As you may or may not know, I have a tendency to roam the seasonal aisle at Target, looking for mathematical inspiration. So far I’ve shared photos I’ve taken at Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and Easter. You can find them all here.
Today I was stopping by Target for some bug spray which just so happens to be next to the summer seasonal aisle. I couldn’t resist the urge to take a stroll and take some pictures. Here’s what I’ve got for you today.
How many large wooden dice are in the package?
It’s totally obvious, right? For younger students, maybe not so much. But even after everyone is in agreement that it’s 6, what do you think they’re going to say once you reveal the answer?
Not what you were expecting, is it? You probably thought I was wasting your time starting with such a simple image. So now you get to wonder, “Why/How are there only 5 dice in this package?” Perhaps this will help:
That burlap bag has to fit somewhere!
Let’s move on to another large wooden product. How many dominoes are in this pack?
It might be a little hard to tell from this perspective. Let’s look at it another way.
Barring any more burlap sacks, you might just have the answer. Before we find out, stop and think, what answers are reasonable? What answers are not reasonable?
Ok, time to check if you’re right.
No surprises here. Although after the first image, I probably had you second guessing yourself. There’s something to be said about the importance of how we sequence tasks.
Speaking of sequencing tasks, let’s move on to another one. How many light bulbs on this string of lights?
I really like this box because you get this tiny 2 by 3 window, and yet it’s such a perfect amount to be able to figure out the rest. This would be one I’d love to give students a copy of the picture and let them try to show their thinking by pointing or drawing circles on it.
Again, this is a great time to ask, what answers are reasonable? What answers are not reasonable? Assuming the light bulbs do create a rectangular array, there are definitely some answers that are more reasonable than others.
After some fun discussion about arrays, it’s time to check the actual amount.
So fun! Like I said, I love this image. Let’s look at another package that caught my eye.
How many pieces of sidewalk chalk in this box?
I was pleasantly surprised to find that Crayola put arrays on top of all their summer art supplies. It’s like they were designed to inspire mathematical conversation! Granted, the box doesn’t give it away that the dots represent the pieces of chalk, I wouldn’t point it out to students. I’d let them wonder and make assumptions about it. It’ll turn out that their assumptions are completely right, and how satisfying that will be for them!
Since we’re talking about arrays, which means we’re talking about multiplication, let’s shift gears a bit to look at some equal groups.
How many plastic chairs in this stack?
And to throw a wrench into what looks to be a simple counting exercise, how much would it cost to buy the whole stack?
Now students have got some interesting choices about how they calculate the cost. The fact that half the stack is blue and half the stack is red is just icing on the mathematical discussion cake.
My final image from the summer seasonal aisle has been a real head scratcher for me.
How many water balloons do you estimate are in this package?
What is an estimate that is too low?
What is an estimate that is too high?
What is your estimate? How did you come up with that?
Take a look at the box from another angle, and see if you want to revise your estimate at all.
We clearly have groups – eight of them to be precise – but the question I’m not entirely sure about is whether there are eight equal groups. Maybe? And if there are equal groups, then there are certain answers that are more reasonable than others.
So how do you wrap your head around this?
I’ll give you a moment to think about why this is confusing me a bit.
Assuming there is an equal amount of each color, this doesn’t make any sense! But then I noticed the small white tag on the set of purple balloons.
Oh! That explains it. There’re only 260 balloons in here so…no, that still doesn’t work if these are eight equal groups.
Oh, then maybe it’s 5 more than 265 so it’s actually 270 so…no, that doesn’t work either. So I’m left to conclude that either this is not a pack with eight equal groups or there is some funny math going on! Sadly, $25 is a bit steep to satisfy my curiosity. If any of you purchase this pack and want to count balloons, I’d love to get the full story.
And with that, my tour of the summer seasonal aisle comes to an end. If you’re just finishing the school year, bookmark this post to revisit when school gets back in session. What a fun way to start the year! If you’re still going strong, then I hope you’re able to use these to spark some fun, mathematical discussions in your classrooms.