Lesson 15
Is a Smartphone Smart Enough to Go to the Moon?
15.1: Old Hardware, New Hardware (20 minutes)
Activity
Students perform operations with numbers expressed in scientific notation, including problems where both decimal and scientific notation are used. Students use scientific notation and choose units of appropriate size for measurements of very large or very small quantities.
As students work, look for those who use scientific notation to make their calculations and estimations easier. Consider asking them to share their work later.
Launch
Arrange students in groups of 2. Display or distribute the included blackline master containing computer hardware specifications over time for all to see throughout the activity. Give students 15–20 minutes to work before a brief wholeclass discussion.
Student Facing
In 1966, the Apollo Guidance Computer was developed to make the calculations that would put humans on the Moon.
Your teacher will give you advertisements for different devices from 1966 to 2016. Choose one device and compare that device with the Apollo Guidance Computer. If you get stuck, consider using scientific notation to help you do your calculations.
For reference, storage is measured in bytes, processor speed is measured in hertz, and memory is measured in bytes. Kilo stands for 1,000, mega stands for 1,000,000, giga stands for 1,000,000,000, and tera stands for 1,000,000,000,000.
 Which one can store more information? How many times more information?
 Which one has a faster processor? How many times faster?
 Which one has more memory? How many times more memory?
Student Response
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Activity Synthesis
Select students who chose various devices to share their results. A key insight to take away would be how rapidly technology improves and how modern smartphones are much, much more sophisticated than the computer that put people on the Moon.
Design Principle(s): Maximize metaawareness
15.2: A Bit More on Bytes (25 minutes)
Activity
Students use scientific notation as a tool to understand the relative scale of different units (MP2). They practice modeling skills by identifying essential elements of the problems and gathering relevant information before computing (MP4).
Launch
Arrange students in groups of 2. Instruct students to first read through the problems and decide on what information they need to solve each problem. Record relevant information for all students to see. Only record information when students have asked for it. Possible information students will ask for include:
 Mai’s dad’s computer holds 500 gigabytes of storage space.
 A kilobyte is 1,000 bytes, a megabyte is 1,000,000 bytes, and a gigabyte is 1,000,000,000 bytes.
 1 character is roughly 1 byte.
 An emoji is roughly 4 bytes.
 A fulllength, highdefinition film is around 8 gigabytes and runs 2 hours.
 A person sleeps about 8 hours in a night.
Give 15–20 minutes of work time before a brief wholeclass discussion.
Supports accessibility for: Memory; Conceptual processing
Student Facing
For each question, think about what information you would need to figure out an answer. Your teacher may provide some of the information you ask for. Give your answers using scientific notation.
 Mai found an 80’s computer magazine with an advertisement for a machine with hundreds of kilobytes of storage! Mai was curious and asked, “How many kilobytes would my dad’s new 2016 computer hold?”
 The old magazine showed another ad for a 750kilobyte floppy disk, a device used in the past to store data. How many gigabytes is this?

Mai and her friends are actively involved on a social media service that limits each message to 140 characters. She wonders about how the size of a message compares to other media.
Estimate how many messages it would take for Mai to fill up a floppy disk with her 140character messages. Explain or show your reasoning.

Estimate how many messages it would take for Mai to fill a floppy disk with messages that only use emojis (each message being 140 emojis). Explain or show your reasoning.

Mai likes to go to the movies with her friends and knows that a highdefinition film takes up a lot of storage space on a computer.
Estimate how many floppy disks it would take to store a highdefinition movie. Explain or show your reasoning.
 How many seconds of a highdefinition movie would one floppy disk be able to hold?
 If you fall asleep watching a movie streaming service and it streams movies all night while you sleep, how many floppy disks of information would that be?
Student Response
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Student Facing
Are you ready for more?
Humans tend to work with numbers using powers of 10, but computers work with numbers using powers of 2. A “binary kilobyte” is 1,024 bytes instead of 1,000, because \(1,\!024 = 2^{10}\). Similarly, a “binary megabyte” is 1,024 binary kilobytes, and a “binary gigabyte” is 1,024 binary megabytes.
 Which is bigger, a binary gigabyte or a regular gigabyte? How many more bytes is it?
 Which is bigger, a binary terabyte or a regular terabyte? How many more bytes is it?
Student Response
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Activity Synthesis
In a wholeclass discussion, ask students what they might have found surprising or interesting when comparing different digital media and different hardware. If time permits, discuss how scientific notation helps to make those comparisons.
Design Principle(s): Support sensemaking; Optimize output (for explanation)