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HOW MANY CHEESEBURGERS DO YOU NEED TO EAT TO ROW ACROSS THE OCEAN?

Thermodynamics activity appropriate for an upper middle or high school math class, physical science, or chemistry class

DESCRIPTION OF STUDENT ACTIVITY

  • Students will randomly be assigned to groups of three or four and will be asked the following prompt: “How many fast food meals would your group need to eat in order to row across the ocean?”

  • Students will be randomly assigned to a fast food restaurant chain, a starting location, and an ending location.

MATERIALS REQUIRED

  • Students will complete this assignment in the computer lab and may utilize technology to assist them in answering the prompt. Students may use their resources to access information such as the following:

  1. Fast Food Restaurant Menus for Calories in Food Items

  2. Average Calories Burned by Rowing

  3. Distance Between Their Starting and Ending Points

  4. Average Speed While Rowing

GUIDELINES FOR ADMINISTRATION

  • Group or individual help allowed: This assignment will be completed in the groups assigned by the instructor. Students from different groups may not assist one another.

  • Groups will be assigned by randomly selecting five groups of three and one group of four (purple papers) – This was specific to my class, adjust as necessary!

  • Fast food restaurant will be randomly selected by drawing one of the pink papers per group

  • Starting location will be randomly selected by drawing one of the orange papers per group

  • Ending location will be randomly selected by drawing one of the yellow papers per group

STUDENT PROMPT

You and your friends have decided to row across the ocean. Before you set off on your adventure, you stop at a fast food restaurant to stock up on some food for the trip. You will need to place your order based on the number of calories you will need to row across the ocean. For this assignment you will be assigned a fast food restaurant, a starting location, and an ending location. The rest is up to you!

SCORING PROCEDURE (OPTIONAL)

  • Students will clearly explain their process in solving the prompt (10 points)

  • Students will show all work involved in their mathematical conversions (10 points)

  • Participation (5 points)

  • Assumptions are valid and explained – hours rowing per day, the effect of wind speed and

direction, how many people are rowing at a time, etc. (5 points)

  • Students will include all sources used in their procedure (5 points)

  • All mathematical calculations are correct (5 points)

TOTAL POSSIBLE POINTS: 40

**Include scoring breakdown with student prompt of you are grading this assignment

TIME REQUIREMENTS

I have found that my honors classes who are confident with conversions are able to complete the assignment and present their findings to their classmates during one 45 - 50 minute class period. If your students may need a little more guidance, you might want to set aside around an hour for them to complete it. This will depend on how long it takes them to access the technology tools they will be using. Students may also need a time limit for their Googling.

SOURCES

Lesson adapted from Physics Central. Visit their site for a free download of the poster below. I love to print them out and display them on my door and in my classroom to get students excited about the activity!