Swimming in Hot Cocoa

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.

Swimming in Hot Cocoa

December 6, 2017

As winter weather sets in, it’s a great time to warm up a cup of hot chocolate. Or hot cocoa – because those are two very yummy but very different drinks. Hot cocoa uses cocoa powder and sugar, like in the packets from the store. For hot chocolate, though, you melt down pieces of chocolate bar; the rich cocoa butter in them makes a thicker, richer drink. The biggest ever “cup” of hot cocoa mixed 87 pounds of powdered milk ,1,108 pounds of cocoa, and a whopping 880 gallons of water! It took 3 hours and 16 minutes just to heat up the cocoa to 104 degrees F. As you see, they had to serve it in a swimming pool, which of course they shaped like a mug. So if you’re feeling chilly, you can drink some hot cocoa, or just jump right in and swim.

Wee ones: If you toss 7 mini marshmallows into your hot cocoa, what numbers do you say to count them?

Little kids: If you toss 5 mini-marshmallows into your cocoa and then eat 4 more on the side, how many do you get to enjoy?  Bonus: If you make hot cocoa on Sunday and then every 3rd day after that, what number is the first cup you drink on a Tuesday?

Big kids: If the record breakers started heating the cocoa at 2:39 pm and took 3 hours 16 minutes, did they finish in time for dinner at 6?  Bonus: If you serve hot cocoa to 3 friends and you have 6 marshmallows, how many ways can you divide the marshmallows among them so each friend gets at least 1? (Don’t worry about the order of people, just the ways to split up the marshmallows.)

The sky’s the limit: How many people could have sipped hot cocoa from that record-breaking 880-gallon pool, if each person got 1 cup? (Reminder: There are 16 cups in a gallon…and as a hint, multiplying by 16 is the same as 2 x 2 x 2 x 2, or doubling a number 4 times in a row.)




Wee ones: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

Little kids: 9 marshmallows.  Bonus: The 4th cup, since you’ll drink on Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday, and then keep going to Sunday-Monday-Tuesday.

Big kids: Yes! They will finish at 5:55 pm.  Bonus: There are just 3 ways: 1-1-4, 1-2-3, and 2-2-2. that’s because once you give 1 marshmallow to each, the 3 remaining ones can be split up only 3 ways (0-0-3, 0-1-2, and 1-1-1).

The sky’s the limit: 14,080 people!

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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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