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More Opportunities to Guesstimate

If you like books such as last week's review of Guesstimation, I can suggest two other good (and inexpensive) books that also present interesting Fermi-type problems. Unfortunately, these two books are not as easy to find in bookstores or on-line.

The first book, directed at middle school students, has the unusual title: It's Alive: Math That Makes You Squirm. One neat aspect is that it was written by two high school students (Asa Kleiman and David Washington), aided by a "seasoned" math teacher (Mary Ford Washington). Some sample problems from the book...and remember the title:

  • The diameter of a basketball is abvout 9". The diameter of a giant squid eyeball is 15". If you were playing basketball with a giant squid eyeball and totally deflated it....how many cubic inches of giant squid eyeball juice would seep out onto the floor?
  • Cows pass a lot of gas. In fact, American cattle add as much as 300,000 tons of methane gas to the atmosphere each day. If all this cow gas could be collected and sold at gas stations for fuel (let's say gas stations charged $1.25 a pound for cow gas) how much would the country's total cow gas output per day be worth?
The second book has a more "sane" title: Number Freaking: The Surreal Sums Behind Everyday Life. The author, journalist Gary Rimmer, creates little stories around a set of unusual facts. Again, snippets of some sample problems from the book:
  • If an ant were as big as a man, how tall would a man have to be to be the same relative size? What would be the relative step length of this man? Traveling at two steps a second, how fast would this be?
  • How much does golfer Tiger Woods earn for each and every step he takes on a golf course?
Have fun with these books...and discover that you and your students can write their own Fermi-type problems!