Super Math Teacher

The thoughts of a middle school math teacher

Zombie Attack!

on March 17, 2017

Exponential growth and decay can be so boring to teach.  How many times can I use the “start with a penny and double it every day or $1000000” question?

To keep students interested, I related the exponential growth and decay to a zombie attack.  Students who are usually the least interested became the most engaged with this scenario. The start of the lesson just shows a powerpoint slide titled Zombie Attack! with Zombies.  This got the attention of even the laziest students.


Students then worked in their groups through a series of questions in order to determine how many zombies there will be on any given day.  They make a graph, determine the correct equation, and make predictions.  The discussion was definitely at a high level.  All of these are skills needed as they move into high school and the IB and AP courses.  Of course, they must read carefully the information presented in order to determine the number of zombies on any given day.  Students who read the headings of the chart were able to quickly fill it in and start the discussion questions.  Many students just interpreted the chart as how many total zombies (including the original zombies) there were, not how many newly created zombies there were.


Working cooperatively allows students to discuss their ideas.  Those students who are less sure are able to contribute without being ridiculed for a wrong answer.  Seeing students who are less successful become leaders in their groups is rewarding in itself.

This activity is definitely a keeper…..much better than last year’s zombie attack.  Students were definitely engaged and sharing their ideas with one another.

The follow up homework assignment also related to zombies.  Two word problems about zombies….designed to make students think.

After teaching this to all 4 of my classes, students have an understanding of how exponential functions work.  They may not always get the correct answer, but they can identify one given a table, and know what the graph should look like.  They also can see how an exponent can greatly increase or decrease a value.  In addition, through the lesson, they were able to discover that the value can never be equal to zero.  They were able to explain why as well.

This was probably one of my most successful lessons over the past few years.



One response to “Zombie Attack!

  1. Stephanie Rous says:

    So when applying this to the world of The Walking Dead, can you estimate how many episodes are left before everyone is dead and I have to find a new favorite Sunday night show?


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