Great Measurement/Understanding Nugget

Just go to Think-Thank-Thunk. You’ll get it.

A great example of stuff you can measure that, when you look at the data, might give you some insight. And if you look at the data while applying some actual math, it might give you more.

My go-to example of this that I often use in math workshops is the venerable paragraphs activity. The main idea: you get a sheet with a bunch of paragraphs on it. And a ruler. (And Fathom, if you have it, although graph paper or a (shudder) TI-whatever will do.) The text is the same in each paragraph. They’re set at different widths. The question is, (OK, in 101qs maybe I wouldn’t ask it) how is the height related to the width?

My favorite follow-up if I’m doing a physics workshop in a lab with a lot of equipment is the one I call “Thinking Inside the Box.” The basic idea here is that you have something sticky (e.g., a ball of clay) on an electronic balance. Weigh the thing. Now tilt the scale. How does the weight depend on the tilt? It gets more exciting if, like most students, you do not tare the scale before each measurement.

If I’m really diligent, I’ll write these up here for posterity.


Published by

Tim Erickson

Math-science ed freelancer and sometime math teacher. In 2014–15, at Mills College in Oakland, California.

2 thoughts on “Great Measurement/Understanding Nugget”

  1. These are great little investigations. As a geek I’m particularly taken by the link and begin to ask other questions – with 40 tabs loaded how do these browsers actually perform. Are certain browsers more effective with more RAM than others. When writing these things you struggle with how much caching to do. Sampling this stuff is likely highly dependent on what you are viewing but maybe not. This makes me realize how looking at something statistically can reveal very interesting aspects – but maybe not the ones that bring most value to your particular challenge (flipping between 40 tabs vs. sequentially viewing 40 things).

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