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Sticky Note Challenge

Ratio, Rates and Proportional Reasoning With Sticky Notes

This is a 3 Act Math Task that focuses on ratio, rate and proportional reasoning related to a video shared with me recently on Twitter from Jerrold Wiebe‏:

In the video by Design Squad Global, a man sets up a Sticky Note Challenge involving the “shear” of the sticky notes to determine how many sticky note “slings” it would take for him to lift his own weight.

I immediately thought that could be a fun situation to mathematize in the classroom.

Show students the act 1 video.

Then ask students to do a rapid write of what they notice and what they wonder.

Students will then share out their noticings and wonderings while I jot their ideas down on the whiteboard.

While some great wonderings may arise, the first question we will address is:

How many sticky notes will it take to hold his weight?

Some of the best mathematical discourse can be had when asking students to make predictions without having enough information to know for certain. Extraneous factors such as how heavy you believe the person is, what brand of sticky notes we will use and how big each sticky note is can have students debating back and fourth over whose prediction seems most reasonable.

Once students have been given some time to think independently, discuss with neighbours and as a whole group, we’ll jot down some predictions.

Act 2: Reveal Some Information

Then, we’ll show students some more information in this video including how many sticky notes the man intends to try first as well as how much weight per sticky note sling that they will have to hold.

Now, you could have a class vote to see who believes that 10 slings consisting of 20 sticky notes (two sticky notes per sling) will hold him.

Act 3: Reveal the Solution

Show students the act 3 video to see whether 10 slings will hold his weight.

Extension: Diving Into The Math

While I’m calling this an extension, I should probably call this part the true intention of this lesson. While we have already sparked curiosity with the video, now the real question I’d like students to ponder is:

How many sticky notes (or slings) will it take to hold your own weight?

This question might be too personal for students, especially for those sensitive to their weight. You might want to consider giving them set weights of items such as:

• Your own weight (if you’re comfortable with that)
• Weight of a dog
• etc.

If you (the teacher) is willing to participate in an experiment, you could have the class calculate how many sticky notes they believe you’ll need to hold your weight and then actually test it out!

As with all of the tasks I share out on my website, my intent is to help teach math concepts through rich tasks that allow students to engage in inquiry prior to making connections to prior knowledge and consolidating new learning goals.

These are just a few ideas of how you might use this task in your classroom. Please share your thoughts of how one might use this task in other creative ways by commenting below.

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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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