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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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40 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..


    • 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:


        • 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:


        • 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. Dr Billy Levin says:

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

  6. 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.

  7. Steen Schmidt Nielsen says:

    I love the way lefthanderes do things.

  8. 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.

  9. 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! :*)

  10. 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?

  11. 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.

  12. Wendy Day says:

    I loved this article! Even now as an adult of 43 years old, i get people who are not left-handers complaining that they cannot read my writing! , though i do know some other lefty people and they have commented about us using “mirror writing”.

  13. Pj says:

    I GREW UP BEING HIT ON THE HAND W/A RULER….I WROTE EXACTLY LIKE THAT CHILD DID!I HAD TO TURN MY Body to use the right-hand handed desks and I will always have trauma from it..the teacher should suggest unconventional, not wrong.

  14. Margui says:

    Interesting. I never had written like that nor my husband. We both lefties. What I am struggling with, is that horrible can opener. I’m basically fully left-handed while my husband is also ambidextrous.

  15. Jennifer says:

    Unfortunately we live in a right=handed world whether we like it or not. I am left-handed and have had to adjust, like all left-handed people to a certain extent, to this right-handed world. I have never experienced writing ‘backwards’ but I do have empathy for all those who do, and perhaps am a bit envious of that ability to do so. Perhaps I am luckier than some because I am also quite proficient with my right hand and so I have been able to dodge those obstacles which hinder those who are profoundly left-handed.
    I think the child needs to have explained to him that what he has done is not wrong, but it is not correct in this right-handed world. He needs to be supported in his left-handedness and told to celebrate it.

  16. Trudi says:

    I love it! It is funny, although it only makes sense if you read the numbers L to R, but the sentence from R to L. My instinct would be to read the first one as 9 (on the right) is less than 58. Maybe others mixed their directions in that way. It gives me the same feeling as when visitors see my LH kitchen clock, the puzzled faces… My son, who is RH, went through a phase when learning to write, of writing the letters reversed, but still L to R. His rationale was that he was creating his own system. His writing became conventional as soon as he understood the reason it needed to be. I had a friend at senior school who under stress would write one page normally and the next in mirror writing without being aware of the change. Personally I wondered whether she should have been encouraged to try her LH as a child.

  17. Karen Mader says:

    Well, Bob, aren’t you fortunate. I am 74 and I find that I am reversing numbers now in my brain. (ie 23 for 32) and sometimes letters in words are put in the wrong order in my brain. Also, I often think light switches are on the opposite wall than they really are in rooms that I am familiar with. etc. etc.

  18. Karen Mader says:

    About two thirds of the way through my teaching career I completed my degree. (When I started teaching in B.C., Canada in 1962 you only needed two years of university to start teaching). A course that I took in 1983 on gifted children involved writing an essay. I chose “Brain Theory and Examples for Curriculum”. Although I used 18 references, the book that fascinated me the most was: The Brain: The Last Frontier by Richard M. Restak (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1979. Restak said although generally the left hemisphere controls the right side of the body and vice versa, forty-four per cent of left-handed people have the language side of the brain on the right side of the body and the non-language side on the left. (p. 195). This means that for these people the language part of the brain is still the dominant one.

  19. bob schwalbaum says:

    My opinion, as a 100% 85-year old leftie.. except my politics.. is that you guys are all what we used to “cry-babies”

    I have never had ANY problem being left-handed.. except for trying to fire the M1 rifle.

  20. Karen Mader says:

    If the teacher was left-handed she/he would probably get it and talk to the child. When I was 5 and living in a hotel with my parents I would copy the signs on the stores across the street and I always copied them backwards.
    Hopefully the teacher would have the time to talk to the child and ask about it anyway.

  21. Paul miles says:

    There’s left-handed thinking and there’s right-handed thinking. Both of my leftie daughters and myself know what is meant by right-handed thinking, i.e. thought process can only proceed in one direction – uni-directional, left to right, as in this case – whereas left-handed thinking can proceed in a variety of directions, but the meaning is still clear. Major problems can occur when ‘righties’ disallow any other thought processes but their own. Evrything has to follow set rules – no flexibility, no deviation from the ‘norm’. In our family we frequently complain when some-one(e.g. teacher, work colleague) can only think in a hierarchical, single direction – we say “He’s SO right-handed!” and the others shake their heads, sadly, knowing exactly what is meant by that!!

    • Dr Billy Levin says:

      The left brain is usually a dominant a language, listening, learning brain. making us right handed. The right brain is a mechanical practical doing brain. With left brain dominance we first think with the left brain before doing with the right brain mechanical brain. When we inherit a dominant right brain we are often left handed and hastily do before thinking which is sometimes a problem.

      • Ken Johnson says:

        .ti daer ot tnaw uoy fi rorrim a ot pu ti dloh ot evah uoY .gnitirw rorrim od llits nac I yad siht oT

  22. Ken Johnson says:

    You can read the examples as

    18 is more than 62
    09 is more than 26

    • Kath says:

      I was just about to say the same thing, therefore the teacher is correct!

      • Dr Billy Levin says:

        If I may comment politely. ADHD is inhedrited right brain dominant and left brain immaturity. If the right brain is dominant ,there is a tendency to left handedness. THus in writing, not in maths, they tend to write from the dominant brain,which is right, to the left, thus reversing the letters “b” and “d’. Elementary mechanical maths is done with the good right brain thus no confusion. However, the left brain is often used in story sums which have words thus from the immature brain and is often a problem in ADHD. Teachers are unfortunately too often unaware of what ADHD does.

        • Ken Johnson says:

          I don’t believe that ADHD actually exists. I think it’s a confection by the greedy drug companies, lazy parents and gullible teachers.

          • Dr Billy Levin says:

            You are unfortunately ignorant. World wide medical research certainly totally accepts that ADHD is a proven inherited neurological dysfunction resulting in right dominance causing behavior problems and /or left brain immaturity causing learning problems. As a specialist in this field I have only diagnosed and treated just over 22000 cases. With international recognition I hardly think I have been fooling the experts for so long. Roger Sperry received the Nobel Prize for his split brain research explaining how the human brain works. There are classical signs to prove the child is born with the condition. In the UK. USA, Canada, Australia and South Africa proof exists. Some time ago 81 professors, worldwide all signed an official complaint about the ignorance . In South Africa I was asked to write an article entitled “ADHD misconceptions and Misinformation” published in a Paediatric Medical Journal.

          • Ken Johnson says:

            22000 cases? Gosh. In your CV you claim 250,000. That’s a lot.

            PS. Try not to be rude.

          • Dr Billy Levin says:

            250,000 is an error. With 40 years experience involved in ADHD exclusively, I am in a position to state the current facts as seen by experts world wide. As a leftie,I can certainly talk from personal experience as a child in an ignorant world.

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