I’ve long kept this lovely question from Stupid Calculations in my back pocket:

Exactly how many gallons of water are in [an Olympic-sized pool] and what profoundly useless figures could be extrapolated and humanized from this gargantua? And so I set out to find and crunch the numbers least likely to be useful, but most likely to entertain.

The author, Josh Orter, goes on to wonder: **How long would it take to drink an Olympic-sized pool?**

I was surprised to realize that, although I had been showing this prompt in presentations since 2013, **I had never actually written a project around it**.

So, I took that inspiration and created a series of tasks exploring the volume of a very big pool.

- I wondered, “How many 2-liter bottles could I fill with Olympic water?” Sort of like a weird souvenir!
- Perhaps my favorite thought was:
**“How much pasta could I cook using the water in an Olympic-sized pool?”** - And finally, I considered filling the pool with jet fuel and then wondered how many times I could fill up a jet using my pool!

### That’s *Ridiculous*

Now, perhaps you had the natural reaction of murmuring, **“But… that’s ridiculous.”** Yes, it is, and, yes, that’s kinda the point! Ridiculous questions are interesting!

And, what a great testimonial for why math is awesome: **you can actually calculate the answers to these hare-brained questions!** I now know how much pasta I could cook using an Olympic-sized pool! Thanks math!

Remember, “real world” problems are often mundane. *Aim for interesting!*

### Keep It Fuzzy

Now, rookie Ian would have turned these questions into giant, multi-page instructions with 70 clear steps **so kids would always know exactly what to do next**.

I aimed for clarity. I wanted to reduce confusion. But, in doing so, **I also took away any chance for my kids to think.**

I turned these beautiful questions into glorified worksheets with step-by-step directions!

🤦♂️ *Oops!*

Now I’ve learned to keep it fuzzy. **I want the next step to be slightly out of focus.** I purposefully leave out essential information. Students have to, you know, actually think.

This means giving far fewer instructions. It means I don’t provide a box with all of the necessary conversions spelled out. **It means kids learn to ask for the information they need.** In fact, that’s my first prompt! (I’m certain that I cribbed this from Dan Meyer at some point).

What do you need to know?

Then:

Ok, how can you find that?

I guarantee this will freak some of your highest-achieving kids out. They may have made straight As for five years without being asked to think!

PS: I built each of these into Byrdseed.TV tasks

PPS: Check out what these kids came up with.

Ever wonder how much tea or Jello could fit into an olympic size pool? Here is a reference guide, curated by the 5th grade math students!

Thanks, @IanAByrd for the idea! pic.twitter.com/VaxsZXu7DK

— Mrs. Green AIG (@MrsGreenAIG) April 19, 2022