Second Breakfast: Day 144 Or Function Auction

I ran across this wonderful activity from Sarah Carter (whose blog is absolutely brilliant) while writing my lesson plans over the weekend. I decided to try it today.

It went really well! The students really bought into it and got into bidding wars. They clearly didn’t have a lot of experience with auctions (I mean, why would they?) so they blew through their \$1000 really quickly. But this probably wasn’t helped by the fact that I had a student who was more interested in trolling the class than winning the auction. He knew which relations were functions and which ones were not and would purposefully pump the bid up on non-functions. He got burnt a couple times and got stuck spending \$350 on a dud, but obviously didn’t care. (Although his partner did, poor girl.) The hilarious thing was that half the class caught on to his ruse, but the other half didn’t. So he’d start a bidding war, a bunch of groups would bite, and then they would spend \$4-,5-,600 dollars on a non-function and then went nuts when we went over the lot as a class.

To help their poor bidding skills, I stopped after lot 6 and offered money bounties for correct answers to questions. I asked a few vocab definitions and gave \$200 or \$300 prizes. On one of the final lots I had two groups in a bidding war that went all the way to \$1000. I was skeptical they had that much, BUT they had answered a few bounty questions so maybe they did. But when they went to pay, they only had \$800! I gave the lot to the next highest bidder.

We had a lot of fun. At the end, a student who is extremely intelligent but is almost always disengaged and on his phone said to me “I’ve never laughed that hard in this class.”

I think if I do this activity again I will want to create a sheet that has “Lot # and Reason” so that students have to write down the reason why the relation in each lot was a function or not a function. They were so excited after the bidding portion that they struggled to calm back down and discuss as a class why the lot was a good buy or not.

I also wonder if would be interesting to start all of the teams with a base amount of cash and then begin with a question round to offer bonus cash and then not do that again. Now that the students have played at least one time I think they have a better idea of how long the money will last, but they didn’t have a sense of that for this first attempt. I did the question bounty on the fly today to make up for the fact that they overspent, but I’d like to them to spend more carefully next time.

I was also thinking about having the students themselves create lots and then get PAID the money from when their lot sells. Maybe they make a function and a non-function lot and whoever makes the most money at the end wins. So they would have to be tricky and make the non-functions not obvious.

I’m sure that this activity could be easily adapted to another identification skill and I hope I have some time play around with it for a little bit. Maybe I have a function f(x), give a few sample inputs and outputs, and then students bid on lots of inputs based on what they think they outputs will be. Perhaps you only want to buy outputs that are 0 or at least non-negative. I don’t know. But I think you could really do a lot with this.

Thanks for the wonderful activity, Sarah!

And thanks everyone else for reading.