Subject: How much is a trillion?

How can you explain how much a trillion is to a 5th grade class?


Your school probably gets paper for the copy machine in packages of 500 sheets. Get a package and have the students measure, as accurately as they can, the thickness of the 500 sheets. (You could also do this with a book that has 500 sheets of paper, ie 1000 pages.) Multiply by 2 to get the thickness of 1000 sheets of paper. If you are measuring in inches this is probably a little less than 4 inches.

Multiply by 1000 to get the thickness of a million sheets. (About 330 feet) Relate this value to something that the students know. Multiply by 1000 to get the thickness of a billion sheets. (Divide by 5280 to express this in miles.) Multiply again by 1000 to obtain the thickness of a trillion sheets. (The circumference of the earth is approximately 24 900 miles.)

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