Freak Fingernails

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.

Freak Fingernails

December 27, 2016

What are those crazy things on that lady’s hands? They’re her fingernails! Our friend Sydney B. asked us, how long were the longest fingernails ever? and here is the winner. Lee Redmond stopped trimming her nails in 1979 and made it all the way to 2008 without breaking a single one. If you laid them end to end, they would stretch 28 feet 4 1/2 inches – as tall as a 2-story house! She finally broke a nail while driving. But how did she do anything all those years with those wild curls getting in the way? The longest nail was her right thumb, at 3 feet 8 inches – which might be even taller than you are.

Wee ones: Count the fingernails on your right hand, including your thumb. How many do you have?

Little kids: Fingernails curl as they grow, becoming rounded. Name 3 shapes that are round instead of straight-edged.  Bonus: If Lee finally broke 1 nail, how many nails weren’t broken?

Big kids: If Lee’s nails lasted from 1979 to 2008 without breaking, how many years did they grow?  Bonus: How long was her 3-foot-8-inch right thumbnail in inches? (Reminder if needed: A foot has 12 inches.)

The sky’s the limit: If Lee’s 5 right-hand nails added up to 35 inches in total, with each 1 inch longer than the next, how long were the longest and shortest fingernails?




Wee ones: 5 fingernails.

Little kids: Answers can include circle, oval, sphere (ball), torus (3D donut shape).  Bonus: 9 nails.

Big kids: 29 years.  Bonus: 44 inches, since 3 feet is 36 inches.

The sky’s the limit: 9 inches and 5 inches. If they were all the same length, they’d each be 7 inches long. But 1 nail will be 1 inch longer, one will be 2 inches longer, one will be 1 inch shorter and the last will be 2 inches shorter, giving us 9 inches and 5 inches as the longest and shortest.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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.

More posts from this author