Absolute Value Project

I was looking for a project on Absolute Value and came across Dan Meyer’s blog post called Guess the Eggs. I love any activities that allow all students to participate and feel like they have a stake in the final outcome, but I knew that I would have to adapt this activity to include more of our curriculum standards. So I counted out some jelly beans and set up this station in my classroom:

IMG_0324IMG_0323Over a two day period, I polled my students, STEM colleagues, and school Admin team. I’ve never been so happy to have such a ruckus in my homeroom before school actually began with students arguing their guesses and calculation methods.

For the actual lesson, all students downloaded the Excel file and we began to analyze the results. My 9th graders decided pretty quickly that we weren’t playing by Price is Right rules, meaning it didn’t matter whether someone guessed over or under the actual number of jelly beans… which led them immediately to the concept of Absolute Value #teacherwin.

There were 1472 jelly beans in the container, so we all typed in the equation =abs(C2-1472) and populated the rest of the column. I asked students what they thought a graph of (Guess, Distance from Actual Number) would look like, and students overwhelmingly thought we were about to see a graph with data scattered every which way.

All eyes were on the board as I highlighted the data, clicked the insert tab, and chose the 1st scatterplot option…

Jelly Beans Graph

There were many “What?! How?!” comments as students digested the graph before them. They immediately wanted to know if the graph would always be in that shape, and this led us into our discussion of graphing absolute value functions and describing their characteristics (over the next 2 class periods).

For their Absolute Value Project, students had to choose a question they would ask at least 25 humans. Criteria:
1. Question must have a correct answer
2. Answer must be numerical
3. Question must be something interesting to student
4. Answer must not be something that most people already know

Students had to design a poster in Microsoft Word showcasing the results of their experiment and highlighting the characteristics of their absolute value function. I printed and hung all the posters in my classroom, and now in between classes I catch them reading each other’s work. The students and I loved this project and I can’t wait to do it again next year!

Here are a few samples:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Update (7/31/13) Here is a link to the excel file with my school’s data:

Jelly Bean Excel Data 2013


20 thoughts on “Absolute Value Project

  1. I think this is a great activity and I would love to do it with my 8th grade Algebra students. Could you please send me the Excel file?

  2. I love this project idea! Would you please email me a copy of a student’s project? I would love to show my students an example. Thank you!

  3. I love this idea. I used a slightly modified version of this as a kickoff for Algebra 2 honors class this year. It was great. Students definitely expected a scatter plot with points “all over the place” and were surprised to see the “v”. I think this would be a great project to get reworked with Desmos in a similar way to the pennies in a circle investigation. What do you think, Dan Meyer and Team Desmos?

  4. Pingback: Problem Solving and Engaging Lessons Ideas | Everything's Rational

  5. Pingback: Day in the Life of Ms. Kohn Take 3 | Growing Exponentially

  6. Pingback: Getting help from the MTBOS – Unscrabling Math

  7. Did this with my 8th grade Alg class today- they loved it! And even though they had seen abs. value graphs, they still were surprised at the results of the data.
    Thanks for sharing!!!!

  8. This project is wonderful! I will be using this for the second year now in my Algebra II class. Here is a link to my project handout, rubric included. Anyone is welcome to copy/edit what I have used; just be sure to keep this “Growing Exponentially” blog post as a reference, since I did not personally create the project. Thanks again for sharing!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s