Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Willy Wonka Math Teacher Challenge

I love Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,,,you know, the old one with Gene Wilder. The new one is too weird. The music is terrible and the Oompa Loompas are just plain disturbing. Anyway, I've used the old movie for math lessons teaching proportions (how tall is Mike TV when he gets shrunk by Wonkavision?) and for finding the volume of a sphere (how many gallons of juice are inside Violet after she chews on the blueberry gum?).

I was watching it again with my son the other day and I remembered how much I love the scene below. The students' teacher, Mr Turkentine, is introducing a lesson on percentages. Originally I was going to critique the lesson in this blog post, but I'd much rather open this up to my math teacher community. So please watch the video and come up with your own criticisms. How would you teach this differently? What would you keep the same? Leave a comment below. And don't read anyone else's comments until you've made your own. That's cheating.

Good day sir!

I said good day!


  1. Let's get to the things I would keep the same first. Like the fantastic pedagogy of the teacher here, I would make sure to not answer a student's question that obviously was meant to trip me up. I mean come on, 2 of 2000? That's like rocket science or something.
    Ok, I'll be serious. I always like to start with the ratios (fractions) that students are familiar with (1/2, 3/4, etc.) and have them look for patterns. Giving the students the fraction with accompanying percent helps with this. Talk about grades. Where does a teacher come up with that percent? (Wait, we're SBG'ers, probably shouldn't talk about grades) Above all, don't ever try to find the percent of 2 out of 2000.

  2. The good:

    He did a good job of relating to the students' interests and used real examples to calculate percents.

    The bad:

    The kids seemed to be pretty confused as to what percents are. He should have started the discussion with where the students might have heard percents used before. What does "to give 100%" mean? If you get 50% of something, how much is that?

    It also would have helped to have some understanding of what 10% or 90% might mean. Is that a lot? A little?

    He didn't even get into the fact that percent means out of 100. This might have helped the students interpret the meaning of percent.

    The students also don't know why we would write a number as a percent. Why would I care what 100 bars or 150 bars look like as a percent? What have I gained by doing this?

    The ugly:

    Did he say that 100 out of 1000 was 10% because there are 10 100's in 1000? This reminds me of when my students get the right answer by doing the wrong thing. They think that their solution is just as valid as the right one. Drives me crazy.

    You couldn't do 2 chocolate bars? Really?

  3. First, I'd go to the other part of the movie where Willy Wonka says, "Invention my dear friends is 93% perspiration, 6% electricity, 4% evaporation, and 2% butterscotch ripple."
    -That’s a 105%

    Oh man, one of my favorite movies and talk about some great quotes. I made a Word doc of some of my favorite quotes some time ago. As for percentages:

    -It’s a lot of nonsense.
    WW-"A little nonsense now and again is relished by the wisest men."

    The teacher in the movie is whack! There was a girl in a yellow dress shaking her head that she didn't understand percentages. I'd bring in some chocolate bars. Break those bad boys into their pieces and have them figure out the percentages of candy bar eaten and remaining as they consume it. This talk of 1000 is nonsense. All you allergic to chocolate can just chew on a never ending gobstopper or lick a snozzberry.

    -Snozzberry? Who’s ever heard of a snozzberry?
    WW-"We are the music makers. And we are the dreamers of dreams."