I support mostly high school math teachers. I work with colleagues who support K-9 teachers. Last week, I eavesdropped on two of them as they tried to come up with a 3 Act Math Story in style of Dan Meyer that would apply to division 1 students. This week’s Parks and Recreation may have provided us with one. You be the judge.

Act One

Click on Andy to play the movie.

Act Two

Find out what the students wonder about and what information they will need to answer their questions. I suspect they will wonder whether it will really be a billion nickels. Depending on how young a group you give this to, they may need to know that nickels are worth $0.05 or that there are 20 of them in a dollar. Canadian kids may need to be told that those wacky Americans use paper for $1 instead of coins.

Act Three

The good folks over at Parks and Recreation didn’t film the right answer for us. If anybody wants to withdraw 20 000 nickels, stack them up in some way, film it or photograph it, and send it my way, I would appreciate it. Otherwise, this is the best I can do. Give them a photo and some information.

$1000 = 20 000 Nickels

Sequels

Could Andy hold 20 000 nickels? How much would they weigh? What size container would he need? Would they fit in his trunk? If he piled them all in a giant stack, how high would they reach? What about a billion nickels? How much would they weigh? How high would they reach if all stacked up?

Edit (June 16, 2013) The story about Samsung paying off an Apple lawsuit using truckloads of nickels is a really nice sequel to this one. Some conversation on Twitter last night led me back here and I realized I never updated the sequels to include links to it. I have been using screenshots of this site, which I believe this is the origin of the story. The Humor>Satire also clearly indicates it’s a fake story. Timon Piccini sent links to this story last night, which isn’t as obviously fake. This morning, while updating, I found the following YouTube video purporting to be the 30 trucks delivering the nickels. I’m no world traveler, but it looks awfully European to me. It still might be fun to run it by a class full of kids.

Used this today! My kids LOVED it. I had them take estimates of how big 20,000 nickels would be… then when we found out 20,000 nickels is really not that impressive either, we talked about what a billion would look like. Students immediately asked “would it fit in this room?” I couldn’t have asked for a better segue.

[…] going to try this today, as a sequel to A Billion Nickels. I’m considering it in Beta, and hoping my awesome students can help concretize and enrich […]

[…] to find all kinds of problems related just to this standard. In this quest I came across the A Billion Nickels three act math problem on the Zero-Knowledge Proofs […]

My kid got a pretty good mark on her math final exam. She told me her class mark, and asked me what her blended mar… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…1 day ago

on November 6, 2011 at 5:20 pm |Megan Hayes-GoldingNot quite what you were looking for, but along the same lines: http://www.cockeyed.com/inside/million/million_dollars.html

on November 7, 2011 at 11:13 am |James HerrickThe MegaPenny Project has a great site that uses pennies that would answer many of the types of questions found in your Sequel. http://bit.ly/v9P2gF

on November 7, 2011 at 6:25 pm |Serafina Chinappi (@serafinac)Used this today! My kids LOVED it. I had them take estimates of how big 20,000 nickels would be… then when we found out 20,000 nickels is really not that impressive either, we talked about what a billion would look like. Students immediately asked “would it fit in this room?” I couldn’t have asked for a better segue.

on September 10, 2013 at 9:40 am |Brewster’s Millions Beta | artofmathstudio[…] going to try this today, as a sequel to A Billion Nickels. I’m considering it in Beta, and hoping my awesome students can help concretize and enrich […]

on September 10, 2013 at 10:29 am |federicomathArco claims this is 20,000 nickels: http://vimeo.com/14202994

on September 10, 2013 at 10:35 am |federicomathHere is $1000 in Nickels, boxed up at the beginning: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69YTga7aO5c

and then laid out on the ground at 5:08-> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69YTga7aO5c

on September 10, 2013 at 11:05 am |John ScammellNice finds!

on March 6, 2014 at 5:09 pm |Gap Filling: Division | When Math Happens[…] A Billion Nickels (John Scammell) […]

on September 5, 2014 at 2:20 pm |Day 3 | axes of symmetry[…] Grade: A Billion Nickels. This one went really well. The kids got into it. Here is my version. It amazes me how much […]

on September 6, 2014 at 9:27 am |Day 3 – In Depth | axes of symmetry[…] to find all kinds of problems related just to this standard. In this quest I came across the A Billion Nickels three act math problem on the Zero-Knowledge Proofs […]