March 3, 2008: Math is a SNAP at Capilano's math fair

      Monday, March 3, 2008
      Contact: Dr. Chris Morgan, coordinator, Mathematics and Statistics
      Tel: 604.986.1911, local 2449

      (NORTH VANCOUVER, B.C.)—There’s a fishbowl with 200 fish and 99 per cent are guppies. How many guppies do you need to remove to get to the point where 98 per cent of the remaining fish are guppies?

      This reasoning puzzle is a favourite interview question asked of prospective Microsoft employees. Puzzles have been around for a long time and today some employers, such as Microsoft, use puzzles or brain teasers to determine a prospective employee’s aptitude. They’re also a great way to start a conversation and get people interacting.

      Capilano’s Math department is also using puzzles, but in a creative manner that will promote its discipline in the community. Students in the College’s Math for Elementary Teachers course (Math 190) will host a SNAP math fair at the North Vancouver campus on Friday, March 7. Students in Grades 4 and 5 from North Vancouver’s Capilano Elementary, Montroyal Elementary, Cove Cliff Elementary, and Queensbury Elementary, and from Burnaby’s Sperling Elementary will attend three morning sessions starting at 9:10 a.m. At each, they will be treated to a variety of interesting and challenging math puzzles set up in booths in the Birch building’s lower cafeteria.

      “What better way is there for potential school teachers to experience and learn how to present mathematics to their targeted audience than through a math fair,” says Capilano math instructor, Dr. Chris Morgan. “This is an activity not just about learning some math, but it’s also about having fun doing it.”

      The acronym SNAP means student-centered, non-competitive, all-inclusive, and problem-based. SNAP math fairs have been presented in Sweden, Africa, Austria, Canada, and the United States.

      “We held our first SNAP math fair at Capilano in November 2007,” Chris said, adding, “and we’ve now incorporated it as a major project in the Math 190 course. We will be holding a fair each fall and spring when the Math 190 course is offered.”

      Students from Capilano’s School of Documentary and Small Unit Production, with the support of the SNAP Math board, are producing a film of the fair that will be distributed internationally. The purpose of this film is to promote and aid in the production of SNAP math fairs. This documentary, along with online resources and the Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences math fair booklet, will assist other teachers in organizing their own math fairs.

      Puzzle answer: Since only guppies are being removed, the one per cent of other fish you start with remains the same. One per cent of 200 is two fish, so these two fish become two per cent to make the guppies total up to 98 per cent. Two fish of two per cent is 100 total, so 100 guppies have to go.