She explained Monday that she asked students to bring Barbie dolls to class this past Friday. They were assigned to find a connection between the number of rubber bands they used as bungee cords and the number of centimeters by which Barbie escaped breaking her neck when flung from atop a white board (how far from the floor her head got).
Monday, the students used the data they collected Friday to make an equation that would tell them how many rubber bands to use to get Barbie close to the ground without breaking her neck when they flung her from a higher place – an almost- 20-foot drop off the bleachers. Whichever team got their Barbie closest to the ground without any part of her (including hair) touching it, won (and received extra credit points).
Barbie proved resilient on David Woodruff's team. He said that the last time the team flung Barbie from the bleachers, they didn't break her neck, but "the first two times we did."
He said on the final try, his team got Barbie within two inches of the ground.
"We knew the equation but since the rubber bands are different, we had to calculate that."
Although Clay Goodwin admits to destroying his sister's Barbie dolls when he was younger – "I cut the hair off and stuff," he said – and that "it's always fun to destroy Barbie," his team won the competition, getting Barbie just a half-inch from the ground.
One of Goodwin's team members, Whitney Stallings, said the project was "a lot of fun," and said she hates math but enjoyed Barbie Bungee.
"When we do projects, it's like, 'wow, I'm actually enjoying doing this,'" she said.
Another of their team members, Laura Foster, said her team dressed their Barbie in athletic clothes, as Spangler had instructed them to do.
Although Foster was on the winning team, she said Barbie ended up breaking her neck at the end of the day.
"At the end, Barbie fell off the bleachers and her head fell off," she said.
Alan Horton explained how the students came up with an equation that would predict Barbie's falling distance.
"You plot the points in your calculator and connect them with a line," he said. "The equation of that line is the regression equation."
And while he said that "I didn't have any pent-up resentment against Barbie," he enjoyed launching her off the bleachers.
"It was a good break from regular class," he said.
And while Spangler said that "Barbie has nothing to do with the math problem" (yet continued to suffer a broken neck), she noted that "the bottom line is, they'll remember this better than they'll remember anything else."
Barbie retained her dignity throughout – Horton's Barbie wore a skirt and a shirt, and he said Spangler taped Barbie's skirt down so it wouldn't fly up if she turned upside down.
"I wouldn't have even thought of that," he said, "but Mrs. Spangler did that for me."
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