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Each week, Instant Meeting presents an idea or activity that you might use to make staff meetings more interesting, teacher-centered, educational, or fun.

Brief Description/Purpose

This quick exercise illustrates in a fun way that problems that seem big -- perhaps even overwhelming -- might be easier to solve than first meets the eye.

Materials Needed

  • paper and pencils

Time Required

More Ideas for
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Ten minutes

"Instant Meeting" Idea

Facing a big problem or issue that needs to be solved? Sometimes big problems -- problems that might seem, on the surface, to overwhelm many meeting participants -- have much easier solutions than are first anticipated. This quick and simple activity makes that point clear.

Be sure all meeting participants have paper and a pencil. Prepare a sheet of paper on which you have written a title, "The Number 6" and the Roman numeral for ten, IX. That paper might look like this:

The Number 6



Share with participants the following information:

"I call this quick exercise 'The Number 6.' This exercise is my attempt to see how prepared you are to solve big problems. You will see that on this paper I have drawn the Roman numeral for the number 9. Now, I would like to encourage you to look at that symbol in a different way: I would like you to use your pencil to try to transform those symbols into 'The Number 6.' I will give you a few minutes to do this. When you think you have a solution, hold up your paper above your head so I can see it. Please do not look at the work that others are holding up above their heads. I will tell you if you are right or if I would like you to look for a different solution. If I tell you that you have presented the correct answer, please put your paper face down on the table/desk. If I ask you to look for another solution, simply redraw the I and X symbols and try again to transform them into The Number 6."

At first, this problem might not seem so overwhelming to meeting participants. Uncertain of what solution you are looking for, they will put pencils to paper and try to transform the I and the X into the number 6. If they do not meet with immediate success -- if you ask them to try again and look for a different solution -- they will try again. But if you ask them more than a couple times to try again, they might gradually become more frustrated and overwhelmed by the big problem you have presented to them. In actuality, the problem has become bigger than it has to be or really is.

Of course the correct solution that you are looking for as participants hold up their number 6's is the solution in which the "Roman numerals" IX are transformed in The Number 6 by adding the letter S before the IX.



This exercise is only intended as a quick and fun illustration of how people often get bogged down because they are looking at a problem from one perspective. When teachers seem to be getting overwhelmed as you’re tackling a big issue, it might be useful to slow them down, ask them to take a look at the bigger picture rather than getting overwhelmed by the details. Remind them of The Number SIX...