There’s a full moon tonight, and a full moon makes many of us think of wolves howling at the moon. But the truth is, that isn’t what wolves are howling at. Wolves use howls to locate other wolves in their pack. They also howl to keep away other packs of wolves. So why did we ever think it had to do with the moon? One theory is that wolves howl more when the moon is full because they can see each other better. Also, for the thousands of years we didn’t yet have electricity and lamps, we humans tended to be out and about more on nights when the moon was full because we could see better ourselves, so we were more likely to see and hear the howling those nights. Either way, those wolves always seem to make a racket right when we’re trying to sleep.
Wee ones: If you hear 2 wolves howling and then 3 other wolves join in, how many wolves are howling now?
Little kids: Wolves can hold their howl for a good half minute, to give other wolves in the pack enough time to find them. If you can howl for 21 seconds but a wolf can last for 29 seconds, for how much longer than you can the wolf howl? Bonus: If a wolf can howl only 20 seconds and a fellow wolf needs him to howl 3 times to find him, for how many seconds in total does the wolf need to howl?
Big kids: Wolves can cover great distances, up to 9 miles in a single day. If a wolf keeps up that pace for a whole week, how many miles does he travel? Bonus: If a wolf travels 8 miles a day for a week, then cuts his pace in half for a second week, how many miles does he travel in total?
The sky’s the limit: Sound travels 1 mile every 5 seconds. If a wolf’s howl echoes off a cliff towards you, and at that moment you’re 4 miles from the cliff and driving toward it at 90 miles an hour, what fraction of a mile have you traveled by the time you hear the echo?
Wee ones: 5 wolves.
Little kids: 8 seconds longer. Bonus: 60 seconds (1 minute).
Big kids: 63 miles. Bonus: 84 miles: 56 the first week, 28 the second.
The sky’s the limit: 4/9 of a mile. Sound travels 1 mile every 5 seconds, whereas you’re traveling 1 ½ miles every 60 seconds; 1/12 of that comes to 1/8 of a mile in 5 seconds. So the sound is traveling 8 times as fast as you, and when you meet it will have covered 8/9 of the distance and you will have covered 1/9. So you will travel 4/9 of a mile.
To show this with algebra: if d is the distance you travel, d+8d=4 miles, so 9d=4 and d=4/9.