While Dr Punya Mishra from Michigan State University. talked on different topics during his day of meetings, he hit a chord with me in the evening. In part he suggested that math should be a fine arts subject in education. It's fun, it's beautiful, it's creative - even though we have convinced our selves that two plus two is rigidly and always 4, but black is black in art and quiet and loud are always quiet and loud in music.
His idea of a mathematical word problem was similar to my idea of a good word problem. He suggested panning the audience with a video camera, showing the clip to the students and having them estimate the number of persons in the room and their weights. Mine is simply to ask long long does it take to get from here to Salem [Oregon]. In my case they would have to make and explain their assumptions regarding distance, speed, and mode of transportation. These questions are much more authentic then when do two trains meet if they depart different towns at different times traveling at different speeds.
He also spoke of creativity, problem solving and critical thinking, a few of my favorite passions. To emphasize his point he showed a Powerpoint slide of the word "creativity" which was the same upside down as it was right side up. These ambigrams were the subject of an article by Martin Gardner in Scientific American some 40 years ago. I have also created several ambigrams of family names as well.
One of his opening slides was "Creativity is not a talent, it is a way of operating." His theme was around creativity, decreased creativity among school children and the need to foster creativity. Amen.