Friday, June 10, 2011

Mandarins in maths class

Think you're perhaps giving too many chocolate rewards to your class? I decided to switch to a healthier treat : mandarins. They are on special right now in Sydney - so even better for the underpaid teacher. Much to my surprise, students really take to them. I put a big pile on my desk to build interest and then at the right time, it's Mandarins for Maths!

A special mathematical treat. Read more about mandarins at

My Year 8 class is studying probability, so I posed the question: "What is the probability a segment in a mandarin has seeds in it?"  Someone asks: "Do you mean we get to eat them?" I smile : "Of course!" I asked the students to draw a table in their exercise book to record the total number of segments, and the number of segments with seeds. We agreed how to count them, and then I handed out the mandarins - one for every two students, and we are off doing mandarin maths. Five minutes later I asked a student to each visit each pair, collect their data and then aggregate it. We worked out the probability together.

So what's so great about mandarins for maths?

  • Mandarins are healthy - maths is good for you
  • Mandarins are yummy - maths should be yummy
  • We get to share - just like a good maths activity - it's better in pairs! (Feel the love)
  • Mandarins are clean and easy to handle
  • Low risk of allergies (still worth checking though)
  • There are so many maths questions you can ask about mandarins. 
The disadvantages? Mandarin peel and seeds everywhere. Easily solved - ask a student to walk around the class with a bin to collect the scraps.

There is of course a place for chocolate in every maths class ( I have been building a stash of Toblerone bars ready for volume of prisms work), but definitely think about the healthier options - mandarins were an absolute winner with this class.

And the answer to the question? We ate 194 segments, and 46 of them had seeds - so we worked out a probability of 0.24.


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  2. My grades 6 - 7 are doing probability this year and we are going to do this exercise. Thanks for sharing your idea!