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Queensbury students, teacher pick apart Oreo cookies claims

2013-08-21T19:45:00Z 2013-08-21T23:30:37Z Queensbury students, teacher pick apart Oreo cookies claimsMICHAEL GOOT -- mgoot@poststar.com Glens Falls Post-Star
August 21, 2013 7:45 pm  • 

QUEENSBURY -- Double Stuf Oreos should really be called Oreos Stuffed with 1.86 Times the Filling of Regular Oreos, a Queensbury math class discovered.

Teacher Dan Anderson decided to have groups of students break apart, weigh and measure different varieties of Oreos — regular, Double Stuf and Mega to test whether the title was really truthful.

Anderson said he is a fan of Oreos and when the Mega Oreo — advertised as three times the filling — came out earlier this year, he brought all three varieties of cookies in for the class to examine during one class period in late February.

Students had to get creative in trying to measure how much filling was in the cookies, according to Anderson. They took the top part off the cookies, leaving only the frosting. Then, they used two of those tops to approximate the weight of a cookie minus the frosting. Finally, they could subtract that number from an intact cookie to calculate the rough weight of the frosting using scales borrowed from the science department. Students took an average of the weight of several cookies.

After crunching all the numbers, they found that there was 3.61 grams of frosting in the original Oreos, 6.71 in the Double Stuf and 9.69 in the Mega.

Anderson first posted news about the experiment to his Recursive Process math blog in early March and it received little attention. That changed last Friday. While on vacation, he was contacted by a reporter from The Huffington Post website, who had stumbled across the information on his blog.

Then, the story began attracting more media interest — perhaps in a replay of a similar controversy in January when a Chicago man sued Subway because its Footlong sub wasn’t 12 inches.

On Tuesday morning, high school Assistant Principal Timothy Dawkins contacted Anderson to tell him that Fox News’ Shepard Smith wanted to do a piece about the Oreos. He was interviewed via satellite by Fox from an Albany studio. CNN came calling next, followed by the Daily Mail in the United Kingdom and the New York Post.

“It’s been crazy. It’s been really bizarre,” he said.

He is proud of the fact that the students did all the calculations, which he has since verified by doing the experiment himself. There are about 15 to 20 students in each class, which covers applied math in the first half of the year and consumer math the second half of the year.

“It’s mostly a class for students who have struggled. Most are going into the workforce or community college,” he said.

Anderson does project-based learning, which features open-ended questions and hands-on activities that use the latest technology. Other units in the class have been studying the finances of a major purchase such as a car or a house and contrasting the online auction sites eBay and QuiBids.

Anderson, who has been with the Queensbury Union Free School District for seven years, said he likes working with high school students because they get excited about learning if they are exposed to new ways of teaching.

“I really enjoy being able to see their growth,” he said.

Queensbury school officials are reacting to the national exposure.

“I was pretty surprised when I first heard about it, but it doesn’t surprise me that Dan did this because he’s an innovative teacher and he does these kinds of things,” said Superintendent Douglas Huntley.

He added that Anderson, who is also the high school math department chairman, tries to make math as hands-on and relevant as possible for students.

“He’s a well-received teacher,” Huntley said. “Students like him.”

The Oreos investigation will continue this school year. Anderson said the Double Stuf Oreos seem to have less dense filling, which may have affected the calculations. A science teacher is going to measure the density of the filling.

Anderson said the so-called “controversy” of the Double Stuf Oreos not having twice as much cream filling doesn’t bother him.

“I still like Oreos,” he said.

Anderson’s colleagues teased him about all the media attention during a staff meeting Wednesday. “They gave me a plate of Oreos when I walked in,” he said.

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(1) Comments

  1. Bob1234
    Report Abuse
    Bob1234 - August 21, 2013 8:17 pm
    Excellent story about a teacher and students putting a food manufacturer's marketing claims to the test for some engaging, real-life math lessons.

    Let's hope this story gets as much attention from the public as another, library-related story has received.

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