Monday, March 26, 2007

Manipulating multiples, or finding math in everyday life

So, somehow I was roped into organizing a large-ish community event. Yes, this is as much of an undertaking as it sounds. Thankfully, it's for an organization our family values highly. I'll leave the back story to the fertile imaginations of you Gentle Readers. Last Thursday's project: publicity.

We had one ream of paper printed up with bookmarks. S and I biked over to pick this up, and then headed over to the organization's building to use their paper cutter. We moved the paper cutter to the floor, talked about how to use it safely (fingers nowhere NEAR the blade!!!), and cut... and cut... and cut... and cut.

While there, we raised a few eyebrows. (Shouldn't you be in school? Um, no, we're homeschooling. Oh.) Little did our questioners know that we had quite a math lesson while seated there on the floor, surrounded by many, many sheets of bright yellow paper.
  • The copy center gave us our print job in two boxes (2 x 250 sheets = 500).
  • Each sheet had four bookmarks printed on it (4 x 500 = 2000).
  • One sheet yielded 4 bookmarks, 2 sheets gave 8, and so on, until we calculated out multiples of up to 4 x 12.
  • We experimented with how many sheets we could successfully cut at once. We decided that 6 sheets was the limit on that. In the meanwhile, we covered multiples of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and of course, 6.
  • Having settled on cutting sets of 6, we then worked with individual stacks of bookmarks: one cut gave us 6, 2 cuts --> 12, 3 cuts --> 18, and so on. A nearby cart had some puppets on it in preparation for a storytime. While I was cutting, S sampled the wares, settling on a little pig. To liven things up, I suggested that the bookmarks be snacks. So, the piggie was handed a stack of bookmarks after each cut, eagerly "gobbling" it up. I think S decided that 18 bookmarks was the pig's threshold for developing a tummy ache. :-)
Needless to say, we hardly noticed that we were at our work for a good two hours. The math "lesson" should prove to be fairly memorable! And, amazingly, no blood was shed, not even on an ordinary paper cut.

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