Asilomar #5: Hooks

Session Title

“Six Golden Opportunities to Interest Your Students in Mathematics”


Jenny Holmstrom. Teacher, Sumner High School.


These grab bag events, the sort where a presenter opens her bag of tricks all over the floor for us to sift through, can get really weird real fast. They’re more literally self-centered than other presentation memes but this was a good one.

“Golden opportunities” I remember:

  • She walked around and shook a handful of change in our ears. We had to guess a) how many coins she had, b) what they were, and c) how much they were worth. Lots of loud guessing.

    Then she had us pick a number and run through an algorithm, the sort that eventually has you “now subtract your original number” so you can control the result, and get 2.5

    What’s 2.5 mean, do you think? Lots said two-and-a-half dimes, or 25 cents. Turns out she had two and a half pennies. Big laugh.

    She repeated the whole process with more and more varied denominations.

  • Tell your audience there were five graduates from the Geology department in 1985 at the University of North Carolina. Guess their average salary.

    We all guessed mid- to high five figures. Answer was $4.9 million (big gasp) because one of them was Michael Jordan.

    Oughtta check all those numbers out but, regardless of my hazy memory, it’s a good intro to “median.”

  • Can you cut a hole in an index card large enough for you to crawl through? (A: Yes, yes you can.)
  • She put up a population list of towns in her area and their growth rates (from the census, I guess). There was everything from small towns with large growth rates to huge towns with small growth rates. How long will it take the smallest town to catch up to the largest town?
  • Play a zillion games of Roshambo. Record the results. Determine, using basic probability, if the game is fair or if you skew an advantage toward yourself. (A: Yes, yes you can.)

There’s more but the day’s unrelenting math math math has sucked me dry. None of these are anything to build a full unit out of, they’re just really sturdy ways to finish up a period or plug a hole in your week.

Presentation Notes

Acetane transparencies again. I’ve decided I prefer overhead projectors ten times out of ten to someone who jams bullet points into a single PowerPoint slide. You won’t write small on transparencies. Transparencies keep you honest.


  • Song of the day: “Tranquilize,” The Killers feat. Lou Reed
  • A strange crowd assembled (spontaneously) for this one: Tim, my old department head from Sacramento, and Sabrina and Jen, from UC Davis. Each of us had heard the other had died in some freak car accident outside Cholame so catching up was fun.
  • I brought a stack of Graphing Stories with me on DVD. I introduce myself and pass ’em out to seatmates, presenters, the dude watching me blog right now in Merrill Hall, etc. I try to be real unpushy about it, real secure, like, “I’d be real honored if you’d have a look sometime.”

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I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.

1 Comment

  1. Jenn from UC Davis

    December 2, 2007 - 1:35 pm -

    I didn’t want to say anything… but the plastic surgeon did a real good job with your car accident injuries… hope it didn’t look like I was staring at the scar across your forehead… you can hardly notice it! Still as handsome as ever ;)

    No, honestly… real good to see you again Dan. Keep in touch and send me our picture!