K: Is it immobile?
    I: No.
    K: Means it moves. A tractor?
    I: No.
    K: A power shovel?
    I: Yes. Good work, guys. You chose the right way, and your questions were intelligent and consistent.

    Therefore, let us underline one more time that the actual finding of an answer depends on the gradual transition from abstract to specific, dividing objects into groups according to their most important characteristics. It is crucial not to miss steps, or the search will become more complicated.

    In the same way the hidden information about a situation is discovered; only first the problem should be divided into sub-problems. Sometimes, in the process of analysis, new questions-sub-problems appear that cannot be noticed in the beginning. They should be looked at in the same way as the initial problems. Some situations (questions) or words should be questioned more thoroughly (look at the record 1 - applauding), and new synonyms and terms, close in meaning, should be found for those.

    In the process of the analysis of a situation, contradictions are often found. They can be solved with help of popular TRIZ methods. Information that makes sense, developed from a solved situation, is the answer to the problem.

    Sometimes it can be appropriate to limit the number of questions possible, as to activate the process of search. In this case, an additional condition is entered. For example: "With help of no more than 12 questions find what object it is..."; "with help of no more than 20 questions find the information hidden in the following situation...".

    Dear readers! I hope that this article will be of help to you in your work with children. Try to develop imagination of young students and regularize their thinking process by using the game "Yes-No" to find objects, situations from fairy tales, cartoons, real-life stories, etc. It will help kids to understand the world around them and will teach them to solve various creative problems.

    Good Luck!
           
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    22 Mar 2002