David Sullivan's picture


My oldest son, a 3rd grader this year, has had homework every night, with one exception, since school began two weeks ago.  During the past two weeks I’ve come to the realization that no matter how much I hated homework as a student it’s even worse as a parent!  I truly appreciate those who dedicate their lives to teaching young minds.

Now that I’ve got that off my chest I want to share what I re-learned by doing story problems with my son.  My son is great with math, but struggles with his reading.  That is a dangerous combination for solving story problems.  His eyes and mind are immediately drawn to the numbers in the problem and he searches for words like “less than” “more” “fewer” “twice as many” to begin running calculations, ignoring the other words in the problem, and the answer he gives doesn’t answer the question.

Similarly, we often get some data on our business and quickly jump to conclusions and make decisions that can be detrimental.  These can include the balance in our checking account, last month’s sales, or the size of our credit line.  Although each item of information is a critical piece of the puzzle it may not lead us to make the best strategic decision in the end.

Last night I taught my son that the most effective way to solve the problem is to begin with the last sentence, question, or statement that tells you what you’re trying to figure out in the end.  Going back and rereading the question after you know what you want gives you the best strategy to answer the problem correctly.

Like understanding the story problem in my son’s homework, we need to know what the end goal is in our business.  Once we know the goal we know what information and financial reporting we need and how to interpret that information.  Following this process gives us the best chance for success.


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