Leaf Explosion

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.

Leaf Explosion

November 24, 2014

When you fling yourself into a pile of leaves, do you ever wonder how many leaves are in there? Or how many leaves are on one tree? If “zillions” were a real number, that’s what we’d say, but we can do better than that. For a pile, you could fill a bucket with leaves and count what you catch, then figure out how many buckets of leaves that pile holds. But what about a whole tree, with branches 60 feet overhead? You could guess the number of twigs, and the number of leaves on each, and multiply. Some folks tried another angle: how many landed under the tree? They spread leaves on a dinner plate and counted them, then figured out the area under the tree, and the number of plates that covered. Of course, the wind had probably blown some leaves away, but they calculated almost 2 million leaves from that 1 tree. So if your town has 500 trees, that’s 1 billion leaves…it might not take too many towns to get to a zillion.

Wee ones: If on your street block there’s a maple tree, an oak, a birch, a beech and an elm, how many leafy trees is that?

Little kids: If a tree trunk forks into 2 branches, and each of those forks into 2 smaller branches, and each of those forks into 2…how many branches are there at the ends?  Bonus: If you run 9 feet to dive into your leaf pile, then run back to the starting line, how far did you walk in total?

Big kids: If you can rake 5,000 leaves in an hour, how big a pile can you rake together in 4 hours?  Bonus: What if you can rake that many in just 20 minutes? (Hint if needed: An hour has 60 minutes.)




Wee ones: 5 trees.

Little kids: 8 branches.  Bonus: 18 feet.

Big kids: 20,000 leaves.  Bonus: 60,000 leaves, since you’re raking 3 times as many per hour.

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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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