The Mullet Ratio

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.


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!”

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.

“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 Honors 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

73 thoughts on “The Mullet Ratio”

  1. What does it take to start a school? Because I would like to do that with you. Also, I appreciate that you take the time to assign who gets the rolly chair each day.

  2. Ridiculous buy-in factor. I’m squeezing this in, somewhere. My only regret is that my hair’s not long enough to mullet it up for the lesson. Well done indeed!

  3. This is hilarious and wonderful! I am jealous over a lesson on mullets. I will be recreating this lesson, thank you so much for sharing!

  4. Could you extend this into the realm of graphing inequalities by plotting “business length” against “party length”? Maybe show a bunch of “normal” hairstyles and mullets, and try to define a “mullet zone”? Could you name other hairstyles based on this graph? Could you come up with some kind of mullet taxonomy using this metric? Best. Lesson. Ever.

    I don’t know you, sir, but I could hug you. If I ever get the opportunity to teach math, I’m jumping all over this.

    Thank you!

    1. My jaw dropped when I read your comment and the one on Dan Meyer’s page describing extension activities. I think this lesson can be improved for next year and (if we tackle it early in the semester) be applied to inequalities, too. I love it!
  5. This is amazing! What a FUN way to play with ratios! And, I’m from Ky so I have PLENTY of great mullet pictures that I can pull out of the ol’ yearbook. Thanks for an awesome lesson and sharing your materials!

  6. This is the only time in my entire life that I have ever considered cutting my hair into a mullet. Thank you for giving us math teachers a creative and exciting way to teach ratios!

  7. Mullet on, dude!

    This made my 17 y.o. son, an excellent math student who’s been miseducated into basically hating math, laugh aloud repeatedly. And not just the photos. The text is inspired. I’ve passed this along to every math education network I’m connected with, including the h.s. math teachers I coach in Detroit. They may need to make some adjustments, however. I see a whole new nomeclature for Afros in the offing.

  8. Awesome lesson! I used it with one class of sixth graders, and they loved it. Many of the girls said they liked it because there were a lot of pictures of “hot guys”.

  9. This is great. Here are three questions that I added for my algebra class.
    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.
    Business: Party: or Business: Party:
    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:

  10. Great lesson! Wanted you to know this is now making the rounds of international schools. I’m predicting a resurgence of mullets in the EU. Cheers from Rotterdam.

  11. I love teaching my subject areas and you, sir, have done the impossible. For the first time in my entire life, I wish I was a math teacher.

  12. From the University of Chicago 2012 Scavenger Hunt.

    165. Side mullet. Business on the left, party on the right. [7 points]

  13. Great job, I bet the kids enjoy your class and consequently learn as well. I am a teacher in Denver,CO and love mullets. I give kids mullet stickers when they bring in photos of mullets. I am currently growing a mullet in order to halt the drought that our country is going through (long story). You may want purchase snow tires and a really good winter coat because growing a “drought buster” has proven to extremely effective in the past.

  14. Brilliant! Just loved this and regret all those years ago our one math teacher in a small town didn’t have a little bit more creativity. His annual attempt to carry around 100 pound bag of chicken feed in his teeth around the classroom didn’t really link the stunt to any math, but it did prove he didn’t wear dentures and had an terribly strong neck. I guess any time you get the attention of your students you’ve won half the battle…and that’s not only math, that’s life! Again, loved the post….

  15. great lesson! I will definitely try this one, but could you comment on any issues that come up with pipe cleaner measurements? Were there any problems measuring curvature in the “business” or “party” sections of hair cuts when the hair is combed over or especially in cases when its curly or hard to see? I am just wondering if anything came up the first time with measurement that you will address the second time around.

    thanks again for posting!

    1. Remember above when the student got a ratio in the millions? That was a great time to talk about error (which I think your question is addressing). For the other classes, they would come to me with different answers on the worksheet and ask, “Which one is correct?”

      They didn’t like when I said, “Both. Why is that?”

  16. Draw a graph with Business on the x and party on the y. What section of the graph is the mullet zone? What are some other zones that you can define on the graph? If Billy has a mullet ratio of 2 can we draw a line on the graph that represents all his possible hair lengths? What is the equation for that line?

  17. I agreed with the making the ratio a slope of a line to compare mullets. We used it to further discuss an undefined line (business 0) versus zero slope (party 0). I will definitely do this before testing next year. It has so much review involved from rational numbers to slope!

  18. Hi there! I know this is kinda off topic but I was wondering which blog platform
    are you using for this website? I’m getting sick and tired of WordPress because I’ve had issues with hackers and I’m looking at options for another platform. I would be great if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

  19. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed reading a description of a math class so much. I laughed out loud (I refuse to write LOL) several times. I assume that you helped your class understand that the most visually appealing mullets have a mullet ratio that approaches the Golden Ratio.

  20. Love the mullet idea. I have a mullet wig from Halloween years back that has been waiting for this moment. I hope the kids get hooked on the idea too.

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