Be Creative! / Puzzles

Chocolate + Math = Relative Incompetence


Here’s some task work I did for the “Math Whiz” badge, and boy do I feel a foolish posting this. While the task was accomplished, I remain woefully short of “whiz” status.  Watch for a laugh, then read below the video for some sincere follow up on how to do this better.

I’m also interested in knowing: have you used all that math you learned in school as an adult??

Well, it turns out that I probably should’ve Googled “how to guess the jellybean challenge” for a little help. It turns out there’s a system, and now I feel like we should be heading to the track to place some bets.

Beyond that, here’s a great piece of related info that my husband Charles turned me on to: people are smarter at figuring these things out collectively than they are individually. Check out this excerpt from The Wisdom of Crowds:

“A classic demonstration of group intelligence is the jelly-beans-in-the-jar experiment, in which invariably the group’s estimate is superior to the vast majority of the individual guesses. When finance professor Jack Treynor ran the experiment in his class with a jar that held 850 beans, the group estimate was 871. Only one of the fifty-six people in the class made a better guess… Over the ten experiments, the group’s performance will almost certainly be the best possible. The simplest way to get reliably good answers is just to ask the group each time.”

Cool, huh?

Since I threw this little adventure together, I’ve stumbled onto two other things of interest. First, I’m hearing great things about the “Singapore Math” curricula in schools, and it seems as though any child receiving this training might be a lucky one.

Second, seems that people like me will benefit from the help of geeks like this guy named Tom, the architect of the forthcoming book Punk Mathematics. If you’re a geek wannabe, kinda like me, check out his website and introductory video, BUT BE WARNED: Tom likes to drop the F-bomb a LOT — so it might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

After all that, two questions still linger…

  • First, do y’all really use the math you learned in high school? If so, how?
  • Second, if you’re a math whiz, can you tell me what I should’ve done differently to guess the answers in the video more accurately??

Finally — full disclosure — I ended up NOT eating all those M&M’s. Couldn’t stand to. I ate the peanut butter ones and called it a day.


2 thoughts on “Chocolate + Math = Relative Incompetence

  1. I am so enjoying this BSP, and I hope to try it with my sisters. I’ll talk them into it when I see them in January.
    When you were applying the math formula lxwxh to the glass jar, it looks like you multiplied the areas of the sides and bottom of the jar. But when I multiplied the height (I counted @ 15 candies high) x the width (11 candies) x the length (11 candies), I came up with 1815 candies. Still too many!

    • Thank you so much for your wonderful comment, and bravo for trying to improve upon that math! I hope your sisters say “YES!” to the idea of the project, and please please let me know how it’s going!

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