Home > Challenge, Geometry > Problem-Solving Under Pressure

Problem-Solving Under Pressure


Near the end of a long morning building a table, I encountered the following simple geometry problem:  I needed to cut four small rectangles from a square of self-adhesive rubber to serve as the feet of the table’s legs.  So I cut the square into four equal strips, lopped off the end of each, and had my feet.

All well and good, but I missed the superior solution that any decent problem solver should have seen immediately:

After working on the table for a couple of hours, I was mentally and physically worn down, and I think this affected my ability to see the better solution.  I guess it makes sense that being tired [and/or hungry and/or frustrated] would negatively impact one’s ability to solve problems.

I bet a cool project could be desiged around this idea.

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  1. Scott Matthews
    August 22, 2010 at 12:56 am

    Maybe I’m not quite understanding, but couldn’t you just cut off one full strip (a quarter of the total area), then take that strip and cut that into four small squares? Does the pattern that’s left of the remaining 3/4 of the square really matter? Please clarify.

  2. August 22, 2010 at 8:07 am

    It wasn’t the small squares I needed, it was the small rectangles.

  3. Scott Matthews
    August 22, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    Aha! Thank you!

  4. Hilary
    August 26, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    I had the same question! Aha.

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