There is a math puzzle circulating throughout social media involving a car and three parking spaces. The puzzle challenges you to figure out the appropriate number of the parking space occupied by the car, based on the numbers of the two adjacent spaces. Here’s the rub: kids can usually solve the puzzle in 20 seconds or less while adults take much longer, if they solve it at all.
It turns out that the puzzle is a matter of perspective. We adults look at math and automatically start thinking about equations or numerical patterns.
We will stare at the picture of the car and the two parking spaces for hours, trying to rationalize in our brains some sort of relationship between the numbers we can see and the one that is hidden. Kids don’t have that problem because they lack our habitual reliance on mathematical formulas and patterns.
Kids solve the problem by looking at the picture for what it is: a parking lot with two vacant spaces and one occupied space. That perspective enables them to turn the picture upside down in their minds and, in so doing, quickly find the solution. Indeed, it’s not really a math problem all.
It is a problem of perspective. Seeing the picture as a parking lot lets the viewer solve the puzzle in seconds.