Wednesday, November 09, 2005

When I was in fifth grade, Blessed Sacrament decided that four of us were gifted. (No, this isn't a story about how cool I am.) They pulled us out of normal classes and assigned us, two and two, into a small room to be tutored by Sister Julia. I remember some hysterical stories about the curriculum she tried to create for us, notwithstanding her best intentions -- but the worst part I remember was being assigned logic games.

Here's an example of a logic game:
Four students -- Harry, Linda, Susan, and Thomas -- took a history test. Harry's grade was lower than Susan's grade. Thomas did not fail. If Linda got a B and Susan got an A, what was Harry's grade?
Imagine that, but far more complicated. That's what we had to do in fifth grade; and that's what I'm doing right now, preparing for the LSAT. I wasn't any good at logic games when I was eleven, and I'm not any better today.

I'm not whining that they shouldn't be on the LSAT. I agree that they evoke analytical skills which are relevant to law. But I'm not any good at them; and if there's one thing I've struggled with, it's getting good at something for which I absolutely lack aptitude.

Logic games are like juggling. You have to balance a handful of rules across (usually) two sets of variables, and you have to be able to freeze them in certain alignments for later reference. When I tried to learn juggling, I discovered that, in the process of trying to track the motion of several objects, you begin to see phantoms. The eye sees a ball and the hand reaches for it, only to realize the ball was never there. You definitely saw a ball, but now you're grabbing empty air.

The same problem arises with logic games: In trying to keep track of different variables, you begin to see rules that weren't specified and conclusions that aren't warranted. The farther those phantoms seep into your thinking, the more difficult it becomes to return to the original problem. And then you're screwed.


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