Posts Tagged ‘3 Act Math Story’

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.


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.

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The good folks at Vat19.com just keep making the Gummy Bear problem better for me. Thanks to John Burk for noticing this one and throwing it out on Twitter.

My favorite Learning Through Problem Solving activity right now is the Giant Gummy Bear problem. You can read my post on it here. I have used this problem with students and teachers, and it is always a favorite. Teachers who have used it have emailed me to tell me that they received Giant Gummy Bears from their classes as gifts after doing this problem. It really does go over well in class. Students tend to wonder how many small gummy bears make up the 5 lb gummy bear. They wonder about the dimensions of the 5 lb gummy bear. It’s fun, and it leads to good math. I’ve had trouble coming up with extensions for the problem until now.

Then the nice people over at Vat19 made me one. And I didn’t even ask for it. Check this out.

The beauty of this one is that I don’t even have to edit it. It works exactly how it is. It provides just enough information, but still leaves lots of math questions students could explore.

It’s an extension to the original because the math involved is going to be different than the math involved in the 5 lb problem. The  34 fluid ounce tummy throws a nice 3-dimensional wrench into the calculations. Students will have to compensate for this hole in the belly of the 26 pounder.

Questions I see them having include:

  • How many regular gummy bears make up the 26 pound one?
  • How tall is that 26 pound gummy bear?
  • How many small gummy bears would fit in the 26 pounder’s belly?
  • Is the cost of the 26 pounder proportional to the cost of the small ones and to the 5 pound one?

Question I have:

  • Can somebody with an extra $200 send on of those my way?

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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.


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.


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


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.

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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


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.


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