Take Note: If the shoes fit

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How many shoes would it take to fill a classroom? That's a question students nationwide are pondering to enter the "Math Talk Shoe-In Sweepstakes," a contest designed to mark Mathematics Awareness Week, which is this week.

More than 1,200 entries had been submitted as of last week, and entries will be accepted until May 1.

Classes are approaching the contest in a variety of ways. For example, Carol Rausch's 3rd-grade class at Milford South Elementary School in Milford, Ohio, started with a "guesstimate" of 7,000 shoes.

The following day, the students figured out how many shoes could fit on each of the floor tiles in their classroom and multiplied that by the number of tiles. Then they stacked their shoes until they reached the ceiling. Using this approach, they came up with a very different answer: 160,950 shoes.

The contest is sponsored by the Children's Television Workshop, which created "Sesame Street," and Nike Inc., which makes athletic shoes and other sports apparel.

"The idea was to get them thinking about math," said Laurie Weisman, the director of school publishing at Children's Television Workshop. "We really wanted them to tackle a problem that had a lot of steps and that would be fun."

The winning entrant will receive a pair of Nike sneakers for every student in the class and for the teacher.

But, Ms. Weisman said, the winner will not be selected on the basis of the most creative or innovative approach. The winning classroom will be chosen by random drawing instead.

Ms. Weisman acknowledged that a few teachers have complained about the random nature of the contest. But she said it was "too huge an undertaking" to enlist a panel of judges to review the entries.

"Looking at what we've got," she said last week, "it doesn't seem to have inhibited their motivation."

Vol. 15, Issue 31, Page 3

Published in Print: April 24, 1996, as Take Note: If the shoes fit
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