UPDATE –  21 December 2013:

My department developed a week-long performance task about this, and it’s awesome.

What They Remember

I admit, I would love for my 8th graders to remember a sweet lesson about Systems of Equations (when we used math to convince my wife to buy skis rather than rent them) or something more mathematical than what we did yesterday. But this will probably be the one they tell their parents about.

Mulletude: Just How Mullety Is It?

I was browsing Mr. Piccini’s blog a few weeks ago and came across a simple question: “Who has the more Mullety mullet?”

We’re done with state testing, so why not explore it? Here’s how it went down.

Prologue:


I gave myself a mullet. It was totally worth it; every student came into class with a smile, already curious. It also felt good to say, “Good morning! We’re studying Mullets today.”

A student, certain I was lying, exclaimed to her friend:

“Omigod! Look at the Agenda! It’s all about Mullets!”

agenda mullet

Part 1: Warm-up

To get them thinking, I started with this mullet question (#1). No numbers, no right answer, just taking a risk and interacting with a foreign subject.

One student said, “No solution. They’re both terrible.” I loved it.

Part 2: What is a Mullet?

I previously discussed the lesson plan with my teammates, and discovered that some of them didn’t know what a mullet was. After the usual start-up business, I went to this slide.

I threw these two beauties on the board and asked, “Which is more Mullety?”

The best part is that students immediately began using the terms I introduced.

Kelsey: The hillbilly has a little too much Party in the back, even though his Business is the same as the cute guy.
Susy: I think the cute guy has the better mullet because it’s more even.
John: Yeah, his Business and Party are more  proportional.

“Hold on to that word for later.” I said to John.

Part 3


I then started introducing different mullets, asking which is more Mullety. I knew I’d baited the hook when a student said, “Can we rank their mulletude?”

Yes! Yes, student! Yes, you can! High five!

Part 4: The Mullet Ratio

Students already recognized the vocab from before, so this transition was very smooth. And (here’s the best part) they all jumped on the math with no groaning. Students lunged for their calculators like they were bagels at a hunger strike.

As a sample, I guided the class as we calculated my mullet ratio on the board (See above; it’s 4.73).

“Show me a thumbs up if you got 4.73… okay, good. You’re ready to go.”

Then I took a seat, moved through the slides with a clicker, called on students (using my random cards), and let them discuss.

The above slide (Lionel Richie vs. me in 1989) led to a great discussion on the differences between mullet, afro, and Jerry Curl.

With calculators, they weren’t afraid of large numbers, and they realized that the ratios were still comparable, even when the units were nanometers and miles. After a few slides, we got into a groove, and I could start asking key questions:

“Mark, you calculate the hockey player, Dariana, you get Uncle Jesse”
“Does that answer make sense?”
“Why do you think his ratio is so much higher?”

I also wanted to emphasize that the measurement doesn’t matter; it’s a ratio between two things. This slide and the one above it really drove that home. The Mullet Family caused a fit of giggles in every period, but who cares? It was fun for me.

Highlights:
“This is the best homework we’ve ever had.”
“Where did you find all of these?”

Part 5: On Your Own

Then I passed out pipe cleaners and rulers, along with copies of this worksheet:

Students fit the pipe cleaner along the hair, then straightened it onto their rulers to find the measurement of the Party. The Business was usually pretty straight.

Ryan: Jeanine’s is more like a ponytail, is that okay?
Bree: How do I know where the Party ends and the Business begins?
Jose: My uncle has a haircut just like Miguel.

Highlight: For Big Daddy, one student used 0.0001 cm for the Business, and got a mullet ratio of 2.5 million. This led to a great discussion of why that happened. What made the ratio so big?

(Also, I managed to make it the whole day without giggling at “the length of Big Daddy’s Business”.)

Part 6: Your Own Mullet Ratio

After students finished, they found their own ratio, which led to another great mathematical revelation for some of them:

Sara: I don’t even have a mullet!
Vaudrey: No, but you do have a Mullet Ratio. So find it. And find the Mullet Ratio of four other people, too.

Students worked for a few minutes, finished up their worksheets, and found each others’ ratios. Now here’s my favorite part of the day:

The Discussion

Oh, and some of them calculated the Mullet Ratio of photos on my Wall of Fame. Joe Jonas isn’t really in my 3rd period.

I quickly recorded all the student ratios into Excel and ranked them, then put it on the board and we had a discussion.

“What does it mean to have a Mullet Ratio of 1.0?”
“What does it mean to have a Mullet Ratio of less than 1.0?”
“Why can’t you have a negative Mullet Ratio?”
Student: “If my hair is longer, how come Karla has a higher ratio than me?”
“What’s the Mullet Ratio for Mr. Krasniak (the bald science teacher)?”

That was my favorite question; the initial yells of “One” and “Zero” turned into “No, wait… undefined!”

 How I Know It Worked

Look at the Excel chart. Students in other periods got Mullet Ratios in the 20s and 30s, even 40s.

…meaning they falsified their data for a higher mullet ratio, and they knew what they were doing.

Teachers, download the materials here:
The Mullet Ratio – PowerPoint
Mullet Ratio Worksheet
Famous Mullets Worksheet

…and let me know if you try it. I’d love to see how this could be improved.

I’ll be writing about the Barbie Bungee lesson this week, once some paperwork is done. Until then, go read Fawn Nguyen’s lesson on the same thing.

UPDATE 14 May 2012:

Wow. Thank you all for the gushing, I’m humbled.
Thanks to dozens of Twittizens (that’s a real word, right?) who linked this page, to Dan Meyer for his review and kudos, and to Peter Price for his ‘Atta boy.

I got an excellent extension from Mr. Bombastic:

I would like to see some additional questions on this day or the next that do not involve measuring and calculating the ratio (just estimation and mental math). For example, sketch a person with a mullet ratio about half that of Barry; or sketch three different looking people with about the same ratio; or a person whose hair is half as long as Barry with a ratio three times as large; or sketch a person that has a mullet ratio of…

Also, from Dan Henrickson:

9. Tom has a Mullet Ratio of 6.2. His party in the back is 19 inches. Find the length of his business in the front.
10. Joe has a mullet ratio of 1.7. Find two possibilities for his hair lengths.
11. Write an equation that models all possibilities for Joe’s business and party. (define the variables used)
12. Graph all possibilities for Joe’s business and party:

Wicked. I’m definitely working those into a warm-up this week, though I’ll probably use the names of students in the class.

UPDATE 31 May 2012:

Thanks to a second-hand recommendation from @nsearcy17, I updated the Famous Mullets Worksheet with some doozies.

Update 21 December 2013:

Did I mention that there’s a week-long performance task? Click here for that.

~Matt “Party in the Back” Vaudrey