Super size paper

I'm going to divert from NCTM talk for a post... I'll get back to it, I promise!

Yesterday in Algebra 2 I wanted to take a day and give them a chance to ask questions.  We'd started exponential functions last week right before I left and then they had a couple of activities about them while I was gone Thurs/Friday.  I knew there would be some questions (that were hopefully cleared up in class!).

So after taking questions, I showed them a clip from Mythbusters where they dispell the myth that a piece of paper can only be folded seven times.  Here's what I showed.

Then I gave them all pieces of patty paper and had them start folding.  We looked at the number of layers and the surface area.  They all seemed to enjoy it while looking at the exponential functions formed.

Of course, then, there were a bunch of kids that wanted to give it a try.  On the clip they have a football-field size piece of paper.... I'm not sure where to get that!   Where did I go?  Twitter.  It seems as though a bunch of the kids are now on twitter, so a couple of them pulled out their phones and tweeted the question.  Almost immediately I had a response from @sarcasymptote, who said that his dad is local and works for a paper company.  He suggested that I contact them about it.  (I did... we'll see what happens!)

The funniest thing is that when the kids found out that I was on twitter, we started comparing numbers.  They were super jealous when they found out how many followers I have and how many tweets I've made.... they finally realized that I'm cooler than they are! :)

I also heard from @jamestanton, who did something like this with his kids in class, but they used a roll of toilet paper.  That could be an option if the kids are really interested... though we don't have a miles-long hallway to work with!

I just got response from Smart Papers!

Ms. Fouss, 

Thank you for your email and thank you for your service in educating our
future generations. Your class project sounds interesting.
What SMART Papers could give to you is a sheet of paper approximately
10ft' wide, the width of our paper machine. We can vary the length. How
long of sheet do you want? 

Woo hoo!


  1. That is awesome! A few years ago I read about Britney Gallivan, a high school junior who proved a theorem about the maximum times a piece of paper with finite thickness could be folded. Glancing at her page on wikipedia, it looks like she was mentioned on Myth Busters and was even a keynote speaker at NCTM in 2006, so you've probably already heard of her.

  2. Nope, I'd never heard of her! Thanks for the info - I'll definitely pass that on to the kids. I think they'll like that she was a junior when she proved it... just like most of them are! I wonder if I can find the Mythbusters where she was mentioned.


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