Here’s a strange one.

I was flying from Dallas to Indianapolis on a Boeing 737. After the beverage service, I decided to go visit the restroom. Before I could leave my seat in row 13, they brought the cart past me and began to gather trash.

I went to the back of the plane by row 33. When I came out, they had passed row 13 and I was stuck in the back until they were done.

Rather than get frustrated, I started ruminating on a math activity.

The question is, how much time do you have to go to the restroom and make it back to your seat before they pass your row and trap you in the back? If you put them on a graph of row number versus time, what does it look like? Will it always be linear? What about exit rows?

Here’s some helpful information.

They were spending about 10 seconds on each row beginning with row 8. Unfortunately, My cell phone was at my seat so I could not get a video of them coming down the aisle. That would have made for a better activity as I could have the students estimate their speed.

There are 32 inches between rows and the aisle is 18 inches. I would have gone back and measured the exit rows, but I didn’t want to end up on a no-fly list.

Here’s the graph of the data where x is the row number and y is the time before you are trapped.

There are three lessons here.

  1. Always be looking for math activities in real life situations (prevents frustration and makes you more observant).
  2. Always have a cell phone in your pocket.
  3. Always have a tape measure in your backpack.


  • I agree not to be measuring on an airplane. I think kids would enjoy this one. You could use a fisher price plane and little people to demonstrate the problem.

    • I like the way you think. I am thinking this would be good around 5th grade.

  • First off I want to say fantastic blog! I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask if you do not mind.

    I was curious to know how you center yourself and clear your head prior to writing.

    I have had trouble clearing my mind in getting my thoughts
    out there. I do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes tend
    to be wasted simply just trying to figure out how to begin.
    Any ideas or hints? Many thanks!

    • I start by writing about something for which I have enthusiasm. The it is easy to start, but can be hard to turn off.

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