Are There More Doors or Wheels in the World? Creating the Proper Conditions for a Question to Drive Dialogue

There is a TikTok Challenge that asks the question whether there are more doors or wheels in the world. Ryan Nikon (@NewYorkNixon) posed the initial question on March 4, 2022 with a poll on Twitter, and has received over 223,000 votes…and counting! What is it that makes this a question worth debating?

On TikTok, “doorsorwheels” has over 55.4 million views! Ryan’s Twitter poll currently shows 53.6% of the responses siding with wheels compared to 46.4% in favor of doors. People have also taken to TikTok making their case with #teamdoors showing 36.1 views while #teamwheels has over 81.9 million views.

Heated debate ensued at my house this weekend with my two boys (17 years old and 21 years old) both sharing their reasons behind their position. I was astonished. What made this question bring about such debate and dialogue? As each of my boys took a side, I observed many things that helped me to formulate indicators of a good question that we need to consider in posing not to just with our students but adults as well, regardless of the question or problem. These considerations aren’t meant to be used to reflect or analyze every question, but they do provide some insight in ways to help drive dialogue.

Consideration #1: Good questions engage. In observing the debate with my two boys, I noticed that they were quickly engaged. While good questions should be clear, this question invokes rich dialogue on defining what a wheel and door is. With my initial take on the question, I started thinking about wheels on various vehicles (cars, bikes, etc.) and doors in a house. Yet, my boys changed my paradigm in their reflective questions:

  • Are kitchen cabinets considered doors?
  • Are gears in a clock or factory considered wheels?

Consideration #2: Good questions foster debate. My initial response was that a car is a “wash”, since it had four tires and four doors. One son, #TeamDoor, responded with a claim that the glove compartment and hatchback counted as doors. To which the other son then argued that the steering wheel and spare wheel would also count. The more one person defended his position with an example, “think about all of the wheels on the bottom of office chairs in a business”, the more the other person defended his, “think about all of the doors on a cruise ship compared to the number of wheels on it”.

Consideration #3: Good questions spark ideas. You would’ve thought the debate would’ve lasted ten minutes and then shift to something else. Instead, both boys continued the dialogue the next morning at breakfast. It was clear that had thought about it overnight as well as conducted “research” to back their claims.

  • What about the wheels on conveyor belts?
  • What about a school full of lockers?
  • What about all the toy cars?

While their “research” was light, other people around the world definitely brought their research into this question. @m4rkchapman posted a Tweet citing Lego’s yearly production of 381 million tires as a reason to side with #TeamWheel. @LFCALEX_7 took a mathematical approach based on his simple definition of a wheel and door:

Consideration #4: Good questions are open-ended. Again, not all questions should be open-ended – 1 + 1 = 2. But, there’s something about an open-ended question that allows for on-going dialogue. By allowing for different interpretations of defining a wheel and tire, the conversation can take on different perspectives over time. And, because the terminology and perspective can be viewed from multiple angles, everyone can participate without extensive prior knowledge.

While there’s definitely a place for questions to provide clear terms and arrive at a single answer, there are instances for questions to invoke curiosity and imagination that extend thinking. These types of questions also allow for “safe” debate and various approaches. While the debate may never be solved and doesn’t necessarily have any severe repercussions to our lives, questions like these do allow for people to think differently, recognize different perspectives, and serve to develop critical thinking skills.

One comment

  1. Great question-with the answers, I wonder: “Is the answer given what should be or what is?”

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