Paint Like a Caveman

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.

Paint Like a Caveman

October 13, 2014

Back when human beings lived in caves, life wasn’t anything like it is now. Cavemen woke up, hunted animals all day, went to sleep, and the next day they started all over, probably without taking a bath. They definitely didn’t have our cool tools, toys and gadgets: only about 300,000 years ago did they start making stone tools for pounding and cutting. Painting came even later, so it’s very exciting when we find ancient cave paintings. Archaeologists (scientists who dig for very old objects) have just found cave paintings in Indonesia that are among the oldest ever found. Some cave walls show the outlines of hands, made by blowing red dust while pressing hands against the wall; those are at least 39,000 years old, making them the oldest hand stencils known. There are also 35,000-year-old paintings of animals, such as a “pig deer.” They may not be in bright crayon colors, but they do let us know how people lived back then — and they also make us all feel younger.

Wee ones: The archaeologists found 7 different caves on the island. If only 1 shows hands, how many don’t?

Little kids: If one cave painting is 39,000 years old and one is 35,000 years old, which one is younger?  Bonus: If 3 of the 7 caves had hand stencils and 5 of the 7 had animals, at least how many caves had to have hands and animals?

Big kids: Back in the 1950s, people thought the cave art on this island was only about 10,000 years old, while the oldest known cave painting is 40,100 years old. How much older is the oldest one? Bonus: If stone tools were invented 300,000 years ago and these cave paintings are about 40,000 years old, how much longer have stone tools been around?




Wee ones: 6 caves.

Little kids: The 35,000-year-old paintings.  Bonus: 1 cave, because if 3 had hands, then only 4 didn’t, taking up at most 4 of the 5 with animals.

Big kids: 30,100 years older.  Bonus: 260,000 more years.

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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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