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## Safe Cracking in 3 Acts

I’ve been getting a kick out of the first season of this show.

Act I

Just to pique their interest, play this clip.  Ask them what they wonder about. Hopefully they talk about the number of possible codes.

Act II

Scene 1

Play this clip. Let them work.

Scene 2

Play this clip. Let them work.

Act III

I have no video that reveals an answer here. Let them share their solutions with each other. Then let the watch the clip below so they can at least find out if Fusco manages to get the file.

I may have learned a new trick. It’s possible that this link will take you to a zip file (10.2 MB) that will allow you to download all 4 videos. It’s possible that it won’t. Let me know, either way.

### 9 Responses

1. If you’re hoping they’ll ask a certain question, what’s the argument against just asking it?

2. None. In this case, I would ask it. You wouldn’t. I’m trying to please everyone, here.

3. If I had a particular question I wanted the class to help me with, I’d ask it. If I wanted to see what questions the class brought to the table, I’d ask for their questions. In both cases, I find it useful to test the waters.

4. I find it almost impossible to go into these without a question I hope the kids will ask. My dilemma is always what to do when they go in a completely different direction than I imagined. The constructivist in me says, “Let ’em go!” The uptight math teacher in me says. “Steer them to the question that is in the curriculum.”

Far worse than that, however, is when I get no reaction from them at all.

I hear what you’re saying with the struggle between constructivist and uptight math teacher. I’d like to think I was open to going in a direction suggested by my students. However, it would be a shame if students didn’t ask questions here related to combinatorics. I’d be back where I started – trying to find a way to introduce permutations and seeing that clip art of flags on ships, blue and red cars, and the like in my textbook. With a different problem (maybe I have proportions in mind but students are asking about surface area), us uptight math teachers might just have to learn to get comfortable with letting students go.

Thanks for sharing this. A few years back I was looking for a collection of scenes from tv/movies that set up problems to be solved using mathematics. The math in the movies sites that sometimes get mentioned online lean more towards the ‘in the opening scene the lead character can be seen writing the quadratic formula on a napkin’ kind of stuff.

I watched the show and didn’t think about doing anything with it. I’ve been told that once you start looking at things through an anyqs lens, it becomes natural/easy. Probably time for me to get started trying this.

6. Hi John, Not sure if it’s just me but the sound and the video didn’t match in the first act. Also, The first time through the video I didn’t quite get what he was doing at the end of the clip. The second act it was a little clearer that he was punching in a combination, but the scene still didn’t beg the question how many possible combinations are there?

I see where you’re going with this, but if there was a movie where a guy was struggling to break the combination by trying all kinds of random combinations or something like that, in other words more focus on the keypad and cracking the combination, it would be more clear. There has to be a hundred scenes like this, it’s just trying to recall what movies/shows they are in.

7. James,

Thanks for the comment. Try the zip file downloads and see if the audio and video match for you. It might be the streaming from dropbox that is affecting the links for you. They seem to be working fine on my end, from a technical standpoint.

I’m glad you asked about my choices in where I clipped the video. My cuts were very intentional. I should probably have mentioned that I am emulating the three act process of Mr. Dan Meyer. Whether or not I have done that well is certainly open for discussion.

In Dan’s first act, we are supposed to provide just enough information to get the students interested, but not enough to actually let them be able to solve anything yet. That’s why I cut the Act I video where I did. This Act I video is probably not perfect. I’d wonder things like, “Why is he breaking in?” “How hard will it be to guess the code?” or “What is he doing with the light?”

Act II is where I provide enough information for the students to be able to solve their question. That’s why I chopped off Act I before they mention the 3, 5 and 8. After the Act II, Scene I video with the 3, 5, and 8 mentioned, now the students have enough information to solve the question, “How many codes are possible using 3, 5, and 8?” The problem I see with this one is that the question I just wrote may or may not be the obvious question to them.

8. I have a completely different question. What show is this?

9. It’s from Person of Interest. One of the best new shows this season, in my opinion.