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What’s in the Sack?

An investigation inspired by “What’s in the Sack?” [p. 111 of Where the Sidewalk Ends. It is a poem by Shel Silverstein.]

Imagine a little man weighed down by a great big sack on his back.

Define packing capacity as the fraction of total volume occupied by the particular contents. For example, if tennis balls had a 75% packing capacity, then a sack measuring 2 cubic feet and packed with tennis balls would contain 1.5 cubic feet of tennis balls.

Assume that the little man's sack is a sphere 6 feet in diameter.

1. If the packing capacity of pickles is 60%, and the average volume of a pickle is 5 cubic inches, how many pickles could be in the sack?

2. How many gallons of popcorn might be in the sack?

To investigate the following questions, estimate the average size of each item, and find its packing capacity experimentally.

3. How many marbles might be in the sack?

4. How many pounds of encyclopedia volumes might be in the sack?

5. What is the value of quarter dollars that might be in the sack?


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