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Coleman, Roy Morgan Park High School
To give students some practice at making reasonable estimates.
A good imagination.
Listed below are a series of questions which probably cannot be easily
answered directly but where an answer to the nearest power of ten can,
with some 'educated' guesses, be arrived at. (By nearest order of
magnitude (power of ten), is the answer closer to 101(=10), 102(=100),
103(=1000), 104(=10000), etc.) In each of the following questions,
parts in square brackets  represent something that should be
replaced with a specific part or object peculiar to your school.
It is good practice to have the students explain how they arrived at
their answers since there can be some very creative ways of
interpreting the questions.
Example: Question - To the nearest order of magnitude (power of ten),
how many times does a car tire go around while driving to Florida?
Answer (or how to get close) -
distance (miles) 1500 about 1200 to the center of the state
feet per mile 5000 5280
feet for 1 tire
rotation 10 about 10 depending on car (3.14 X 2.7)
(rounded to 1,000,000 or 106)
To the nearest order of magnitude, how many:
1) total times does a toilet paper roll go around while the
paper is being removed?
2) blades of grass are there in [pick some bounded area they can see
from the window]?
3) floor tile are there in the building you are currently in?
4) telephones are there in the city of Chicago?
5) teeth are there in the school building on the average school day?
(creative students may include comb, zipper and/or gear teeth)
6) light bulbs are there in the school? (are fluorescent tubes bulbs?)
7) automobile tires are there in Chicago on the average week day?
8) street lights are there in Chicago?
9) leaves on the average tree? (ask in spring or early fall)
10) molecules in the average human body?
11) seconds does the average American live?
12) letters are there in your text book? (creative students may
answer 1 - 26 to the nearest power of ten i.e. 101. 26 is WRONG
since it is either not a power of ten or there are more letters
than in the entire library - 1026!)
13) books are there in the school library?
14) steps does the average student take while moving around in the
school on the average school day?
15) hairs on the average house cat? (or dog or human head)
16) millimeters high is the school?
17) snow flakes are covering the [pick an area they can see from the
18) black ants does it take to fill a bath tub? (careful about asking
this question verbally since creative black students may answer 0
(i.e. 1) thinking you mean aunt instead of ant!)
19) stair steps to the moon?
20) sheets of paper are used in the school during the average school
21) ping-pong balls does it take to fill the classroom? (basketballs,
human heads, etc.)
22) ice cubes could you make if you froze lake Michigan?
23) grooves are there on a 33.3 rpm record that plays for 20 minutes on
each side? (100=1 - there are really 2, one on each side but to the
nearest power of ten, the answer must be 100 (or 1))
24) gallons of water fall on Chicago in an average thunderstorm?
25) keys are there in the school on the average school day? (including
keys on calculators?)
26) grams is the mass of the most popular American made car? (accept 6
but the most correct answer is 1 because the most popular cars are
made by Matchbox or Wheels!)
A real zinger for creative students - To the nearest order of magnitude,
how many times has the Sun gone nova in the last 107 years? If they
answer 0, 100=1 that means they are answering that it did it once.
They really should answer negative infinity since the only way to get
zero is to have 10-infinity.)