Lesson 9.6: Real World Connection

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Toothbrush Is King of Inventions

If you had to choose one of the following inventions that you could not live without, which would it be—the toothbrush, the car, the cell phone, or the microwave oven? That was the question asked of American teens and adults in a survey conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The toothbrush emerged as the number-one invention that Americans said they could not live without. The car was a close second.

These findings show that important inventions do not have to be complicated. “In today's high-tech society, we thought people would be voting for the high-tech inventions,” said Kristin Joyce, a spokesperson at MIT. “The results show that a simple, low-tech invention can be what people think is most important.”

The toothbrush has a long history, dating back to the 15th century. According to the American Dental Association, the first toothbrush was invented in 1498. To make the brush, a Chinese emperor placed hog bristles in a handle made from bone.

In 1938, nylon bristles replaced hog bristles. Dentists today are eager to remind people that while the toothbrush has taken the throne as king of the invention list, in order to be most effective, the toothbrush still needs its handy sidekick: dental floss.

Word Wise

Not easy to deal with or understand: Some of the math problems on that test were complicated.

(Short for High Technology) Technology that has to do with very advanced, complex devices, such as computers: Some high-tech items are hard to operate.

(Short for Low Technology) Technology, such as that of a paper clip, which does not involve advanced, complex devices: You can easily figure out how to use most low-tech items.

A close companion or friend: Here comes Ali and his sidekick Ben.

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Make two lists, one of items that you consider to be high-tech, the other of items that you think are low-tech. How many of each kind can you think of?

Compare your lists with a partner. Do you and your partner agree on which items should be classified as high-tech and which should be called low-tech? Explain your thinking to your partner.

Data Hunt

What modern invention do you think your classmates couldn't live without? Conduct a survey to find out.

  • Choose four commonly used items for your survey.
  • Use a tally chart to record your classmates' responses.

After you have completed your survey, make a bar graph or pictograph to display your results. Were the results what you predicted they would be?