Monster Mash(-up)

The blog is going to be a 2013 version of itself for Halloween…

Act 1

Any questions?

  • How many different monsters can you make?

Here, a monster is made up of three cards: head, torso, and legs. In Bears vs Babies, a monster can be just a head or a head with one to four body parts. I’ve simplified the task to get at the fundamental counting principle.

Act 2

What information would be helpful to have here?

  • How many head, torso, and legs cards are there?

Students may want to act this out. Give them these cards. Encourage them to find a systematic way of counting the possibilities. How can the number of monsters be determined from the number of head, torso, and legs cards? Start with heads and torsos, if need be.

Act 3

The reveal…

Introduce tree diagrams. Connect this representation to students’ strategies. These might help:


  • You have about 50 monsters in your hand. How many head, torso, and legs cards might you have?

Counting Nonsense

I’m a sucker for counting without counting– from subitizing in kindergarten to combinatorics in grade 12.

I was recently sent the link to an education jargon generator.

The first question that came to my mind was “How many different phrases are there?” To determine the number of possibilities for a task, we multiply the number of choices for each stage of the task. Phrases are generated by stringing together a verb, adjective, and noun. There are 53 choices of verbs, 65 choices of adjectives, and 66 choices of nouns. So, there are 53 × 65 × 66 = 227 330 “finely crafted phrases of educational nonsense.”

The teacher who posted the education jargon generator writes “I would be remiss if I did not thank my district’s professional development staff for introducing me to many of these gems.” Hah!

Wait! I resemble this remark. I’ve been prepping three all-day workshops that my team and I are facilitating giving this week. While I do use many of these words individually, I hope that I get called on it if I ever string three of them together, be it in person or on this blog.