Jumping to Conclusions

jumping to conclusions

My 8th graders are finishing up a unit on geometric proofs. This material has even my live-and-breathe-math kids questioning, “When will we ever have to use this?”

And I’m honest with them. I confess that they will never be asked to write a two-column proof justifying why two triangles are congruent in order to clinch a job interview. No romantic interest will ever look over their paragraph constructed to show that a quadrilateral is, in fact, a rectangle and criticize the fact that they failed to correctly use the slopes to show right angles. In fact, the only time that this exact skill will come in handy is if they happen to become math teachers. (In fact, I’m kicking myself now for making my way through 9th grade geometry in a zombie-like haze.)

But I don’t stop there.

“Forget the content for a moment,” I advise them. “What does this process, as painful as it may be, actually teach you?”

There are confused looks. A few random and half-hearted attempts to answer my question. And then I hear it from the back corner –

 

“It teaches us how to think. How to move from one fact to another and not jump to conclusions.”

 

When I was four, I had not yet had the benefit of geometric proofs to teach me how to think. At my grandmother’s house, I would spend hours sitting by her side as she narrated her way through countless family photos. Photos, that were for the most part, in black and white.

So I reached the obvious (well, to a four-year-old at least), conclusion: the world used to be in black and white.

That made sense. But I still struggled to understand how my grandmother, who sat next to me in full color, could have become pigmented as a young adult. I wrestled with this dilemma for a time until I finally solved the problem (and felt quite proud of myself for my powers of deduction) –  Rainbow Brite was responsible for bringing color to the world.

Well, it sure seemed reasonable then.

I had leaped from one fact – photos had transitioned from black and white to color over time – to a completely arbitrary conclusion that was based solely on the information generated within my own mind.

That particular assumption was harmless (and humorous). But that’s not always the case.

 

Once we believe something, even if we leapt recklessly to that opinion, we then proceed to ignore that which doesn’t support our conclusion. 

 

We become willfully blind. Feeding on an information diet filtered through confirmation bias. Conclusions, like habits, are much more difficult to shape once they’ve hardened into place. The time to be careful is when you’re laying down the initial layers. Jumping to conclusions has a tendency to keep you in one place.

And that’s what my students are learning. Just like you can’t claim that an angle is right because it “looks” like 90º, you can’t assume things in life just because it “feels” a certain way. 

It’s harder in life than in the classroom. After all, the stakes are higher when you’re you’re talking about real life instead of a poorly drawn polygon. Yet the lesson is still the same as we learn how to not carelessly jump to conclusions:

 

Base everything on the facts.

Move from one fact to another. No jumping.

Accept that there may be more than one correct way to link these facts and don’t be afraid to explore these options.

Ask for another person’s opinion. Sometimes a fresh set of eyes will see something you do not.

When you have enough facts, make a conclusion.

If you find other facts that refute your conclusion, be ready with the eraser.

In fact, actively look for ways that your reasoning may be wrong. That’s how you test its strength.

It’s okay to make temporary assumptions to test a theory, but refrain from putting it in writing until you can prove it using facts.

 

Here’s an example of how I put this into practice in my own life as it pertains to learning to trust again after betrayal.

 

Thank you for sharing!

2 thoughts on “Jumping to Conclusions

  1. Robert Milstid – Florida – Robert Milstid has been creating literary works for many years. His writing first took form as a playwright, authoring two plays, Just a Phase and I Was a Pig for a Day and Nobody Noticed. Both plays were produced and performed in Houston, Texas. Under the direction of the late Bill Morton, a truly inspirational theatrical writer and director, Mr. Milstid became involved in the theatre as an actor as well. He studied at the National Shakespeare Conservatory in New York and was a highly active member of a professional theatre, Main Street in Houston Texas for several years. In 1989 he and his wife moved to Hoboken, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan. His one man show, Diary of a Nonconformist was created, written and rehearsed by Mr. Milstid on the roof of his Hoboken apartment. This performance poetry piece was booked at the now infamous, CBGBs in the East Village. He also went on to perform in several plays while in New York City that included the world premier of Lanny Hill's original play, "Uncle Alton", as well as becoming an active company member of the 13th Street Repertory Theatre. Mr. Milstid began writing an abundant supply of poetry and free verse performance pieces during his time in the city, performing at the Nuyorican's Poetry Café and various other venues. After his son was born in 1991, he and his wife decided to move to Florida. Shortly after moving to Florida, the couple then had a daughter. After several years of performing in Orlando, Mr. Milstid hung up his acting hat for the most part and began applying his creative efforts at Nickelodeon Studios as a scenic carpenter and went on to start his own custom carpentry business. In 2005 his marriage of twenty plus years came to an end and he found himself starting from scratch again as a single man. The lonely nights in his small apartment gave way to a renewed need and love for writing again. Mr. Milstid penned his first novel called, The Consequences of Breathing. During the next few years and was married after meeting an amazing woman whom he wrote about as the character of Pearl in The Consequences of Breathing. After the economy took a nosedive in 2009 Mr. Milstid took a position at a Memory Care Center/Assisted living facility as a maintenance technician. He then went on to write his second book, Transitions, which cameos the lives of those suffering from Alzheimer's disease and the struggles of their families. Writing is a passion for Robert Milstid and with outlines for three new books underway it doesn't appear to be slowing down. His writing is raw, humble, provocative and unpredictable. His genres are purposefully varied so as to offer new approaches in his art. At Fifty-four years old Mr. Milstid still rides his motorcycle as well as his mountain bike and skateboard. He loves time with his four children and his amazing wife. A long life in a short time, this is Robert Milstid.
    Robert Milstid says:

    An open mind is a refreshing thing to use.

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