Monday, May 14, 2012

Starbursts 3-Acts

I tried my first Three Act Math task this week and it was a good start.  I have some learning to do as well as the students.  We recently finished our outcome on probability and I thought that Dan Meyer's yellow starburst activity was an excellent choice.

Preparing the Activity:

First I bought my own bag of starbursts and counted out the colors:

I also created a PowerPoint from Mr. Meyer's activity so that the information was "seamless".

Doing the Activity:

Act 1:
I started class by asking the students what their least-favorite flavor of starbursts were.  Most said yellow.  We watched the video and I requested that the students, in pairs, discuss and write down any lingering questions they had about the video.  Here are some of the questions I got:
- What does he do with all the yellow starbursts?
- How many packs of candy are there?
- What does he have against yellow?
- Why doesn't this guy get a job?
- Do you want us to figure out probability on something?

Okay, not exactly what I was looking for.  So, I felt I needed to prompt them and it seemed like I was taking away from the activity when I forced them to think about math.

Act 2:
I do have to say that I was a little scared that the students wouldn't be able to figure out what information was necessary.  But they surprised me, both of my classes came up with exactly what was needed.
I have two classes that did this activity.  In my first class it felt dry and boring.  The kids reacted the same way as if I had given them a worksheet.  Yawn....
The second class was more engaged.

What I did differently in the second class:

- I told them we were going to do our own experiment:  Each student was going to get 2 starbursts and we would see how many of us got at least one yellow.  This piqued their interest.

- I asked them to guess how many of those packs had at least 1 yellow, and how many had 2 yellow.

The students then determine how many combinations of 2 starbursts there were.  We even had a discussions about why Orange-Red is different than Red-Orange.  BTW: This discussion would not have taken place with a worksheet.

Each set of students was assigned 2 combinations to determine it's probability.  Another conversation that took place was why Orange-Red and Red-Orange have the same probability and the Commutative Property.  I kept a running list of those probabilities on the board.

As a class we came up with an answer as to how many packs had 2 yellow and how many had 1 yellow starburst.

Act 3:
The students enjoyed seeing this.  And seeing that the math they did really worked was key.
At the end of class the students blindly picked two starbursts out the candy bag.

Extension:
I showed the image of our own bag of starbursts that was in the beginning of this post.  It just so happened that my student teacher was particular about how she ate her starbursts.  She like to eat the red and pink at the same time.  Here's that file.

Other extension question thoughts:
What if starburst came in packs of three rather than two?  What is the probability that all three will be yellow?  Two will be yellow?  One will be yellow?

Overall:
Definitely worth trying again.  Not just this activity, but three-act math tasks in general.  Dan Meyer does an excellent job, but I think as educators we need to put our own spin on these tasks.  I found that I was more committed when I had my own bag of starbursts, and the students were more interested when those candies were right in front of them.

Note to self:  Ask the students to guess!!!!