The Craziest Invention

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 Craziest Invention

May 16, 2018

May is National Inventors Month, when we celebrate all the cool things that make our lives better. Whether it’s the refrigerator, your light-up sneakers, or that one cool Lego piece that everyone fights over, there was a time when these things didn’t exist. What’s funny is a lot of inventions were made totally by accident, including the microwave, potato chips, and one of our favorite desserts, the warm-center chocolate cake. In each case, the inventor was trying to solve one problem, but somehow did the project wrong — and ended up solving a different problem instead! And today we thank them for those accidents.

Wee ones: The microwave oven was invented when a scientist saw that his new tool was melting candy bars. If you microwave a candy bar, a stick of butter, a bowl of spaghetti and an egg, how many foods do you microwave?

Little kids: Warm-center chocolate cake — which gushes yummy chocolate sauce when you slice into it — was born when a famous chef undercooked a cake. If he cooked it for 7 minutes instead of 9, by how many minutes did he fall short?  Bonus: If he also cooked it at 300 degrees F instead of 100 degrees hotter, what temperature was he supposed to have set?

Big kids: Fireworks were invented 2,000 years ago when a cook packed charcoal, sulfur, and saltpeter into a tube and set it on fire, which made it explode. If you mix 3 tablespoons of charcoal, twice as much sulfur, and twice as much saltpeter as sulfur, how many tablespoons of stuff do you mix? (Note: This is not the real recipe, but please DO NOT try it!)  Bonus: If each tablespoon makes 10 sparkles in the sky, how many sparkles does your mixture make?















Wee ones: 4 foods.

Little kids: 2 minutes.  Bonus: 400 degrees F.

Big kids: 21 tablespoons, since you mix 6 spoons of sulfur and 12 spoons of saltpeter.  Bonus: 210 sparkles.

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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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