How to Mix Your Favorite Ice Cream

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.

How to Mix Your Favorite Ice Cream

April 30, 2017

Every ice cream flavor is different. Some have crunchy bits, some have streaks of gooey fudge or caramel, and some just melt in your mouth. But as this chart shows, lots of ice creams use the same “base” ingredients as each other. On the left, the chart lists the base foods like chocolate, nuts, and marshmallow. Then colored lines point from each one to all the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavors that use that food. First we see all the chocolaty ice creams like S’mores and Phish Food, then the cookie and cake types like Cinnamon Buns, and so on, making beautiful stripes. Coffee and marshmallow don’t show up in many ice creams, but even they have their fans. Follow the colored lines to find out what’s in your favorite ice cream!

Wee ones: If Coconut Seven Layer Bar really uses just chocolate, cookies, nuts, and caramel, how many base ingredients is that?

Little kids: How many different colors for base ingredients can you count in the chart? Bonus: If Vanilla Caramel Fudge uses 3 of them — vanilla, chocolate, and caramel — how many does it skip?

Big kids: 36 of the ice creams use chocolate, while 21 use cookies or brownies. How many more use chocolate than cookie/brownie? Bonus: If 1/3 of the chocolate ice creams *also* use cookies, how many of the 21 cookie ice creams don’t use chocolate?

The sky’s the limit: If 36 ice creams use chocolate, 16 use caramel and 20 use nuts, and of those there are 2 ice creams that use all 3 ingredients while 10 other ice creams use 2 ingredients, how many ice creams use any of the three base ingredients?



Wee ones: 4 ingredients.

Little kids: 8 colors. Bonus: 5 ingredients.

Big kids: 15 more flavors. Bonus: 9 of them, since you have to take away the 12 ice creams that do use chocolate.

The sky’s the limit: 58 ice creams. There are a total of 72 ice cream types, but if 2 of them use all 3 ingredients, you’ve counted those 2 ice creams 3 times. You have to take away 2 ice creams twice, so you subtract 4 (2 x 2), bringing you to 68. You’re also double-counting the 10 ice creams that overlap 2 flavors, so you have to subtract 10 once, giving you 58 total ice creams.

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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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