Big Math and Fries

  • Big Math and Fries

    Michael Weingarden

    Losing weight is a popular New Year's resolution. Some people turn to exercise to help them achieve this goal, but one teacher wonders if it's possible to keep this resolution while following a diet of fast food.

    Michael Weingarden, algebra teacher at Newbury Park High School and 2009 Illuminations Summer Institute participant, challenges his students to discover if it's possible to follow the Zone Diet while only eating items from the McDonald's menu.

    "Calorie counting can be confusing because one gram of fat does not have the same number of calories as a gram of protein or carbohydrates," said Weingarden. "When you look at the quantity of nutrients in food, the percentage of fat is not always obvious."

    Weingarden created the lesson, Big Math and Fries, while participating in the 2009 Illuminations Summer Institute. The lesson was based on the successes he found in the book, The Zone Diet. He was given the book as a gift and was drawn to the diet because of the math proportions it presented.

     "It's definitely a popular lesson with my students, because of the real world applications," said Weingarden. It's not surprising that a former engineer and designer of the Rat Zapper, a humane rat trap, likes to bring applications into his classroom.

    Weingarden often draws on contemporary examples in his classroom by creating several lessons with everyday applications-including another lesson he developed at the summer institute, "Too Hot to Handle," which allows students to explore asymptotes and exponential decay while investigating how fast a hot liquid cools.