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BOCES class wins prize in 'How Big is a Billion' contest
Not being intimidated by big numbers has proven to be a valuable trait for Sharon Mannix and her Reclaim program students at Broome-Tioga BOCES’ West Learning Center.


Having already calculated how many empty milk jugs it would take to build a classroom igloo, which serves as a quiet reading nook, Mannix and her students didn’t hesitate when challenged to answer the question “how big is a billion?”

The question was posed as part of an H&R Block educational program that asked teachers to turn the idea of $1 billion into a math assignment for a chance to win up to $3,000. For their hard work and creative thinking, Mannix and her students were awarded a third-place grant for $1,000.

“I saw the information about the contest online and, because we’d already done a math problem to figure out how many milk jugs it would take to fill our classroom, I was sure my students could handle how long it would take to collect a billion milk jugs,” says Mannix, Reclaim program teacher at BOCES’ West Learning Center. “We used calculators and the Smartboard to do the math and worked together to solve the problem.”

H&R Block recently introduced the “How Big is a Billion?” contest in which teachers were invited to submit real-life examples illustrating the concept of $1 billion. For example, $1 billion is enough to purchase $300 of classroom supplies for every public school teacher in the U.S. Prizes of $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000 in classroom grants were awarded to submissions in three grade tiers: grades 4-6, 7-9 and 10-12.

Mannix and her students calculated that based on their experience, it would take 15 million months to collect one billion milk jugs, which would be enough to build five million igloos like the one in their classroom. Here is their entry.

Here is a link to the H&R Block website announcing the winners:

In the letter Mannix received announcing the prize, senior H&R associate Matt Hodson wrote, “Congratulations … Your entry was chosen from more than 140 submissions. The H&R Block judging panel was greatly impressed by the originality, creativity and math skills displayed by your students to illustrate the concept of a billion dollars. We can't decide what would be more fun, reading a book in the milk jug igloo or having your students solve more math problems for us!”

Entries were evaluated based on accuracy and creativity. H&R Block teamed up with WeAreTeachers, an online resource for lesson plans, professional development resources, grants and contests for teachers, to select the finalists and encourage participation. H&R Block selected the grand prize winners.

The H&R Block Dollars & Sense program provides educators and students with personal finance curriculum and resources to increase financial literacy among teens. Since 2009, H&R Block Dollars & Sense has awarded teens and educators with more than $4 million in grants and scholarships.

Reclaim is a special education program for students in grades K-8 with emotional and behavioral needs.

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