The Most Beautiful Worm

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.

The Most Beautiful Worm

December 20, 2014

When you look at the flowery blue thing in the photo, what do you guess that it is? Would you believe that it’s not a plant, but an animal — and worse yet, a worm? It is a worm, and scientists have nicknamed this crazy-looking creature the “Christmas tree worm,” since it looks a bit like a leafy fir tree. It lives on the Great Barrier Reef, a giant stretch of underwater coral off the coast of Australia. Coral is that beautiful spiky sea shape that looks like a plant itself, but is actually thousands of tiny, donut-shaped animals called coral polyps. They cluster together to make colorful, spiky branches. That means the Reef, which covers 133,000 square miles, is the world’s biggest cluster of living things! The Christmas tree worm hangs onto that coral but doesn’t eat it: it’s a filter feeder, using those fluffy tentacles to suck tiny creatures from the water and stuff them in its mouth. It doesn’t wave those around just to look pretty.

Wee ones: If this worm has 6 layers of spiraling tentacles and its friend has 8, which one has more?

Little kids: If you scuba dive to photograph this worm at 300 feet deep, and so far you’ve swum 100 feet down, how much deeper do you have to swim?  Bonus: The Reef covers 133,000 square miles, while the state of California covers 164,000 square miles. Which one is bigger?

Big kids: If you scuba dive at the Reef and swim 200 feet down, then 90 feet up, and then 10 feet back down to take an underwater photo, how deep are you?  Bonus: The Reef is home to 125 species, or types, of sharks and rays. If there are 4 times as many types of sharks as rays, how many shark species are there?




Wee ones: The neighbor, with 8 layers.

Little kids: 200 more feet.  Bonus: California is bigger, but not by much!

Big kids: 120 feet down.  Bonus: 100 shark species (and 25 rays).

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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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