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'Carbon Footprints' printed from http://nrich.maths.org/
Why do this problem?
offers a good opportunity to discuss some of the
maths behind the issue of carbon emissions. It is a chance for
students to use some maths to support their viewpoint, and to equip
themselves with the skills needed to analyse critically what they
see in the media about climate change. There is real scope for
making cross-curricular links through this problem. It is almost
certain to raise surprising realisations about the sheer volume of
carbon produced by everyday activities.
One way of approaching this problem with a class is to divide them
into groups and provide each group with a copy of the data given in
the problem, which can be found here.
one of the questions for consideration to each group, and give them
plenty of time to discuss which pieces of information are useful to
them in answering the question. Each group could prepare a
presentation or poster to present to the rest of the class
explaining their answer to the question and stating any assumptions
they have made. Students could also consider questions of their
own, and could use some of the links provided at the bottom of the
problem to find other useful information needed in order to answer
Which pieces of information are useful in answering each
What assumptions need to be made in order to answer the
Students could be encouraged to think about what extra information
would help them better to answer these questions, and could seek
out this extra information.
Suggest starting with common-sense reasoning and then look for the
numbers to back up what their common sense suggests.