A central principle of Physics Forums regarding homework help is not to provide solutions on demand but to guide students along a path to the answer. The rationale behind this principle is articulated in the familiar saying, “If you give a hungry man a fish, you feed him for a day; if you teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” That said, I will quote another familiar saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Then I will blend the two into “You can teach a hungry man how to fish and lead him to the water, but you can’t make him fish.”
This mélange epitomizes a conclusion I reached after decades of teaching minds, some hungry some not, how to think. How I reached this conclusion and how I eventually came to terms with it are the subject of this article.
When I began graduate school, my duties included helping with grading hourly exams in large classes (150-200 students). Here is the exam question that started it all.