Stories with Holes

April 26, 2018

I was teaching a lesson today on critical thinking based on a riddle I was given at the PAIS teachers’ conference. The riddle is as follows:

A man lives on the twelfth floor of a building. Each morning he gets up, showers, gets dressed, takes the elevator to the first floor and goes to work. Each evening, he comes home, takes the elevator to the sixth floor, runs up to the twelfth floor and he’s home. Why doesn’t he take the elevator to the twelfth floor when he comes home?

Answer? He is too short to reach the button.

My class got this about 15 minutes quicker than I did, so I created a choice of bridging activities in case we had finished all other tasks related.

  • Imagine you are the man, getting into the lift for the first time and realising that the 12 button is too high. Write the introduction to a story with this as the idea.
  • Try to create your own logic/critical thinking conundrum to challenge the rest of the class.
  • Essay question: How does using critical thinking support all subject areas?

Most of the students picked option 2. However, I picked option 1 and modelled my good behaviour by getting on with it in the allocated 10 minutes. Here is my result:


When looking up and down the heavily wallpapered hallway, a sense of times gone by pervaded. The art on the walls was kooky and mundane at the same time – if that’s at all possible – fruits in pastels of unusual colours; the slightly off-centre stare of a big busted Monalisa; a few old cigarette adverts of the 1970s without our more modern health warnings. He stepped into the elevator. The light around the button for number 17 flickered high above his head. Gilded mirrors flourished in a garden of faux-leather padding.

Floor 12. He could see it clearly.

One bead of sweat slowly trickled over his enlarged balding brow. There was no way. He’d been in elevators like this one before but always squashed against someone, and a bulbous giant of a woman or a wannabe aggressive Teddy Boy type would reach over and, after looking down at him (with possible pity) would politely inquire – “Which floor?”

However, on re-opening the door with it’s vibrato ping, the padded silence of the lobby trudged back at him through overly thick carpet with a slow and steady monotonousness. There was nobody to help now.

He took a shot at it. Fingers stretched and extended as far as was possible. Legs squatted and feet bounced against the metal casing. Shudders in the lift shaft like bursts of static being released into the evening.

On the roof, a pigeon took flight.

By the entrance, the concierge thought for a moment that maybe he had heard something, but soon decided against it and went back to his book.



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