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Solving Problems The Left-Handed Way

A Left Handed Brain Teaser

One of our club members spied this on Twitter recently and sent it over to us – and it got us thinking. Was the child’s answer wrong or right?

Clearly the child’s answer was not what the teacher was wanting!

But this child is left-handed, and their answer is a great demonstration of how reverse writing comes more naturally to left-handers, especially at a young age.

A left-handed child learning to write is probably still getting to grips with the ‘correct’ direction that writing should go in. Therefore, it may make perfect sense to the child that ‘reversing’ the direction of the answer also reverses the meaning of the answer.

Looking at it another way, let’s imagine that the exercise was to use the symbols for ‘is more than’ and ‘is less than’ – ‘<’ and ‘>’ – then the child would have been correct to ‘reverse’ the answer in this way.

41 > 36
86 < 90

Thanks to the tireless work of the Left Handers Club, among others, teachers these days are much better at supporting left-handed children with their writing. But this is an example of left-handed thinking – and how do you best support a child with that? Should you tell the child they are just plain wrong, or try and explain to the child that although this solution ‘feels’ right to them, it isn’t the conventional way of answering?

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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81 comments on “Solving Problems The Left-Handed Way
  1. Curioser says:

    Out of curiosity if you personally were to read 86 < 90 out loud, would you say 86 is less than 90 or 90 is greater than 86? Both are true but I would say it left to right every time without even thinking about it

  2. Dr Billy Levin says:

    Clearly, this child has a genetically inherited neurological dysfunction and should be assessed and possibly placed on medication to boost his left brain hemisphere.Neglecting this may have major repercussion in the future. Being left handed is part of the condition.
    Dr Billy Levin.

    • Steen Schmidt Nielsen says:

      Dear Everybody.

      That is The Story of my life.

      So I always kept my mouth shut..

      Steen.

    • Roger says:

      Dr. Levin
      I cannot disagree with you more. Being left handed is not a dysfunction. Period. History shows many great people were left handed. Let’s start with 5 of the last 7 Presidents of the U.S., Einstein, Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and Queen Victoria to name a few. I have >62 years experience at being left handed and find right handed people to be followers. We left handed people are more often innovators. Perhaps if more right handed people were treated to use their right brain more we would get some more great musicians.

      • Pj says:

        HOORAY FOR YOU!! I AGREE,BUT I HAVE PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL SCARS FROM BEING LEFT HANDED,I WAS INTRODUCED TO THE RULER EARLY ON,MY “DAMAGE” WAS AT THE HANDS OF A RIGHTY!!

        • Roger says:

          So was I. My teachers tried to get me to write with my left hand in a similar manner. They even complained to my parents when I would not change. My father asked them if every one who wrote Arabic was left handed because they write from right to left. After that they left me alone.

          • Pj says:

            I WAS SO ASHAMED,BECAUSE THIS SADISTIC TEACHER FAILED ME IN ENGLISH/ WRTING(I WAS A SINGLE DIGIT) AND I HAD TO TAKE THAT REPORT CARD HOME..I DID MIRROR WRITE AND IT WAS PERFECT

        • Dr Billy Levin says:

          You are obviously not a professional with scientific knowledge.Some of the examples you quoted had a neurological dysfunction that you are not aware of.

  3. Tom Anderson says:

    Each problem consisted of two numbers with a box between them. Apparently, the question was choose the number that is more than or less than the other. If the teacher asked the child to verbally solve the “problems” he would have said “41 is more than 36, 90 is more than 86, and 81 is more than 62.” His answers were correct, were they not? 81 IS more than 62, just as 62 is less than 81. But the way he chose to write his responses was socially and academically unacceptable.

    As a math quiz he scores 100%. As an English composition or grammar quiz, he needs some help and reinforcement of reading and writing from left to right.

  4. Kholoud says:

    I think he’s correct , this kid is just BRILLIANT

  5. IC Haagbo says:

    Clearly, out of the box thinking should be encouraged as it will most definitely aid this child growing up, no matter which profession she or he should chose; while simultaneously explaining what is conventionally expected. The two different approaches can co-exist in perfect harmony.

    Also, being able to write both ways is excellent for hand-eye-coordination. Plus it’s fab brain exercise.

    In short, only positives!

  6. Dr Billy Levin says:

    THe child is wrong. Reversals are often part of untreated ADHD.

    • Rhonda says:

      Reversals are part of dyslexia. Not A(ttention) D(eficit) H(yperactivity) D(isorder.) The inability to PAY ATTENTION.

  7. brian vaughan says:

    I think its important in this world of right-handers’,I myself am totally left sided tennis football cricket everything, to explain he’s not wrong in one sense but in a world of right handers and in their weird ways he is.

    • Tom Anderson says:

      I buy my left handed trousers from my tailor. Where do you get yours – from the butcher? The fly is on the other side so I can zip with my left hand.

      To me, a left-handed car allows me to sit on the right and shift with my left hand. A right-handed car allows me to shift with my right hand, as in the U.S. My daughter is left handed and she DOES reach across and shift with her left hand!

      Left-handed people ARE special and right-handedness is the norm.

