Teaching English using Elon Musk’s methods

Today I’d like to share with you my brilliant discovery of late, which I consider to be a great teaching tool. Initially I came across an article about a school set up by Elon Musk (is there anything this guy doesn’t get involved in?) called Ad Astra, which in itself is great material for a class discussion. It’s a school where children of various ages learn together in teams, subjects include coding, artificial intelligence, robotics and engineering, students trade in the school’s own currency called the Astra to learn about entrepreneurship and subjects like foreign languages, sport and music are absent from the curriculum.

You can access the whole article here.

The article itself isn’t the actual discovery. It’s the methodology used at the school that is, namely its fantastic CONUNDRUMS. By definition a conundrum is a difficult problem to solve. The conundrums at Ad Astra are designed to develop the students’ problem-solving and critical thinking skills. The solutions are never obvious as the situations in question can be viewed from many different perspectives and no two discussions about the same conundrum are ever the same, as the students offer their own, unique insights.


Here’s one of the conundrums:

The Treasure Conundrum source: Astra Nova School

One day, an ancient treasure is found using a translated map. Three people helped to make this discovery, but who should get the most treasure ?

  • Option A: The Researcher. The researcher dedicates their whole career to searching for the hidden map before finding it an unlikely place.
  • Option B: The Translator. Once the map is found, the translator is the only one on the planet that can decode the symbols on the map.
  • Option C: The Treasure Hunter. The treasure hunter uses the translated map and takes many risks and overcomes great challenges to find the treasure.
So, who do you think gets the greatest share of the treasure? Are you Team Researcher, Team Translator, or Team Treasure Hunter?

However, there are many more conundrums to choose from- The Lake Conundrum- who’s to blame for a dead lake (personally, my favourite), The Airport Conundrum- who should decide whether an airport should expand, The Pizza Conundrum- how should the town decide which pizza place should be allowed to trade? There are 12 in total.


The great thing about these conundrums is they can be used with your primary school students of English as well teenagers, adult learners and even business corporates. They are a great opportunity to practise giving opinions and exchanging ideas and discussing them is definitely lots of fun for all the people involved.

You can access all of the conundrums here.

You might wonder why the link above is from Astra Nova, not Ad Astra. Let me explain.Elon Musk established the small-scale Ad Astra school to provide education to his own children and selected children of his SpaceX employees. In July 2020, after six years of operating, Ad Astra moved out of SpaceX campus, became Astra Nova and started offering tuition to a wider audience of students with online and international options. Astra Nova school has the same principles as Ad Astra and is run by the same team of educators as its precursor, but is simply more inclusive now, which means your kids can apply too, provided they can offer a brilliant conundrum response 😉

Happy problem solving and till next time!