'Plausible Estimation' Estimates
for a Million Tasks - Set #1
Malcolm Swan
Mathematics Education
University of Nottingham
Malcolm.Swan@nottingham.ac.uk
Jim Ridgway
School of Education
University of Durham
Jim.Ridgway@durham.ac.uk
The aim of this assessment is to provide the opportunity for you to:
· develop a chain of reasoning that will enable you to estimate quantities to an
appropriate degree of accuracy
· choose suitable units for your estimate
· communicate the assumptions upon which your estimate is based.
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1. Breathing
How many days would it take you to breathe a million times?
Solution:
Assumptions
You breathe once every 4 seconds.
Reasoning
Calculation:
4,000,000 seconds is about 46 days.
Answer: About 50 days.
2. Paper Clips
Suppose a chain is made from a million paper clips. How far will it stretch?
Choose suitable units for your answer.
Solution:
Assumptions
Each paper clip is about 4 cm in length.
Reasoning
Calculation:
4,000,000 cm = 40 km (or about 25 miles)
Answer: About 40 kilometres or 25 miles.
3. The brick wall
Suppose you use a million household bricks to build a wall four feet high. How long would the
wall be?
Solution:
Assumptions
A brick is about 3 inches high and 9 inches long.
Reasoning
Calculation:
The wall will be (4 feet Ö 3 inches) = 16 bricks high
This means that the wall will be (1 million Ö 16) 62,500 bricks in length
= 62,500 x 9 inches
= 8.9 miles.
Answer: Just under 9 miles.
(Maybe with mortar it would be just over 9 miles)
4. The dripping faucet
A faucet drips a million times. How many buckets will it fill?
Solution:
Assumptions
A bucket holds about 8 liters.
A drip has a diameter of 2 mm
Reasoning
Calculation:
The volume of a drip is given by
4/3 p (1)3 Å 4 mm3
A million drips will therefore have a volume of
4 x 106 mm3 = 4 liters
Answer: About one half a bucket.
5. Writing a million
How long would it take you to write out all the numbers, from one to a million?
Remember that some numbers have more digits than others!
Solution:
Assumptions
You can write down 2 digits per second
Reasoning
Most ( 90%) of the numbers have 6 digits.
So we need to write down nearly six million digits.
This would take nearly 3 million seconds = 35 days (approx)
Answer: 35 days, working day and night.