Archive for January, 2014

Onions & Math

by Dawn Cuckler, HCA Math Teacher

“It smells like onions in here.”

The Sophomores turned up their noses as they entered the classroom, trying not to offend anyone, but unable to stifle their reactions to the poignant smell.  I tried to ignore their remarks and carry on as usual.  As the lesson got underway, I removed from hiding the offending container of finely chopped onions.  I placed three boxed on their side so the students could see inside them.  Into one I placed the onions, in the next, a small bouquet of flowers, and in the last a bottle of perfume.  I went on to explain that no matter how sweet the flowers or strong the perfume, chances are all that we would be able to smell is the onions.  Onions are very powerful and overtake any other smell around them.  Then I put the boxes upside down to hide the contents.  Since I am not a magician and did not want onions on my floor, I did not mix them up; but I asked them to pretend that they did not know what was in the boxes.  Even if we have no idea what is in there, it wouldn’t take long to figure out that AT LEAST ONE of the boxes had onions.  “If we smell an onion, there must be an onion.”

This segued into the lesson: The Zero Product Rule.  This rule states that if you have factors (the boxes) multiplied together and their product is zero (an onion), one or more of the factors must be equal to zero.  From this moment on, instead of saying that they equal zero, we said, “if it smells like on onion, there must be an onion.”  It was fun, and I hope will help them remember the rule.


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