Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be

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.

Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be

October 27, 2015

They say that you can’t eat 5 Saltine crackers in 1 minute without drinking any water. These all-time favorite crackers are just too dry and salty to swallow. We even tried this test ourselves at Bedtime Math, and while it isn’t totally impossible, it’s really hard to do. If crackers start off as wet, goopy batter, how do they come out so dry? That’s what those little holes are for. They aren’t just decoration: they let out the steam while the cracker bakes. Crackers are one of the simplest foods to make — all you need is flour and water — so it was one of the first foods ever cooked by man, as early as 10,000 years ago. They’re so simple that even cavemen could figure it out. Baking has become a lot more exciting since then, with people mixing in fat and sugar to invent treats like cookies and cake. But once in a while it’s nice to snack on a cracker — just keep that glass of water handy.

Wee ones: If the cracker is a square and the holes are little triangles, which shape has more sides?

Little kids: If you try to eat 5 Saltines and count down from 5, what numbers do you say?  Bonus:If there are 20 Saltines in the box, how many times can you try the trick?

Big kids: If 7 people want to race eating 7 Saltines each, at least how many packs of 10 Saltines will you need to have enough crackers?  Bonus: If a long row of Saltines has 4 holes in the first row, then 5, then 4, then 5…how many holes are in the first 200 rows? Can you figure out a shortcut to solve this?

The sky’s the limit: If you’re the Crunch Tester for a cracker company, and as the crackers pass you coming out of the oven, you take a bite out of every 2nd cracker starting with the 2nd cracker, every 3rd cracker starting with the 3rd, and every 4th starting with the 4th, what number is the 3rd cracker you don’t bite at all?




Wee ones: The squares.

Little kids: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.  Bonus: 4 times.

Big kids: 5 packs, since you’ll need 49 crackers and 4 packs hold only 40 crackers.  Bonus: 900 holes, because each pair of rows has 9 holes.

The sky’s the limit: The 7th cracker, after the 1st and 5th. The other crackers in between are all multiples of 2, 3, or 4.

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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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