A Perfect 10

Here's your nightly math! Just 5 quick minutes of number fun for kids and parents at home. Read a cool fun fact, followed by math riddles at different levels so everyone can jump in. Your kids will love you for it.

A Perfect 10

August 14, 2019

Today our road trip takes us to the only state with a number in its name: Tennessee! This state also has a pretty cool shape. Thanks to its wiggly eastern and western borders, it looks almost like a parallelogram. But perhaps the best math in Tennessee comes from cotton candy. A candy maker and a dentist from Nashville invented the world’s first cotton candy machine. This machine heats sugar until it melts. Then it spins the melted sugar through small holes super-fast to make a cloud of tiny threads. Just 1 or 2 teaspoons of sugar make enough cotton candy to fill a big cone. When the inventors brought their machine to the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, people went crazy for it. The crowds bought 68,655 boxes at a quarter each! That sounds like a pretty sweet deal.
 
Wee ones: Tennessee begins with the number 10! Can you count up from 1 to 10?
 
Little kids: If you use 2 teaspoons of sugar to make pink cotton candy, 3 teaspoons to make green cotton candy, and 5 teaspoons to make blue cotton candy, how many teaspoons of sugar do you use? Bonus: Cotton candy is also called “fairy floss.” If you make 3 cones of fairy floss, then eat 1, then spin 4 more, then eat 2, how many cones do you have on hand now?
 
Big kids: A cotton candy machine spins 3,500 times in 1 minute! How many full minutes would it take to spin more than 10,000 times? Bonus: If chocolate starts melting at 86 degrees F but sugar doesn’t start melting until 300 degrees F, how much hotter does a pan need to be to melt sugar than chocolate?
 
The sky’s the limit: If those 68,655 boxes of cotton candy sold for 25 cents per box, did the inventors make more than $20,000?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Answers:
Wee ones: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.
 
Little kids: 10 teaspoons. Bonus: 4 cones left. 3 – 1 gives you 2… then you add 4 to get 6… and finally take away 2 to get 4.
 
Big kids: Just 3 minutes – the first 2 minutes of spinning bring you to only 7,000 rotations. But 7,000 + 3,500 = 10,500. Bonus: 214 degrees F warmer.
 
The sky’s the limit: Not quite. Since 4 quarters make 1 dollar, every 4 boxes earned $1. So the inventors would have had to sell 80,000 boxes of cotton candy to reach $20,000. (They instead made $17,163.75.)

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About the Author

Laura Overdeck

Laura Overdeck

Laura Bilodeau Overdeck is founder and president of Bedtime Math Foundation. Her goal is to make math as playful for kids as it was for her when she was a child. Her mom had Laura baking before she could walk, and her dad had her using power tools at a very unsafe age, measuring lengths, widths and angles in the process. Armed with this early love of numbers, Laura went on to get a BA in astrophysics from Princeton University, and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business; she continues to star-gaze today. Laura’s other interests include her three lively children, chocolate, extreme vehicles, and Lego Mindstorms.

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