I put up the ad from the T that Tom Dekel sent me, in which Stop and Shop’s Peapod home delivery service claims to have delivered 64 million bananas. It sparked a good discussion. One student went right to google and found out how many pounds of bananas and then how many bananas were consumed in the US in a year. Then had no idea what to do next.
Another did something I thought quite clever. He found out how many people liked Peapod on facebook, and used that to get an estimate of the number of customers. He also found out how long Peapod had been around (about 15 years but he figured no one used it for the first 5). That together with an estimate of the average number of bananas per order led him to 60 million bananas – just what the ad claimed.
A third student (who couldn’t even start the problem) asked if this problem had a right answer. Yes – in a way. Answering correctly doesn’t depend on confirming (or denying) the ad’s claim. I have no idea whether or not it’s true. A correct answer is just a sequence of justifiable assumptions leading to a banana estimate. If that turns out to be, say 15 million, then you can just claim that the ad is exaggerating by a factor of 4.
I posted Wendy Cope’s The Uncertainty of the Poet. Don’t know whether any of the students noticed.
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