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The Lottery

I was in a meeting this morning, and we were discussing how to connect literacy across the curricular areas. I flashed back to high school, and a great short story we read. I started wondering whether I could use Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” in a math class. Then I began to wonder if a 3773 short story would fit with Dan Meyer’s 3 Act Mathematical Story Telling.  Here’s what I would try with this story.

Act I

Have students read The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson. Ask them what they wonder about. They will probably wonder about lots of things non-mathematical. Eventually they might wonder (Spoiler Alert!) what Tessie Hutchinson’s chances of winning the lottery were.

Act II

Ask the students what information they require to be able to answer the question. If they wonder how many families were in the first draw, you can have them look back through the story and count, or tell them that there were 16. They will also need to know that there are five members in the Hutchinson family in the second draw.

Act III

Students work it out. I still need to come up with a better way to reveal the answer, which is that Tessie had a 1 in 80 chance of winning the lottery.

Sequel

If this lottery has been going on all of Old Man Warner’s life, what is the probability that he survived to age 77?

Edit

Kendall reminded me that I started with connections to English class, and I meant to close with connections to English class. I would totally do this in collaboration with my school’s English teacher.