How big is a billion?

I got an email the other day that encouraged teachers to ask their students the question, “How big is a billion?” An example in the email was, “A billion dollars is enough to buy a car for you and 35000 of your closest friends.” Kids are supposed to come up with ways to depict a billion and then submit their responses online.

I asked my Algebra 2 kids if they would want to do this today. We decided to give it a shot. So we took out some laptops and our phones and started researching.

And I was totally blown away by what the kids wanted to look up.

Sure, there was the group that wanted to know how many Lamborghinis you could but with $1 billion. Others wanted to know how much money you could put in every locker in America. And yet another wanted know how many times we could send a man to the moon and back.

But then there were others…

Would we have enough money to put a storm shelter in every home in Oklahoma?

How many meals could we provide to the homeless in our state?

How long could we provide food for all the orphans in the war-torn country of Sudan? (The answer? 17 years.)

This is what happens when you ask kids a totally open-ended question. They wow you.

One thought on “How big is a billion?

  1. If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend the documentary, Paper Clips. It’s about a middle school in Tennessee where they were teaching about the Holocaust in Social Studies/Core and the kids couldn’t imagine 6 million (the number of Jews who were murdered in the Nazi death camps). The teachers and administration created a lesson structure for the kids to solicit and collect paper clips (one at a time) from as many people as they could think of. The results of the process were astonishing. There were lessons to learn for the whole school and their whole school community.

    Thanks for posting this.

    – Elizabeth (@cheesemonkeysf)

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