Today I’m sharing a creative way to use candy (in this case Skittles) for a modeling exponential growth and decay activity in Algebra.
Last summer, I attended several weeks of workshops and conferences. At the first workshop of the summer, I got to participate in an activity that used M&Ms to model exponential decay. I loved it, and I decided that it was definitely going to find a place in my lessons for the year.
At a different workshop, we did a very similar activity using M&Ms. But, this time we modeled both exponential growth and exponential decay. I was even more in love with the activity after this!
We have a student at our school with a severe peanut allergy, so I opted to use Skittles instead of M&Ms for this activity.
They say honesty is the best policy. And, I really don’t have any reason to lie to you. I want this blog to be an honest reflection of my teaching experience. If something works well, I’m gonna share/brag about it. If something doesn’t work well, I’m going to reflect on the experience and try to learn from it.
This is one of those activities that did not work well. Okay, it was terrible.
Reasons why it bombed:
- I did this lesson a Friday. Students were already on weekend-mode.
- This should have been a 2-3 day lesson. Again, I was determined to fit this in on a Friday and start the new chapter on Monday.
- My explanations could have been clearer. My students really struggled with reading the instructions and following them on their own.
- I should have given my students more practice with using their calculator’s regression capabilities BEFORE doing this activity. They had done linear regression a number of times. But, we had never done an exponential regression before on our graphing calculators.
- I should have given them notes on how to perform an exponential regression in their notebooks that they could refer back to.
- I spent the entire class period running around like a chicken with its head cut off.
Further proof that this activity needs some work:
Quote from student while doing another activity later in the year:
Is this really gonna be fun? Because you said that skittles thing was going to be fun, and it wasn’t.
Last summer, I picked up these cute little bowls at Dollar Tree. They were four for a dollar, and I just knew that I could find something to use them for in my classroom. They made the perfect vehicle for holding each group’s Skittles.
Each student was given a booklet foldable that had the instructions for both labs in it. Below the instructions, there was room for students to create their table and graph. They were asked to perform a linear and exponential regression in order to determine which regression best matched the data. Way too many of my groups decided that the linear regression was the best fit.
Next year, I’m going to have to spend more time talking about how to determine which equation best fits the data. I assumed that was a concept that my students would be able to intuitively understand, but I was wrong!
Each group was asked to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before starting! They were given a bowl, a bag of Skittles, and a paper plate.
Following the instructions in the exponential decay lab, they shook their bowls of skittles, poured them out, looked to see which ones did and did not have an S showing. These were removed from the activity.
I asked students to write down three things they learned while doing this activity.
Download Modeling Exponential Growth and Decay Activity with Skittles Foldable
More Resources for Teaching Exponential Functions
- Exponents Chart (Powers of 2 to 9)
- Earthquakes and Explosions – a Logarithms Problem Based Assessment (PBA)
- Amy Gruen’s Exponent Puzzles
- Graphing Geometric Sequences Foldable
- Geometric Sequences Formula Graphic Organizer
- Converting Between Exponential and Logarithmic Form Foldable
- Solving Exponential Equations Foldable
- Solving Exponential Equations with Logarithms Notes and Practice Book
- Exponential Growth and Decay Foldable
- No Fives Dice Activity for Modeling Exponential Decay
- The Case of the Cooling Corpse Task
- Modeling Exponential Growth and Decay Activity with Skittles