Stay in school; learn math

I remember this just as if it was yesterday.

It was something that we talked about in Grade 9 Introduction to Business and got the typical Grade 9 response…

Siiiiir, this is Business, not Math

It was a topic that I thought might inspire some interest in advertising and promotion. Also, the importance of knowing your market.

You can read a quick summary Why No One Wanted A&W’s Third-Pound Burger. Long story short – the potential market figured that a 1/3 burger was actually smaller than a competitor’s 1/4 burger and yet priced the same. Informed consumers wanted the most beef for their money and didn’t buy into the new product.

So, A&W (at least south of the border) is taking another run at the concept. The video above is frank, pokes a little fun at themselves, and might just make a stronger message this time around. In Canada, as far as I can see, the big deal is the $1 coffee. We don’t have an A&W in our town so will have to check if I’m out and about. Maybe Sadler’s Pond this afternoon?

We did, eventually, have some fun with it in our class and mocked up our own advertisements to see if we could convince an audience that it really was a good deal.

As we look back on this, there’s a big opportunity for education and particularly those who teach and learn mathematics to learn from the experience. We’re getting better about bringing in real life experiences and digging into the mathematics.

For example, using a measuring tape to talk about fractions.

or using a measuring cup.

In the classroom, we’re getting better at making the connections and, hopefully, finding a way to make these things relevant.

Of course, there are books that you can purchase that explain all of it but I’ll bet your parents were like mine and had us using mathematics in our everyday lives. I can remember Mom doing her best to make my brother and me cooks and all the mathematics that goes into a recipe. Mess up the measurements and you’ve got problems. Level 4 – we have to modify the recipe because our cousins are coming. We were a family of 4 and they a family of 5 so we couldn’t just double it. Similarly, I can remember Dad having us estimate the length of time it was going to take to reach our destination in the car when we’d see those mileage signs at the side of the road. The Level 4 question has always “what happens if I speed up?”

For the sake of A&W because they do have great root beer floats, I hope that society has learned from the mistakes of the past and even if people can’t do the math, they’ll be intrigued by a humourous commercial. It’s my understanding that there isn’t a great deal of profit margin in the fast food business and that any profits are made up with volume. In that respect, I suspect that the competition will be out with their own commercials to counter this mathematics lesson.

Here in Ontario, we are fortunate that we have some mathematics loving people that share all kinds of inspiration. Alice Aspinall uses her @EveryoneCanMath Twitter account and website to spread the message. David Petro is all over mathematics with his Twitter account @davidpetro314 (and you’re not worthy if you don’t see what he did there) and his blog.

In your future, we’ll be changing the clocks – is there a mathematics lesson in there?


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