White as a…Lobster

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.

White as a…Lobster

September 11, 2014

Lobsters are those reddish-pink, claw-waving sea critters who hope not to get caught and become someone’s tasty dinner. Well, two lobsters have escaped being eaten simply by looking really cool. In the past week two fishermen in Maine each caught a totally white, or albino, lobster. “Albino,” which comes from the Latin word albus for “white,” describes animals (including people) who have no pigment, which is the chemical inside us that colors skin, fur, shells or scales. Albinism almost never happens among lobsters: only one out of 100 million lobsters turn out white. Normally fishermen would have to throw these lobsters back into the ocean, but these rare, silvery shellfish have dodged the dinner plate thanks to their good looks.

Wee ones: If each albino lobster has 2 of the bigger claws, how many do the 2 albino friends have together?

Little kids: Lobsters have 8 smaller legs plus another pair of legs holding those 2 huge claws. How many legs in total does a lobster have?  Bonus: How many legs do these 2 lobsters have all together?

Big kids: In the same week, one of the fishermen also caught a rare yellow lobster, the color of only 1 out of 30 million lobsters. White albino lobsters are 1 out of 100 million. Which type of lobster is rarer, the yellow or albino?  Bonus: If that fisherman caught 18 lobsters in total, what fraction of them were cool rare colors?

The sky’s the limit: If at the fish store there are 6 regular pink lobsters, 3 yellow ones and 1 albino one in the tank, what are your chances of pulling out 2 lobsters and having 1 of them be yellow and 1 white? (The order in which you end up with them doesn’t matter.)




Wee ones: 4 big claws. Lobsters also have 2 more pairs of smaller claws, not counted here.

Little kids: 10 legs in total.  Bonus: 20 legs.

Big kids: The albino is rarer, since you need to collect a much bigger group of them to score one.  Bonus: 2/18ths, which is 1/9th.

The sky’s the limit: 1 out of 15. Your chances of a yellow are 3/10 on the first grab, and for each of those scenarios you have a 1/9 chance of white on the second (since now you’re choosing from just 9 lobsters, not 10). Multiplying those gives you a 3/90th chance, or 1/30. But you could also pick this white first, giving you a 1/10 chance on the first try and a 3/9 chance of yellow on the second. That also comes to 3/90 or 1/30. Adding them together you have a 2/30th chance of picking one of each color, which comes to 1 out of 15.

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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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