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Business, STEM

Using Oreos to Teach Math and Business

oreo-doublestufpackagingA week ago I attended a day-long workshop on relevant teaching styles in the 21st century. Our lead topic included a discussion of the different social generations that we are likely to encounter in the classroom (K thru 12), post high school (trade schools, community college, college and university levels, etc.), church, and many other places. Social generations are cohorts of people who were born in the same date range and share similar cultural experiences.

Several sources show slight differences in some of the start and end dates for 20th and 21st century generations. Here’s a list provided by Wikipedia [Ref 1]:

          Greatest Generation (born between 1901 and 1945)

          Baby Boomers (1946 to 1964)

          Generation X (1965 to 1981)

          Generation Y (1982 to 1995)

          Generation Z (1996 to present)

Four of the five generations above are commonly found in the workplace. We discussed major events that occurred in each generation, and defining characteristics and make-up of the persons born in each.

Multiple Intelligence (MI): Relevant teachers understand the concept of MI and how to use it to their advantage in the classroom. We reviewed research on this topic by Dr. Howard Gardner, a psychologist and professor neuroscience at Harvard University and author of Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences (1983). Our group discovered that:

         Human beings have eight different kinds of intelligences [visual, mathematical, musical, linguistic, naturalist, intrapersonal, interpersonal, and bodily kinesthetic] in varying amounts.

         Each person has a unique intellectual composition.

         These intelligences are located in different areas of the brain and can either work independently or together.

         We can improve the education process by addressing the MIs of our students.

As a teacher of calculus, and a speaker and workshop facilitator on a number of topics, my understanding of the diversity in learning techniques will appeal to the MI of student(s) in my classes and workshops.

So what does any of this have to do with Oreos? Enter the latest scandal that has rocked the U.S.!

Double Stuf or Double Trouble: A high school math class in Queensbury, New York took on the challenge to measure the cream in Oreo Double Stuf sandwich cookies to see if the “content” was accurate as reported.

two-oreo-cookiesAlthough it is unknown why this particular project was chosen for the students by their teacher, Dan Anderson, I suspect that he was attempting to reach his students in a real and relevant way – something that is often missing in the teaching of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses. Here’s what I do know: Oreos have been around since 1912 and are the best selling cookies in the world. Using a real and relevant consumer product that each student enjoys creates a relationship between their experience with the product and the math lesson.

So here’s how the experiment worked [Ref 2]:

          Weigh 10 of each type of sandwich cookie – original, double and mega.

          Weigh the wafer separately without the crème.

          Subtract the weight of the wafer from the total weight of the cookie, to get the weight of the crème or stuff!

The results revealed that the beloved chocolate wafers and crème weren’t all they were stuffed up to be. Double Stuf? Not exactly. The students’ calculations show that the average stuf actually was 1.86 times more than a regular Oreo cookie. While my socks didn’t fall off, I was not surprised that the perfect amount of crème in the Double Stuf cookie was not a perfect 2.0 as many expected.

Perhaps the objective of the experiment was to show how math is used at home and in business to determine if you, the consumer, are getting all that you pay for. Similarly, if you worked in a manufacturing environment, one could demonstrate the importance of quality control and sensitivities in measuring equipment, and when equipment and instruments needed to be re-calibrated to ensure that the product meets the requirements and specifications of the company.

Working together in groups and perhaps individually, each student had to use at least four of the multiple intelligences – math, visual, bodily kinesthetic and interpersonal skills – to complete the experiment. Who knew that the experiment would go viral and get picked up by most of the major news outlets invoking some of the other IM skills.

Oh by the way (BTW), the students also tested Mega Stuf Oreos and found that they have 2.86 times the creme in a regular Oreo. According to CNN, Kimberly Fontes, a spokeswoman for Nabisco said [Ref 2], “While I’m not familiar with what was done in the classroom setting, I can confirm for you that our recipe for the Oreo Double Stuf cookie has double the stuff, or creme filling, when compared with our base, or original Oreo cookie.”

At the end of the day, or in this case, the project, the students became excited about math, have a better understanding of how it is applied in everyday life, and attracted social and traditional media to report on their findings.

References

  1. List of Generations, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/list_of_generations
  2. “Oreos high school experiment: Double and Mega Stuf filling doesn’t add up”, Michaela Perreira and Ed Payne, CNN, August 22, 2013, http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/21/us/oreo-high-school-experiment

 

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About Vi Brown

Vi is principal and CEO of Prophecy Consulting Group, LLC, an Arizona firm that provides business and engineering services to private and public clients. Prior to establishing her consulting practice in 2001, Vi worked with Motorola, Maricopa County Government, Pacific Gas & Electric, CH2M Hill, and Procter & Gamble. As an adjunct faculty member, Vi teaches undergraduate calculus classes and graduate level environmental courses. She is also a professional speaker.

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