For a human mind, the best way to learn a complex idea is to find it living inside something else it already understands. Metaphors create that bridge. It’s when we find metaphors, to explain something which doesn’t exist in our current vocabulary, we break the mental barrier and create the possibility of discovering something new.
In 1891, a German high school mathematics teacher, Wilhelm Von Osten claimed that his horse named ‘Hans’ had unusual intelligence. According to Osten, with the help of some basic training, Hans had developed a remarkable ability to solve fairly difficult mathematical problems. Osten firmly believed that humans had been underestimating the reasoning skills of animals, especially horses. Soon Von Osten began touring all over Germany to show off “Clever Hans” mathematical proficiency.
Alan Bellows in his article,Clever Hans the Math Horse,describes this incident –