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.