A Whole Lotta Popcorn!
So, the question remains: Just how much popcorn would it take to fill our classroom?
Students continued their analysis and discussion of the "popcorn question" in class this week. Our two groups came together to compare notes on their independent measurements of room size and the overall space that the popcorn will need to occupy. Having taken measurements of the room dimensions in a previous class, students worked on subtracting out the space occupied by certain immovable components such as cabinets, shelves, and ceiling soffits before computing an overall room volume. One important objective of the project is to observe how similar (or dissimilar!) the approaches, measurements, and final estimates are between two groups working independently. The process has provided some basic, worthwhile lessons so far:
The Value of Knowing How to Estimate
For students, the question may arise at this point - exactly why should we care how much popcorn fills the classroom? Well, I'm glad you asked! It turns out that many seemingly inaccessible questions such as these arise in our everyday, academic, and professional lives (or will - somewhere down the road), and therefore cultivating a working knowledge of how to make sound estimates is an important aspect of what is required to become a good problem solver.
How much money will I need to save to pay for a full college education? How many bricks would be needed to construct a building of a preferred dimension? How much breathable air is contained inside a sealed room of a given size? How many people could survive inside and for how long? How much agricultural land is required to feed a family of 5? 100 people? a nation? If everyone in the country needed to be inoculated against a virulent strain of the flu, how quickly could this be accomplished? These and an infinite number of other varied questions and problems require us to make well-informed decisions based on a chain of reasoning, estimation, and calculation which require skills you are asked to use in the popcorn problem:
So, while we may never actually need to fill a classroom full of popcorn (as fun as that would be!), students should recognize that the process of determining how we might do so develops and broadens our critical thinking and problem solving abilities in a variety of ways that truly are relevant and valuable.
See you all next week!