Confusion with Yes and No

It seems that nothing is clearer or easier than the questions that require “yes” or “No” answers.  There is no room for “maybe”,  “to some degree” “under certain  circumstances one way or another”.

So it seems.

How then I should reconcile those two facts:

1.Robert knows all the math facts.  He uses them fluently and without hesitation when he is adding, subtracting, and multiplying large numbers, or when he divides large numbers by divisors up to 12.  He applies his knowledge while doing operations on fractions or even mixed numbers.

Thus it was not surprising that Robert answered all the questions below correctly:

How much is 5+8?

How much is 11-4

How much is 20 -7

How much is 64:8

And a few more.

2. Robert  made more than 50% errors while answering  any of the following questions requiring “yes” or “no” answers.

Is five plus eight eleven?

Is five plus eight thirteen?

Is twenty divided by four, eight?

I could go on and on, but I stopped after ten questions.  Only three times Robert answered correctly.  A person without any knowledge of math facts would have a 50/50 chance of providing a correct answer.

So what has happened?

Robert and I have been struggling with this problems for years. I analyzed if from many different angles. I came with different answers, which in the end are only hypothesis, I am not sure how to check.  Is the  attention, a culprit?  But then why Robert pays attention to one sort of questions and not to the other?

Was my (or someone’s before me) method of practicing answering “YES and NO” questions a cause of Robert’s confusion?  For instance, when I used cards as so-called “visual support”, I probably bewildered Robert even more. Imagine a question, “Can a giraffe fly?”  illustrated by the picture of the giraffe seating high up, on the tree.  From the picture you clearly have to deduce that yes, it can. How would a giraffe make a nest on the top of the tree, if it did not fly there?

But even more realistic photo of a bird perching on the tree, doesn’t help Robert answer the question, “Do the birds fly?”  as the only bird in the picture is not flying in this moment.  So the birds in the picture do not fly.

Unfortunately for Robert, the people around him consider “Yes” and “No” questions the easiest tool to gain basic information. Those questions  Robert heard very often in the past and he will hear them frequently in the future.  Robert’s answer, however, are not reliable source of information about what Robert knows, experiences, feels, needs, or wants. There is no way of avoiding them, so Robert should learn.

I should teach him.

I don’t know how.

Not yet.

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