Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mining: Birdseed Mining

This is based on an activity from the Women in Mining website. However, it not currently listed as one of their activities.

You'll need:
Bird seed mix (The mix will need to include sunflower seeds, and at least two other types of seeds. You'll need approximately 20 mL of birdseed for each pair of students.)

Small beads - "seed beads" - blue, gold and silver

50 mL beakers - 1 per pair of students

Prep Work:
For every 300 mL of birdseed, add 7 gold beads, 13 silver beads and 25 blue beads.

The activity:
Each pair of students is given 15-20 mL of prepared bird seed mixture.

Students search through the mixture and separate out (i.e. "mine") the sunflower seeds, millet, and beads, making piles of each.

Students count and record each pile of seed: sunflower seeds, millet, blue, gold, silver beads, and everything else (doesn't need to be separated, just counted).

Now for the math...
I typically provide my students with a data table (sometimes it's drawn on the board and they copy it into their notebooks, other times it's provided to them on a piece of paper).

I've tried to recreate said data table here, but have failed. Miserably.

So, here is a picture of said data table:
(I can't figure out why the photos is being rotated... that's just the way my day is going... I'm sorry, you'll have to turn your head, until I can figure out how to fix it).

Hopefully the picture makes things clear, but in case it doesn't, here is an explanation:

A dollar value is assigned to each of the mined substances:

Gold beads = Gold = $5
Silver beads = Silver = $4
Blue beads = Copper = $3
Sunflower seeds = Iron = $2
Millet = Lead/Zinc = $1
Other = Waste = n/a

Students will calculate the value of their mined materials by multiplying the number of pieces of each material by the value of the respective material.

Adding together these values will give students their Gross Income.

In addition, students will determine their expenses by multiplying the total number of materials (including waste - it costs money to dig up waste too!) by 0.23.

Gross Income - Expenses = Net Income (or Loss)

In addition, students can determine their % profit (or loss) with the following formula:

[Net Income (or Loss) / Gross Income] x 100

(In words: net income divided by gross income; that number multiplied by 100)


  1. I bought my beads this weekend. The store I went to did not have the correct size blue bead, so I got green ones instead. My first thought was I could change the copper to emeralds, but now that I'm looking at the activity again, I'm not sure that is the best idea. If you have any pointers before Thursday, 10-27-11, I'd appreciate them! Thanks for the new ideas!! :)