A Berry Big Mess

A Berry Big Mess

November 10, 2019

The farmers in this picture look like goofballs standing in that water. Well, that’s actually how cranberries are harvested. Cranberry vines grow in very wet fields called bogs. Most of the time the ground is just really squishy and soggy, but in late fall when it’s time to harvest the berries, the farmers flood the bogs with water. As the cranberries fall off the branches, they just float around until they’re corralled for collection. Interestingly, cranberries sold fresh have to be “dry-picked” from the vines. But any time you enjoy cranberries as juice, cranberry sauce, or dried or frozen, you know that those berries all went for a swim on their way to your table.

Wee ones: If you have 8 berries in your left hand and 9 in your right hand, which one is holding fewer?

Little kids: If you eat 5 fresh, very sour cranberries and 5 yummier dried ones, how many berries do you eat in total?  Bonus: If the cranberry vines are 24 inches tall and the farm floods the bog to 6 inches above that, how deep will the water be?

Big kids: If you stood in 2-foot-deep water to help harvest berries, how much of your body would stick out above the water? (Reminder: One foot has 12 inches.)  Bonus: If a farm runs 7 bogs and each bog has 6 million cranberries floating around, how many millions of berries will they harvest?

The sky’s the limit: Packagers buy cranberries by the barrel, which holds 100 pounds of berries. If someone sells you 3 barrels and you eat 1/2 the berries yourself, then your friend eats 1/3 of what you left…what fraction of the starting amount is left in the end?




Wee ones: Your left hand has fewer.

Little kids: 10 cranberries.  Bonus: 30 inches.

Big kids: Different for everyone: subtract 24 from your height in inches.  Bonus: 42 million cranberries.

The sky’s the limit: 1/3 of the original 300 pounds. If you eat 1/2, that leaves 150 pounds; if your friend eats 1/3 of that, that’s 50 more pounds taken away, leaving 100 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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