Video Story Problem – Estimating with Dominos

I recently had the opportunity to spend a day volunteering for my daughter’s field day at school. Among the various athletic activities outdoors, there was also down time for the Kindergartners to rest, have a bit of snack, and play inside away from the sun. I got to spend one such down time at the “domino table”, playing with a brightly colored set of plastic dominos.

As many children playing with dominos eventually do, they began to build. First it was a simple house, then a slightly more complicated and precariously balanced structure that tumbled at the tiniest bump of the table, which eventually led to the much more stable pyramid design, with “flat layers” of dominos building up to the peak of just 1 domino. I didn’t capture the entire building process on video, mostly because I wanted to have fun building with them, but what I did capture felt like the good basis for a video story problem on estimation.

I purposely left out a lot of information for two very deliberate reasons; 1.) I want to start providing more video story problems that ask questions that don’t have very obvious solutions, or at the very least don’t have very easily digestible data to crunch, and 2.) when it comes to estimation, too often students have been so thoroughly drilled to compute that they feel they have to provide an exact answer.

My driving question behind this story problem was whether or not they would have enough dominos to actually complete the pyramid, and the answer is they did, but what I think makes this story problem really valuable to a teacher is that you don’t have to come up with the same answer in order to decide whether they will or not. It allows students to ask all sorts of other important questions about how the students in the video were stacking the dominos, how many dominos were on the bottom layer to start, etc.

If you have other questions you’d ask with this video in your classroom, I’d love to hear them!