  8. Ivo Pittoors says:

    I think this is a left handed child with some kind of dyslexi the question is how would arabic or chinese children who are right-handed handle this issue because they read and write right to left . just tell this child it’s wrong is my opinion all other explenations are useless waiste of time . because it is a child I would tell not advice to write it again and together if needed until he got it right .

  9. Steen Schmidt Nielsen says:

    I love the way lefthanderes do things.

  10. Dave says:

    This kid will obviously not get marks for these answers but for me he has a brillant mental capacity.
    Some will consider this type of thinking as stupid but you should agree that few of us would have been able to think like this at this young age!

  11. Holly Jones says:

    I am left handed and at 53 yrs old I still get corrected about my check marks. When I make a check mark, I make it to the left \ not to the right √. Is it incorrect to make the check mark to the left \ ?

  12. Mary says:

    I’m a left-hand pediatric occupational therapist in the US. I have evaluated left-handed children with reverse writing. I write in the reports that it is a common occurance with left hand children. I reccomend that a sticker be placed on the left side of the paper to help children know which side of the paper should they start their writing. This is an interesting concept of reversing the answer because of reverse writing. I would hope a teacher would recognize that a left-handed child would reverse their answers.

  13. Sandra says:

    I remember learning handwriting; my letters looked nice but my start and finish was not as instructed. My teacher gave me an A, based on ‘my’ results.

  14. Riley says:

    I’ve been able to write backwards since I was a kid. But it was by choice. Not something that I didn’t subconsciously. But I also found it extremely easy to switch hands. Maybe because I would get in trouble sometimes by the old man for using my left hand. I am a professional bowler. About five or six years ago I was riding skateboards with my son (yes I skate too and I’m about to turn 40) and I broke my left elbow on a mini ramp. Unfortunately I was in the middle of a league season. I didn’t want to quit the league for six weeks, so I bowled right handed until it healed. It wasn’t a hard transition. It was different, but not hard to figure out.

  15. Andre says:

    If you’re reading right to left 90 is 09 so the statement is incorrect.

    The child reverses some letters (‘r’) but not others.

    We left handlers have to adapt to live in a right dominated world. To tell the child they are “right” would be to handicap them further as the test is not about numbers, it’s about surviving this right handed world..!

  16. Wilma says:

    When I was young there was a teacher at the school that tried very hard to make me write right handed. To the point I cried every day. It took my Mother going to the school telling him to stop. I have never been able to do anything with my right hand!

  17. Pat Field says:

    The bold red pen markings have already told the young student that they are “just plain wrong.” Sad to see such a negative dismissal of the child’s learning efforts. Based upon motivational research finding (Anderman & Anderman, 2010) the manner in which this work effort was “graded” has injected a huge breach in the teacher/student trust relationship. The most affirming approach by any teacher is to “explain to the child that although this solution ‘feels’ right to them, it isn’t the conventional way of answering”, and avoids the pitfall of having to repair trust, as well as focus on rebuilding positive feelings within the child that they are indeed a competent learner with valid ideas for figuring things out.

  18. G6JPG says:

    I think the teacher should have given the marks the first time, but gently explained to the child what is required. (If we’re strict, the _numbers_ aren’t “backwards”.)
    \\
    [A _really_ progressive teacher would have – for fun – next time put in a few where the numbers for just one or two questions _were_ printed “backwards”, and then had a classroom discussion! But I doubt most would have the time – or, for that matter, the skills to use a reversed font.]
    \\
    I’d like to see more of what was written in red, actually, before condemning the teacher. The picture cuts off what is probably “Don’t” something.

  19. Bernice Shaw says:

    I wrote the same way when I was 7 the teacher did tell me I was wrong, she did try to show me until I realised my self what I was doing the teacher read all my work with a mirror.

    I think to tell a child they are doing it wrong then leave them alone to work it out for themselves. In my case a realised quite quickly.

  20. roni says:

    We lefties can read/write either way but righties canʻt.

    By the way, I own an Apple laptop because the buttons are on the top LEFT – Steve Jobs was right handed. Feels so right! :*)

  21. Chris A. says:

    As for bob S. and his M1 comment, I’ll bet he learned to use that right thumb rather than a left thumb when clearing the action and closing the bolt. As a lefty I won a ROTC contest as having the fastest blindfolded time in striping and refitting an M1 action. Hot M1 spent shell ejections across a lefties face are nasty, especially if you don’t wear glasses. But I thank him for his service. Why is “A left handed compliment” regarded as an insult?

  22. Chris A. says:

    65 years ago I mirror wrote my name inside the cover of my first book. My Mom tried to show me “conventional” lettering but I remember my Dad telling her to be patient, “He’s a lefty” we’ll have to work with him. Much later in conversations with Dad it turned out he had a very difficult time with parochial school teachers who made sure he wrote right handed. Driving an English car with the left hand shift comes natural to me as does throwing, kicking a ball, batting lefty, shooting and photography with left eye viewing. However lefties have a high incidence of dyslexia and ADHD which takes a real effort to overcome. I don’t miss dial phones. Being a lefty working on auto restorations is handy as I can reach and work in places closed to righties. I have a lefty and a righty daughter. Lefty is more verbal, quicker thinking and less structured than her sister. I thought lefties were 1 in 10 but there seems to be more of them now.

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