On Friday, 7 November, the final bucket of dirt was scooped from the massive pit on the Oberursel Campus, bringing to a close Phase 1 of the school’s Sports & Learning Center building project – and the Big Dig Contest, a challenge that I issued to students to guess the total number of truck loads it would take to clear the 9,000 cubic-meter excavation site.
The combination of curiosity, creative problem solving, mathematical calculation – and some good old-fashioned “guesstimating” – made this contest a fun one to watch and in total, I received more than 200 contest entries from students, faculty and parents. Last week I had the pleasure of making three “special deliveries” to classrooms to announce the contest winners and their prizes: a pizza party for the entire homeroom.
My first visit was to a Grade 11 homeroom to announce the first-place winner, whose guess was just 14 trucks shy of the total number needed: 647. The student explained that his method of coming up with an estimate involved asking one of the drivers about the volume of his truck’s bed and then calculating the total number of trucks that would be needed to clear the 9,000 cubic meters of debris. His estimate was 633 trucks.
Pizza party prizes were also awarded to second and third place winners in the Elementary School.
One of our Grade 2 classes had two winners: a student who guessed 679 trucks for second place, and another who guessed 603 trucks for a third-place tie. Cheers erupted in their homeroom when I announced that not one, but two students, had placed second and third in the contest, winning the entire class a pizza party. Classmates congratulated the winners with high-fives and handshakes, before the winners explained that their calculations were the result of some fairly accurate “guesstimating.”
My last “delivery” was to another Grade 2 homeroom where students’ curiosity about my visit quickly turned to excitement as I announced the third-place winner. When asked about how he arrived at the number 603, the student explained that he first observed the approximate bucket loads of dirt that would fit into one of the dump trucks, and then multiplied that number by what he thought might be the total needed.
From an outside perspective, this phase of our building project – aptly named the “Big Dig” – might have looked like a disruptive and inconvenient one. To be sure, there was a bit of noise and lots of mud. But the learning opportunities – and the pizza parties – that it yielded, were the parts that will leave a lasting impression.