Ice Buckets

How cold will the water get?

Doing Some Math While Supporting a Great Cause!

Ice Buckets 3 Act Math Task - ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

The other day, I was challenged by a good friend Jeremy Dunn to complete the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise money and awareness of ALS. The challenge is to pour a bucket of ice water over your head or donate $100 to fight ALS. I will be doing both and I hope you’ll consider a donation as well [Donate Here].

Although cold and uncomfortable, dumping a bucket of ice over your head is supposed to be pretty easy. However, when Cathy Yenca tossed out a challenge late last night on Twitter, I couldn’t help but give it a shot:

Luckily, I managed to rope my buddy Joel Caslick who teaches Science at Belle River District High School where I spent the first five years of my career teaching.

The Plan

Although I’m sure Cathy was hinting at a “rapidly spreading” exponential growth problem, I thought I’d try to take a more obscure angle:

Ice Buckets ALS Challenge 3 Act Math Task Plan

Act 1: Developing the Question

Show your students the video below. In the video, you’ll see Joel and I filling up three containers with water from a kiddie pool. After water has been added to each container, we then begin filling them up with ice.

After watching the video, get the students brainstorming. What do you notice and wonder?

Ice Buckets 3 Act Math Task - Pouring in Bags of Ice

Some questions one might expect to encounter include:

  • How cold is the water?
  • Which container will have the coldest water?
  • How long will it take for the water to cool down?
  • Why are they mixing water and ice, anyway?
  • How long will it take for the ice to melt in each container?

After discussing these questions and recording them, try to narrow the question down to:

What container will have the coldest water?

Replaying the video for your students might allow them to pick up on some details they may have missed watching the first time. For example: the first container has one pot of water and one bag of ice; the second has two pots of water and two bags of ice; and finally, the third container has three pots of water and three bags of ice.

One prompt might be:

Will the proportional quantities of water and ice in each container affect the cooling of the water?

Making Predictions

Have your students predict which container will have the coldest water.

  • What will the temperature be after 2 minutes? 5 minutes?
  • What might a graph of this relationship look like? Sketch it.
  • Do we have enough information to feel confident?
  • What other information do you need to increase your accuracy?

Act 2: Providing More Information

After students request more information, you can show them the Act 2 video that gives students details such as the initial water temperature in each container and the temperature of the water after adding the ice over intervals of time.

Give your students some time to create a more accurate scatter plot and then extrapolate to find a more accurate answer.

Share out student work and allow for students to discuss while defending their answers.

Act 3: Revealing the Answer

Now that students have shared their results, you can show the video with actual data points from the experiment.

The Resulting Ice Bucket Challenge Video

If you’re interested in seeing the actual Ice Bucket Challenge video we created and prompted this task, take a look below:

Download the Resources

Ice Buckets Download Printables

DOWNLOAD

We had fun making the videos, so hopefully your class can also benefit from the resources.





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About Kyle Pearce

I’m Kyle Pearce and I am a former high school math teacher. I’m now the K-12 Mathematics Consultant with the Greater Essex County District School Board, where I uncover creative ways to spark curiosity and fuel sense making in mathematics. Read more.


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