Are you smarter than a nerd?

Norm Lewis| University of Florida

One of the most important tasks for an editor is to check facts, which requires a skeptical eye. To help students challenge preconceptions, I use the following game as a lead-in to editing lab exercises. The winning team gets a bag of Nerds candies.

I divide the class of 20 students into five groups (count off by five). The person next to celebrate a birthday is the team captain. Each team picks a punctuation mark as a team name. All five teams are given the same question and huddle for a minute to debate the answers. Only the team captain can answer. I vary the order in which teams answer. I write the answers on the board and then give the correct answer when all have submitted.

Yes, some try to change their answers based on what they hear others say; I appeal to their honor. Sometimes I give credit for close answers. Often the answers surprise them (which is the point of the game) and offer “teachable moments.” You can adapt the questions to your school or state or to address other preconceptions that may interest you.


1. What subject did Albert Einstein flunk? (general ed to get into polytechnic as a 16-year-old, not math)

2. About 3,000 people died on Sept. 11. Since then, how many people have died in the United States as a result of homicide? (125,000; 18,000 per year, according to CDC)

3. Who originated the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955? (E.D. Nixon & Jo Ann Robinson, not Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King Jr.)

4. In what direction does water drain in the Southern Hemisphere? (same as in Northern Hemisphere; depends on the sink)

5. Who holds the world record for the most home runs? (Sadaharu Oh of Japan, not Barry Bonds)

6. Who came up with the theory of “survival of the fittest”? (economist Herbert Spencer, not Darwin)

7. What was the first country to land on the moon and when? (Russia, in 1966, unmanned craft; US landed first human on moon in 1969)

8. Can you sober up a drunk with a shower or coffee? (no; it only makes the person wet or more alert)

9. Was the Declaration of Independence a declaration of war? (no; it had been raging for a year)

10. When did our currency include the term “In God We Trust”? (after Civil War)

11. When, roughly, was “under God” added to the Pledge of Allegiance? (McCarthy era)

12. Where was the first permanent settlement of Europeans in what became the United States, and when? (St. Augustine, 1565)

13. How many national team titles has the University of Florida won, and which sport has won the most? (21 titles; most is women’s tennis, with four)

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