November 5, 2019

By Laura Overdeck | Animals, Daily Math, Entertainment, Science and Nature, Vehicles and Transportation

We got a great question from our longtime fan Kaien M.: How many birds would it take to pick you up and fly with you? Well, it depends on how much you weigh, and how much each bird can carry. Birds come in all sizes, and some have stronger wings than others. A tiny swallow can probably carry only about 1 ounce. If you weigh 60 pounds, you’d need 960 swallows to pick you up! On the other hand, the harpy eagle can carry 20 pounds. So you’d need only 3 eagles to pick up a 60-pound kid. If you want to fly, too, do the math to find out how many pet birds you’ll need!

*Wee ones:* If 8 hawks pick you up, what numbers would you say to count them?

*Little kids:* If 3 harpy eagles pick you up and fly you around, how many wings do they have as a group? *Bonus:* How many more legs than wings in the group? (Don’t forget to count yourself!)

*Big kids:* If an eagle can lift 20 pounds, at least how many eagles does it take to pick you up? (It doesn’t need to work out exactly — just make sure they can carry you!) *Bonus:* How many little sparrows could pick you up if each sparrow can carry 1 ounce? (Reminder: A pound has 16 ounces.)

*The sky’s the limit — literally:* If it takes either 20 geese to pick you up or 30 ducks, how many geese does it take to pick up a person that 120 ducks can lift?

Answers:

*Wee ones:* 1 ,2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

*Little kids:* 6 wings. *Bonus:* 2 more legs than wings. You can either subtract 6 from 8, or just remember that you add 2 legs but no wings to the group.

*Big kids:* Different for everyone…find the closest multiple of 20 just above your weight in pounds, then divide by 20. *Bonus:* Also different for you all…take your weight in pounds and multiply by 16, which gives you the total ounces and also the total number of sparrows.

*The sky’s the limit:* 80 geese. Every 30 ducks match 20 geese, and 120 ducks have 4 of those sets of 30. So you need 4 sets of 20 geese, or 80 geese.

And thank you Kaien for getting us all to take flight with math. If others of you out there have a question you’d like us to answer, send it in and we’ll give it a try!

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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