Glow-in-the-Dark Trees

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.

Glow-in-the-Dark Trees

October 27, 2014

We all love stuff that glows in the dark: T-shirts, bracelets, blinking shoelaces. But what if trees could glow in the dark? A Danish designer and an American scientist have figured out how to take DNA (chemicals that tell your body how to grow) from tiny “bioluminescent” sea creatures and splice them into the DNA of baby plants; the plants then grow up to glow. “Bioluminescent” means that a living thing’s own body glows naturally, the way fireflies and some jellyfish do. So far the team hopes to grow whole trees that glow so brightly that they can light our roads at night instead of street lights. When you think of all the street lights using up electricity — at least 15 million lamps in the US alone — letting glow-in-the-dark trees do the job is definitely a bright idea.

Wee ones: If at night you go outside and spot 6 fireflies, what numbers do you say to count them?

Little kids: If it’s 6:00 pm and the sun will set 2 hours from now, when will you start to see these trees glow?  Bonus: If you have 7 hours of dark each night in the summer and 11 hours in the winter, how much longer do you get to see the trees glow on a winter night?

Big kids: If your street block has 15 street lights, and 2 trees can light up the street as much as 1 light, how many glowing trees would your street need?  Bonus: One man figured out that it costs him about 25 cents total to light 16 street lamps each night. If there are now 16 million street lights in America (16,000,000), how much money could glowing trees save us every night?




Wee ones: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

Little kids: 8:00 pm.  Bonus: 4 more hours.

Big kids: 30 trees.  Bonus: $250,000, or a quarter million (since it costs a quarter of a dollar for just 16).

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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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