classroom structure scale tasks unit analysis whiteboards

Gummy Bear Revisited

The giant gummy bear problem has been floating around the blogosphere for a while. When I first saw it, I knew I wanted to use it. I finally have the perfect opportunity in Foundations of Mathematics 20 this year. (Saskatchewan Curriculum).
History of the Problem (As far as I know)
  • Originally presented by Dan Anderson here. Included original Vat19 video and driving question about scale.
  • Adapted by John Scammell here. Edited video and new driving question.
  • Dan Meyer provided a 3Act framework for the problem here.
  • Blair Miller adapted his own 3Act structure here.
My apologies go out to anyone else who played with or re-posted an original interpretation on the problem.

My vision for the problem (As far as I know)
Students will work on the problem as a task force. Whether or not I choose the groups will depend on the mix of students I get. The task will take place in a unit on rates, unit analysis, and scale factor. Students have been presented with mathematics that will help them through the problem. In that sense, this is not a “discovery” lesson, but I feel that that word attracts so much heat–I dare not use it.
The structure of the unit is highly influenced by Bowman Dickson’s whiteboard structure. He uses it to induce wall-to-wall mathematics in a class period. That purpose remains here, but I also feel that a single medium to record their thinking (in a limited space) encourages efficiency and teamwork. With these two purposes in mind, students will enter the room to find tables equipped with the following supplies:
  1. A whiteboard. (Not too big, not too small)
  2. Two fine-tipped whiteboard markers
  3. A ruler
  4. A bag of gummy bears
  5. A folder containing documents
The folder will consist of pictures:
The first three are of the dimensions of the giant gummy bear from the original video.
Each group will also get screenshots from Meyer’s weighing of the bears. (Act 3).
When students enter the room, they will take a seat and are free to explore the contents of their folder. After a few days of similar tasks, some will assume their job and get down to work. Others will dwell on the novelty of the situation.
When class officially begins, I will play Scammell’s version of the video found here.
From there I pose the task:
How much does the giant gummy bear weigh?
Students are required to show all their work, reasoning, and calculations on the whiteboard. My role becomes one of transient learner. I move from table to table asking questions about their strategy and supplying my own questions for those who are stuck or finished.
The group whiteboard task uses the mathematical ideas in a realistic setting. There are no prescribed methods or rigorous assessments. Students are simply required to use the mathematical information given to them, mix in a few mathematical tools, and provide me with a reasoned argument why they employed their school math in a correct manner. Kind of liberating–in a sense.

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