The Secret Formula for Fighting Fires

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 Secret Formula for Fighting Fires

August 5, 2018

Firefighters get hot, but they may be the coolest heroes out there. Not only do these brave people save other people’s lives, but they need to do math to face the danger. When we at Bedtime Math talked to firefighter Joe Spych, he told us a secret about fire hydrants: the color tells you how fast they pump water. In one set of towns, a red cap color means the hydrant pumps less than 500 gallons per minute (GPM), orange means between 500-999 GPM, green means 1000-1499 GPM, and blue gushes out 1500 GPM or more. This matters because you need a gallon of water to put out every 3 square feet that’s on fire. By the way, a hose spraying 300 gallons of water a minute can fill about 8 bathtubs at once! But let’s see how much fire it can put out.

Wee ones: Plug your sink, then turn on the water and count to 10. Turn it off. Is the sink a little full, halfway full, or mostly full?

Little kids: If a fire truck has 5 “attack lines” (hoses) and you hook on 1 more, how many lines does it have now?  Bonus: Which pumps water faster, a red hydrant at 90 gallons per minute, or an orange hydrant at 600 gallons per minute?

Big kids: If a rug that’s 10 feet wide and 9 feet long is on fire, how many square feet is that? (Imagine 10 rows of 1-foot-wide squares, with 9 squares in each row.)  Bonus: If a gallon of water can put out 3 square feet of fire, how many gallons do you need to put out that fire?










Wee ones: Most sinks will be only a little bit full, but yours might be different!

Little kids: 6 attack lines.  Bonus: The orange hydrant pumps faster.

Big kids: 90 square feet.  Bonus: 30 gallons, which is almost 1 bathtub of water!

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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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