Please read both problems below:
Now answer the following questions as honestly as possible:
1. How interested are you in solving each problem?
2. How confident are you that you would be able to solve each one?
Before reading on, I invite you to try the problem you are *least* interested in solving.
Did you manage to mobilise the energy to get started on, or remain involved with, the problem you chose?
I am interested in what happens when asked/forced to solve problems that do not hold our 'interest'.
I chose to work on problem 15. I became aware my lack of interest might be because I found it difficult to comprehend. It was not the sort of problem I usually try. I felt reasonably unconfident that I would be able to solve it (in the time I was prepared to give it). This resulted in finding it difficult to mobilise the energy to keep working on it.
Is there a correlation between our ability to become involved in a problem, and our perceived ability to be able to solve it?
A colleague once used the name 'sitters' to describe those students who require considerable motivation to get started on, or remain involved with, a problem.
Are 'sitters' sitting because they are not 'interested', or because the problem is not at the right level for them, or perhaps due to a dialectic between the two?
What does it mean to say we are not interested? In some cases it may be rooted in a difficulty in mobilising energy due to a feeling that the challenge is beyond our limitations. It may be the absence of a spark of insight, or recognition.
One way of coping with a challenge that feels beyond our limitations is to avoid it. This may take the form of disinterest or dislike. We become able to meet this kind of challenge but not that one, we become this kind of person and not that.
Repeat this a hundred times and we may understand why sitters are sitting.