600-Pound Building Blocks

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.

600-Pound Building Blocks

November 11, 2014

The game Jenga is a test of steady hands. You stack blocks 3 across in 9 layers, then each player has to pull out a block and set it on top of the tower without making the whole stack tip over. People love this game, and someone even trained his cat to play as we’ve seen. But construction-truck company Caterpillar went really big with the idea: 5 giant machines playing Jenga with 600-pound blocks! A forklift, a front loader, and 3 other trucks push and pull the massive chunks of wood, then lift them high into the sky to stack them on top, just like in the real game. As you can see in the video, the blocks are at least 2 dozen times as long as the toy ones. So when the machines try for the 13th layer and the whole tower tips over, everyone gets out of the way fast.

Wee ones: If there are 3 giant blocks in the starting layer and you place the next block on top, what number block is that?

Little kids: If you and your forklift poke a block out of the 1st layer, then the next player pokes one out from the 3rd, and the next from the 5th, which layer does the next player tackle?  Bonus: If you pull out one of the 27 blocks, how many are left in the stack?

Big kids: The trucks leave 2 blocks in each of the first 4 layers, but daringly just 1 middle one in each of the next 3 layers, then they stack 3 per layer. In what layer is the 18th block from the bottom?  Bonus: If the new blocks were 20 times as long as a normal Jenga block, 20 times as thick and 20 times as tall, how many Jenga blocks could fit inside one of these?

The sky’s the limit: If each block weighed 600 pounds, how much did the 27 blocks weigh all together?




Wee ones: The 4th block.

Little kids: The 7th layer.  Bonus: 26 blocks.

Big kids: In the 10th layer, since the first 7 layers have 11 blocks.  Bonus: 8,000 of them!

The sky’s the limit: 16,200 pounds.

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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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