When Cheetahs Are Spot On

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.

When Cheetahs Are Spot On

January 12, 2016

The cheetah is known for its amazing speed. It can zoom at up to 75 miles an hour in short bursts (even faster than cars on the highway). But cheetahs have another famous feature: their spots. While leopard spots have 2 colors, cheetah spots are solid dark dots. So our friend Migael d.P. asked, how many spots does a cheetah have? (with a great drawing to help us figure it out). As usual, scientists out there have tried to figure that out, but the guesses fall all over the place: one said 456, another said between 2,000 and 3.000…a couple of other people landed between 600-700 spots. So we at Bedtime Math tried counting ourselves. We counted 460 on one side of the cat, which would come to 920 on the whole animal. Any guessing game can use one trick: count the number of items in one little section, then guess how many of those sections fit in the whole area. Just make sure the cheetah isn’t running 75 miles an hour while you count.

Wee ones: If you count 7 cheetah spots and then keep counting, what are the next 2 numbers you say?

Little kids: If you count 60 spots on a cheetah in sets of 10, what numbers do you say?  Bonus: At least how many more sets would you have to count to say 90?

Big kids: If you’ve counted 20 spots in one patch and there are 4 of those patches on the cheetah’s right side, how many spots would that come to?  Bonus: If the cheetah’s front right leg has 56 spots, the back right leg has 86, and the front left leg is exactly in between, how many does the front left leg have?

The sky’s the limit: Suppose 3 cheetahs have different numbers of spots. Chiquita and Chuck have 50 spots together; Chuck and Chandra have 90 spots together; and Chiquita and Chandra have 60 spots together, how many spots does each cheetah have?




Wee ones: 8 and 9.

Little kids: 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60.  Bonus: At least 3 more sets.

Big kids: 80 spots.  Bonus: 71 spots (15 more than one leg, 15 less than the other, since they are 30 apart and 15 is 1/2 of 30).

The sky’s the limit: Chiquita has 10, Chuck has 40, and Chandra has 50. If Chiquita + Chuck have 50 and Chiquita + Chandra have 60, then Chandra must have 10 more than Chuck. Chuck and Chandra have 90 together, which means if they had an equal number, they’d have 80, giving each of them 40. So Chuck has 40, Chandra has 10 more (50), and Chiquita has 60 minus that, or 10. If you want to do this with formal algebra, for cheetahs a, b and c:

a + b = 50 so b = 50 – a
b + c = 90
a + c = 60

Substituting into the 2nd equation, we get
(50 – a) + c = 90, so
c – a = 40 and c = 40 + a
And we know a + c = 60, so
a + (40 + a) = 60
2a + 40 = 60
2a = 20
a = 10, so b = 40 and c = 50.

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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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