No Horsing Around on the Stairs!

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.

No Horsing Around on the Stairs!

September 6, 2018

Do you know why firefighters slide down a pole in the firehouse? It’s not just because it’s fast, or because it makes the firehouse more fun. The real answer is that horses made them do it. Back before we had cars and trucks with motors, fire trucks were pulled by horses. The horses lived in the firehouse with the firefighters. Not only was that really smelly, but there was another problem. The horses would get lonely in the middle of the night and would climb the stairs to find the firefighters. So instead of straight staircases, firefighters started building spiral ones, which the horses couldn’t climb. It took too long for firefighters to run down those stairs in an emergency, though. So they put in a pole that they could slide down. Luckily, the horses couldn’t slide up!

Wee ones: If it takes 3 seconds to slide down the pole, what numbers do you say to count them off?

Little kids: If it takes 2 seconds for a firefighter to slide down the pole but 6 seconds longer to take the stairs, how long do the stairs take?  Bonus: Who has more legs, 3 speedy firefighters or 2 speedy horses?

Big kids: If the firefighters run down on every 4th stair (starting with the 4th), but the horses jump to every 6th stair starting with the 6th, what’s the first step they both step on?  Bonus: On a staircase of 50 steps, how many stairs would the horse touch?

The sky’s the limit: If a group of firefighters and horses has 40 legs, and there are twice as many firefighters as horses, how many of each do we have?










Wee ones: 1, 2, 3.

Little kids: 8 seconds.  Bonus: The horses, since they have 8 legs vs. the firefighters’ 6.

Big kids: The 12th step, since 12 is a multiple of both 4 and 6.  Bonus: 8 steps, bringing it to the 48th.

The sky’s the limit: 5 horses and 10 firefighters. If there are twice as many firefighters as horses, each horse has 2 firefighters with it, making a set of 8 legs. There are 5 of those sets in 40 legs.

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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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