Taco Cart

Who will reach the taco cart first?

Understanding and Applying the Pythagorean Theorem

Taco Cart Three Act Math Task = Applying Pythagorean Theorem

The Taco Cart is another great 3 Act Math Task by Dan Meyer that asks the perplexing question of which path should each person choose to get to a taco food cart just up the road. While most students could quickly identify the shorter route using basic logic, Meyer throws in a curve-ball when one path forces one person to walk in the sand (slower) while the other has a portion of the walk in sand, while the rest on the sidewalk (faster).

Act 1: Introducing the Problem

Who Will Get To The Taco Cart First?

The first act shows an overhead view of two people on the beach and the Taco Cart up the road:

Overhead view of Me and Ben, and the Taco Cart

Click here or on the image above to access the videos, images and resource pack from Dan Meyer’s site.

Assuming you walk faster on the sidewalk than you do in the sand:

Who will get to the Taco Cart first?

Act 2: Revealing Some Information

Distances and Speeds to the Taco Cart

Have your students discuss with a partner or in small groups what information is needed for them to determine who will get to the Taco Cart first, you can reveal details:

Click here to access the videos, images and resource pack from Dan Meyer’s site.

I typically use this problem to introduce the Pythagorean Theorem in my Grade 9 Applied (MFM1P) and Academic (MPM1D) courses as a discovery/inquiry-style lead in to the topic. Although the Pythagorean Theorem is introduced in the Grade 8 Curriculum, I find that students have difficulty remembering the topic and this helps bring that prior knowledge back to the front of mind.

If the class is struggling to get started, I typically help scaffold a bit by introducing the concept through a video such as this one:

Act 3: Reveal the Answer

Show Who Gets to the Taco Cart First [VIDEO]

Some of the most enjoyable moments in any 3 act math task include when we get to reveal the answer through a photo or video. In this case, Dan Meyer has a great video that shows both people walking in fast-forward to let the class watch the real world problem taking place.

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Additional Handout & Practice Questions

Here is a handout I put together with additional consolidation and task questions that you may want to use when introducing Pythagorean Theorem. Grab it here or click on the image below to download the PDF file:

Pythagorean Theorem Handout for Taco Cart and Practice

Supplemental and Related Resources


New to Using 3 Act Math Tasks?

Download the 2-page printable 3 Act Math Tip Sheet to ensure that you have the best start to your journey using 3 Act math Tasks to spark curiosity and fuel sense making in your math classroom!



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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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