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Topic: hilbert's third problem
Replies: 24   Last Post: Aug 16, 2013 3:33 AM

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GS Chandy

Posts: 7,958
From: Hyderabad, Mumbai/Bangalore, India
Registered: 9/29/05
Re: Re: hilbert's third problem
Posted: Aug 13, 2013 12:20 AM
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Robert Hansen (RH) posted Aug 10, 2013 7:34 PM:
> On Aug 10, 2013, at 1:33 AM, GS Chandy
> <> wrote:

> > I re-assert my statement: "The ideas and attitudes
> of a true =
> discoverer are quite 'different'". The 'meaning of
> the OPMS' is: it =
> could help us all to participate in true discovery.
> Why anymore so than just a blank sheet of paper?

Well, the "blank sheet of paper" is one very useful tool. (Call it 'A').
Its prime function is to receive and help maintain a record of ideas generated. (This is as I understand the matter. Do feel free to let us know of your disagreement, if any).

A 'pen' (or 'pencil') is yet another useful tool. (Call it 'B').
Its prime function is to enable creation and maintenance of a written record of ideas (along with the paper, of course).

But I observe that it is the 'mind' that is the single INDISPENSABLE tool. (The mind could belong to an individual; or to a group if a group problem is involved. Individual or group, call it 'C').

The prime function of 'C' is to 'generate' ideas relative to a problem situation.

The above three are factors involved in problem solving (apart from the problem itself, of course; and the understanding of the problem situation that the individual/group possesses, which we take as granted). Only the mind is ESSENTIAL.

The fundamental tools of problem solving:
A great many problems have been 'resolved', to reasonable satisfaction of the stakeholders in the problem situation with just the three tools above. As observed, we often do not even need 'A' or 'B' - just 'C' will do. This is perfectly fine in most of the cases we confront.

We may need a little help from our friends:
(What was the name of that Beatles song?)

Unfortunately, the mind sometimes gets confused by the sheer proliferation of relevant (AND irrelevant) ideas with respect to problems or issues confronted - and just recording the ideas simply does not work.

It has been observed in real life that the mind can use some help to enable CHOICE of the specific ideas that may be relevant at the specific stage one may have reached. In fact, 'A' and 'B' noted above are just such tools to help the mind, 'C', make such choice and thereby to resolve the problems it is confronted with.

So: we often try to provide the mind with some help to do that choice. In particular when 'A' and 'B' by themselves do not provide sufficient help, some further help is often provided.

One useful thing to do is simply to write down one's ideas about the five (or three) best ideas that strike the mind; then choose the best one. This has been found quite adequate in a great many problem situations.

The difficulty is, this has still often led to confusion - and people have demanded MORE help.

So the management gurus put on their 'thinking caps'.

At one stage, 'management' (guided by the gurus in 'management schools', no doubt) became convinced that the right way to go was to use PERT Charts to help their people involved in management issues make the choices of ideas.

They ALL jumped onto that 'PERT Chart Bandwagon'!

I understand that "the CS guys" (RH being one of them) duly obliged and created PERT Charts by the reamful or by the ton load: they all even went so far as to plaster all the walls of all the halls and all the corridors of the offices with PERT Charts. (This is my understanding, from what was divulged by RH).

Unfortunately, all of this frantic PERT Chart activity (plastering everything in sight with PERT Charts) left the people involved in real problem situations even MORE confused!

As is evident when we check out the state of most any complex problem situation in the world today - a glance through the newspapers and commentaries any day should serve to convince.

The difficulty with this particular 'PERT Chart solution' was simply that the whole idea of PERT Charts is 'systemically flawed'!

In order to understand just how PERT Charts are 'systemically flawed', it may be necessary to brush up a little on 'systems': Gene Bellinger's "Introduction to Systems Thinking" ( and "Mental Model Musings" ( are quite useful for such background.

PERT Charts were not useful primarily because the relationship "PRECEDES" in the PERT Charts was exactly the incorrect relationship to enable people arrive at an understanding of the 'system' in which the problem at issue is embedded.

The PRECEDENCE of events/activities relating to a problem situation cannot help to clarify the problem at all in the minds of the stakeholders in the issue. In fact, the stakeholders who place their dependence on "PRECEDENCE" of events/activities in a system are likely to go dangerously wrong in their understanding of the working of the system in question.

The gurus in thousands of management schools, the various managements in hundreds of thousands of organizations around the world and their "CS guys" failed to realise this simple and fairly obvious fact - and they ALL went about (as noted earlier) plastering all the walls of all the halls and all the corridors with worthless PERT Charts!

Then came Warfield:
The late John N. Warfield studied the field of 'systems' anew and developed an effective and workable understanding of specifically which relationships in a complex system could help enable understanding of the system in question. (More information about Warfield's seminal contributions to systems science is available at and from the "John N. Warfield Collection" held at the library of George Mason University, where Warfield was Professor Emeritus - see

It turned out that the crucial relationships are "CONTRIBUTES TO" and "HINDERS.

You simply need to get hold of your ideas and then you check out how they may "CONTRIBUTE TO" or "HINDER" each other and the 'Mission' under consideration.

Specifically, if we could work to find out, within any system, just how the the various factors in the system "MAY CONTRIBUTE TO" or "HINDER" each other and the goal(s) of the system, the stakeholders could steadily enhance their understanding of the system in question - and thereby could work to develop effective systems in practice. Warfield developed the tools that enable us to arrive at this needed understanding of systems.

The OPMS is is a realization of the ideas expressed briefly above, in the shape of a simple aid to help us choose amongst the ideas that may strike us when we're working on complex issues. More information about the OPMS is available at the attachments to my post "Democracy: how to achieve it?" -

In conclusion, I remark: By all means just use a blank sheet of paper and a pencil to help you resolve your problems.

As observed earlier, very often you do not even need the paper and the pencil either - just forget about them. (It is, however, advisable not to forget your mind).

However, if you should feel the need for some way to enable your mind to 'come to better grips' with the complex problems at hand, the OPMS may help. I note that a little learning and a fair bit of 'unlearning' (alongside the learning) are demanded in order to use the OPMS effectively.

Many do not succeed in doing the needed learning and 'unlearning'.

Not to worry about it. Many do not even desire (or need) to resolve problems. Perhaps true happiness lies simply in not worrying at all. Why use a blank sheet of paper or pencil to help resolve problems? Indeed, why even use the mind? THAT way may lie true happiness! So said a famous Zen master (whose name does not now come to mind).

("Still Shoveling! Not PUSHING!")

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