Below, it’s grouped by day, and all the files are here if you’re impatient. To get the full experience, you should probably play this Pandora station while you read.

Mullet Veterans, some is repetitive from last time, but much is new and improved.

Prologue – All Aboard

As I’ve written previously (and then hidden from the public), this year’s curriculum adoption is a bit … dry. Students (to say nothing of the teachers) aren’t very inspired.

My department head asked me, “We gotta do something to change it up. Do you know of any performance tasks that we could do the week before break?”

Funny you should ask...ahem... yes, I do. Am I shouting? I feel like I'm shouting.

Funny you should ask; ahem… yes, I do. Am I shouting? I feel like I’m shouting.

A couple hours of updates from me, a few dozen emails, and two department meetings later, we have a week-long Performance Task for the Mullet Ratio that ties right into our adopted curriculum.

That’s like building a Lego model of a Millenium Falcon, then all your friends coming over to build a full-size replica.

Day 1 – What’s a Mullet?

The Day 1 slideshow pretty much covers the order-of-operations for class. The last slide describes what the teacher does. This year, I went for a stripped-down, get-moving-quickly approach. First, we discussed what a Mullet is.

Mullet slide 1

Then, we debated which of the two is more Mullet-y. Student responses were gems like:

Eduardo looks cleaner, like his business is gelled.
Butch looks like his business is just shaved, and his party is totally wild.
Does Eduardo have a piercing? He’s hot!

The emphasis here was reminding students that it isn’t a competition of whose hair looks better, it’s a question of who is more mullety. 

During first period, a student asked, “What does this have to do with math?” (He was smiling when he asked, so it’s cool.) Then, I introduced the Mullet Ratio.

Mullet Ratio

This is a fine example of how the math serves the conversation, not the other way around.

After two periods, I went around each class to check with other teachers. Some had a hard time maintaining interest the whole period. That was a fair critique, one that I noticed in my own class; the second half of the period drags a bit. The department head piped in, “How about a Gallery Walk?”



So instead of calculating the Mullet Ratio from their seat, they walked around and did it. (Teachers with Smart Responders, this is a good way to have them be accountable, plus it boosts their grade.)

Here are some more great student comments:

Lionel Ritchie looks like Apollo Creed meets Prince.
Can I drop all those zeroes for Ryan?

Ryan and Doug
And my favorite comment of the day:

Lionel Ritchie, man; the combination of the Jheri-curl, the mustache, the eyes that pierce your soul. Go ahead, look into his eyes and tell him he’s not fabulous. Just looka that Nigel Thornberry Nose.

You know... I kinda see it.

I was doubled over laughing at that.

During 6th period (iPad class), I had students fill out a simple form each day. It helped me to understand where some gaps were, plus it was just fun. I highlighted some interesting responses here.

Day 2 – Calculating Mullets

Students are given a worksheet with famous mullets on it , a ruler, and a pipe cleaner. Much like before, the pipe cleaner is fit along the hair, then straightened on the ruler to measure the Party and Business.

Photo Dec 17, 9 36 04 AM

Previously, students had ranked the 7 Mulletiest in order. While mathematical, it’s boring, so…

Students plot where each of the 7 people fall on a graph of Business vs. Party.

After that, they measure their own ratio and the ratio of 5 other people and plot them, too.

I dragged my class roster into a new page in Excel and called students over to plug in their business and party (great way to involve a student who finishes way early).

Mullets Ranked Period 2

Then, ranking them high-low, we discuss with similar questions from last time.

  • Why does Isaiah (who has corn-rows) have a ratio that’s so high?
  • Juan, Ladovic, and Timothy have the same ratio, but different haircuts; why is that?
  • Why doesn’t anybody have a negative ratio?

Day 3 – Non-Mullets and Mulletude

The text-heavy instructions on the Day 3 handout took some explaining for the first couple periods. Middle-schoolers weren’t exactly lunging for their colored pencils like I thought they would. Turns out my expectations were off.

"All this broccoli just for me? Hurray!"

“All this broccoli just for me? Hurray!”

I ended up stopping them after the first page to get into the Day 3 slideshow, which is brand new this year. Those that wanted to keep going on the worksheet (more than half of each class) could bring back the back page completed tomorrow.

Day 4 – Mullet Art

This was a suggestion from my Math Coach, Tiffany, who came up with the format in the car. It’s pretty self-explanatory.

The math on the back took about 15 minutes to explain (more for my RSP classes), but they really got involved in the art. I ended up going here in the interest of keeping things moving.

This is one of several ways I felt that I compromised the integrity of a rich task in the name of efficiency (during the last week before Winter Break).

Day 5 – Showcase

I have an iPad intervention class during 6th period, so they spent yesterday going to all the other math classes and capturing images of the best art from that teacher, which we then uploaded to a DropBox folder and shared with each teacher.

On the Friday before Christmas break, what better way to kill a half-period than a slideshow of various students with mullets?

+ & Δ

First, the positive:

  • Students never said “Aw, Mullets, again?” They were interested all week. Hopefully, that fire was fueled by my mullet wig and blasting 80’s glam rock outside my class all week.
  • Student: Hands-on activities made it more exciting.
  • Here’s a quote from Nick, who teaches SDC students at my school:

What my students and I liked most about the lesson was that it was fun! I didn’t need to toggle a carrot or mention team pts. to keep them in engaged. As far as understanding units of measurement, well, that was the neatest part. Kids that struggled with conceptualizing the units of measurement in the past seemed to get it due to the pipe cleaner as their guiding template.

Things to change (Δ):

  • Add diversity. 95% of the Mullet Pics are white dudes. I realized this on Day 3, so we opened Day 4 with this:

  • Add a section where students calculate mullet ratios, then match people with the same ratio (Huh, these two have different haircuts, but the same ratio. I wonder why that is.)
  • THEN:  on Day 2 (with the Famous Mullets handout), add a section for an ordered pair (business, party). Plotting those points is easier.
  • THEN, on Day 3 (Mulletude of Other Haircuts), each picture of another haircut has an ordered pair related to it, and the axes have a grid.
  • THEN, after the haircuts are placed, we draw lines through people with the same mullet ratio, but different haircuts.

BOOM, introduction to slope as a constant rate of change.

UPDATE 2016-08-30: This is an example of what Dan Meyer calls climbing the Ladder of Abstraction or “turning up the math.”


I’ve thrice been picked out of a conference crowd (and dozens of times on Twitter) as “The Mullet Guy”. It’s a role I never thought I would fill, but one I’m happy to. It’s my hope that my other material shows a constant climb toward improved teaching.

It’s a one-trick pony. Get it?

If you have an idea to improve the Mullet Lesson, leave a comment. That’s how many of these adaptations came about. Below are some additions from Liisa Suurtamm, who teaches advanced functions in Canada.

~Matt “Rock You Like A Hurricane” Vaudrey