Trying to illustrate differing amounts with marbles - need suggestion...

I am trying to illustrate the number of deaths caused by things like the attacks of 9-11, AIDS in sub-saharan africa, deaths from lack of access to clean water, etc.

My initial idea was to use marbles. But if I have to make each marble represent 1,000 deaths, I will need thousands of marbles. Marbles at the local craft store are $1.99 per hundred. Way too much money!

This is for tomorow, so no ideas where I have to place an order.

So my question to you is what is an economical alternative to marbles that would let me illustrate the differences in the numbers?

Grains of rice? That would be really cheap. Good luck sorting it all though.

Actually, unless a better idea comes along, I am going with dried beans.

Paperclips? They come in boxes of 100, 250, or 500, making them easy to sort and count.

Why not simply increase the ratio, so that each marble or dried bean represents 10,000 or 100,000 deaths? (And rather than actually counting the marbles or beans, just weigh 100 or so, and then use weighed amounts.)

One problem with these illustrations is that people have a hard time correctly interpreting dimensionality.

100 marbles in a line looks like a lot more than 100 marbles in a 10x10 array.

And an 10 by 10 array looks a lot larger than a pile containing 100 items.

The result of that perceptual bias is that if I show you a pile of 100 identical objects and another pile of 200 of the same objects, the second pile looks only a few percent bigger than the first.

The only way to really expose the different sizes so the audience will perceive them correctly, both factually and intuitively, is to use one-dimensional rows of objects to represent the quantities.
This is standard presentation chicanery. When we want to hide a percentage change, we use a circle and let units of area represent quantity. If we want to accentuate it, use lines or bars and let length represent quantity. If you really need to bury bad news, come up with an excuse to use spheres’ volumes to represent the before & after quantities.

Because on 9-11 there were around 3k deaths…Katrina there were about 1800.

The difference between 3 marbles representing 9-11 and 2000 marbles representing the 2 million AIDS related deaths per year in sub saharan africa should be stark.

umm…what’s wrong with a simple bar graph?

I assume you are speaking to children, and want easy-to-visualize graphics. What’s easier than two rectangles drawn alongside each other on a large piece of cardboard?
Draw two rectangles, looking like skyscraper buildings, “inhabited” by the number of victims. But one building is much, much taller than the other
A one-inch high “building” for 3000 deaths on 9/11, and a 5-foot tall building for 200 000 victims. (60 inches times 3000 is close enough, right?)
Ten 5-foot high buildings for 2 million , etc.

Holding up a piece of cardboard as tall as you are, and croching down low to point at the 1-inch “building”. then standing up high to point to the roof of the tall buildings should be easier to understand than marbles in a jar.

Go with jelly beans instead. Then the kids can eat all the dead people and the lesson will stay with them that much longer…

These are people age 16 to 75.

Keep in mind this is all part of a larger lesson. There will be things leading up to this and things that follow that put it all in context.

People will be given bags of marbles when they enter the class, with a note attached. We will talk about 9-11 and how people in the USA dealt with the tragic loss of 3000 lives. I will drop 3 marbles on the floor.

Then I will ask a person to read the note on their bag and dump their marbles on the floor. The note may read “In Honduras 50,000 people die each year because they do not have access to clean, safe water. In El Salvador the number is 12,000.” They will dump 50+12 marbles on the floor.

The next will say “Approximately 1.2 million people die of malaria each year. Malaria is preventable and treatable.” We will dump 1200 marbles on the floor."

The next will say “2.2 million people die of AIDS each year in sub-Saharan Africa.” We will dump 2,200 marbles on the floor.

It is a social justice class. This week is on the coccoon we live in as Americans, and putting our situation in perspective with the rest of the world.

The floor may not be the best place for thousands of marbles.

Yeah, I’m picturing the scene in Animal House here, where Flounder stops the ROTC guys by throwing marbles into the street.

Well now it is dried beans… safety first.

MUCH cheaper…you can buy bags and bags of the stuff at the grocery store.

By the way, who’s doing the cleaning up afterward?

It’s a really lousy place for yummy jelly beans, too. If you need any ideas for a specific bean, may I suggest the lowly and naturally disgusting lima bean? [insert icky face here]