Can a Bird Take You for a Ride?

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.

Can a Bird Take You for a Ride?

November 5, 2015

We just got a great question from Bedtime Math fan Kaien M.: How many birds would it take to pick you up and fly with you? Well, that depends on 2 things: how much you weigh, and how much each bird can carry. Birds come in all sizes, and some have stronger wings than others. No one knows exactly what birds can carry, but we can estimate. A tiny swallow struggles to fly just from eating a few berries, so it 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 weighs 20 pounds and can carry small animals that weigh just as much. So you’d need only 3 eagles to pick up that 60-pound kid. Kaien also asked, how many people can 1,000 birds carry? As we saw, nearly 1,000 swallows can lift only 1 kid, but 1,000 eagles could lift about 330 of you. So if you really want to fly, do the math to find out how many pet birds you’ll need.

Wee ones: If you and 8 hawks go flying, how many of you are in the air?

Little kids: If 3 harpy eagles pick you up and fly you around, how many wings do you have as a group?  Bonus: How many more legs than wings?

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: 9 animals (since you’re an animal, too!).

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!

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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 while still in diapers, 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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