The number of classroom activities that can be built around Fermi questions are as varied as the questions. Collaborative learning, problem solving skills, estimation skills, and number sense are integral components of all Fermi exercises.
This section will provide anecdotal accounts of possible classroom activities that support and embed Fermi-type problem solving.
Teachers are encouraged to submit their own classroom experiences as they relate to Fermi questions. Submit a Fermi question and/or related classroom activity.
What could be more fun for middle school students than water balloons? Pose the question to the class: how many water balloons does it take to fill the school gymnaisum, auditorium, classroom (etc.).
- Have students, working in groups of 2-3, build a cubic foot container using paper or posterboard.
- Have students approximate the volume of a water balloon.
- Have students approximate how many water balloons needed to fill their cubic foot container.
- Have students investigate/measure/approximate (your choice) the volume of the room to be filled with water balloons.
- Have students determine based on approximations in #1-4, the approximate number of water balloons that would be needed to fill the room or gym.
Then for the real fun ... let students test out their approximations. Allow students to fill cubic foot container with water balloons. Have students keep a record of how many water balloons they place in the container. Allowing for varying amounts of water in balloons, calculate the "average number of balloons" per cubic water. After completing the mathematics, allow students to engage in water balloon "party".
WARNING: Best done in warm weather with the approval of a very understanding principal and very supportive parents!
Fill one or more containers (rectangular solid, cylinder) using different sizes/shapes with assorted candies and/or beans. Have students work in groups to use their estimation and Fermi skills to "guess" the number of items in each container. Closest approximation wins the container and its goodies!