Improbable Research Teachers’ Guide

The Improbable Research Teachers’ Guide is reprinted in every issue of the magazine. It has been described as “the pithiest, best guide for how to teach science.” Here it is, yet again:

Three out of five teachers agree: curiosity is a dangerous thing, especially in students. If you are one of the other two teachers, AIR and mini-AIR can be powerful tools. Choose your favorite hAIR-raising article and give copies to your students. The approach is simple. The scientist thinks that he (or she, or whatever), of all people, has discovered something about how the universe behaves. So:

  • Is this scientist right? And what does “right” mean, anyway?
  • Can you think of even one different explanation that works as well or better?
  • Did the test really, really, truly, unquestionably, completely test what the author thought he was testing?
  • Is the scientist ruthlessly honest with himself about how well his idea explains everything, or could he be suffering from wishful thinking?
  • Some people might say this is foolish. Should you take their word for it?
  • Other people might say this is absolutely correct and important. Should you take their word for it?

Kids are naturally good scientists. Help them stay that way.