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Visualizing Large Numbers with Pennies


The MegaPennyProject

When we start discussing topics with very large numbers, for instance the finance worksheets from earlier this week, or atomic dimensions in chemistry, it's helpful for kids to relate it to something familiar and physical. In a more adult context, I heard someone asked in an interview to estimate the number of pennies it would take to span the Golden Gate Bridge, which in case you were wondering...

4,200 feet

1

×

12 inches

1 foot

×

1 penny

0.75 inches

=

67,200 pennies

Imagining physical sizes of things is a great tool, even for adults. And if you can take those thought experiments beyond the usual "how many jellybeans in the jar" questions that can be demonstrated in real life, into the realms of "how big would a million pennies be?" it helps make these millions, billions and zillions all a bit more meaningful. The illustrations at the MegaPenny project are a fun place to start.