My nephew who is a qualified engineer and is retiring from industry to take a position as a university lecturer was visiting us last week, and we began to talk about creativity and how to teach it.

I shared with him Einstein’s view that “If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.”

In other words, we have to learn to recognize the assumptions on which our “right answers” are based, and then to think out of the box.

I said I sometimes gave my students the assignment of coming to class with at least one concrete example of times when 1 + 1 does not equal 2.

My nephew immediately came up with an idea I’d never thought of before. If a computer is programmed to round off numbers to eliminate decimals, then any number between .50 and 1.49 will read “1.” If you then tell the computer to add these numbers in pairs, it will round off as “1”all the pairs that add up to less than 1.49. For example, .74 + .74 which equals 1.49 which round off as 1.

And just to add another twist, all the pairs that equal 2.5 or more will round off as 3.

Not, I admit, quite as brilliant as Einstein’s ability to give up the assumption that time and space are absolute.

But it delights me nonetheless.