A Traffic Jam You’ll Never See

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 Traffic Jam You’ll Never See

September 23, 2015

When planes take off from the airport, they have to wait their turn and stay far apart in the sky. After all, they weigh thousands of pounds and are moving at over 100 miles an hour — we don’t want them crashing. But photographer Mike Kelley took pictures of planes and put them together to make this one beautiful photo. He went to Los Angeles International Airport for a whole day, and snapped a picture of every single plane taking off, 75 in total. Then he pieced all the pictures together to show every plane  exactly where it was in the air. What’s amazing is that all the planes take off at about the same angle. The pilots do that good a job of flying at the right pitch every time. We could never let planes fly that close together for real, so this picture is our one chance to see what it would look like.

Wee ones: Which plane in the photo looks the biggest?

Little kids: If the photo shows 8 United planes (a globe on the tail) but just 3 American Airlines planes (tail painted like the American flag), how many more United planes are there?  Bonus:There are 75 planes taking off, but another 5 planes in the bottom right are landing. How many planes do we see in total?

Big kids: Mike took photos for 7 hours. If he started at 8:30 in the morning, when did he stop?  Bonus: If there had been one plane takeoff every 6 minutes, would he have seen more or fewer than 75 planes?




Wee ones: The China Airlines plane in the top left corner (red flower on the tail, American tail poking into it).

Little kids: 5 more United planes.  Bonus: 80 planes.

Big kids: At 3:30 pm.  Bonus: Fewer than 75, since that would have given just 10 planes per hour plus one extra at the 0 minute at the start, for 71 takeoffs.

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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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