Monkeys on the Playground

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.

Monkeys on the Playground

April 6, 2018

Have you ever played on the monkey bars at the playground? It looks like a ladder laid sideways — and we bet you didn’t know it started as an outdoor math game! A lawyer in Chicago built the first set, and numbered each “rung” or bar. When someone called out a number, you had to grab the bars and swing your way to that rung. Soon people called them “monkey bars” because kids looked like monkeys swinging through tree branches. Of course, some people are just as fast at this as monkeys. In 2001, Ana Belen Ubeda Palomares of Spain swung across 100 bars in just 1 minute, traveling almost 115 feet! No one has swung faster since then. The question is, could she count that fast?

Wee ones: The monkey bar rungs make 4-sided shapes called rectangles. See if you can find 3 rectangle shapes in your room.

Little kids: If you’re awesome at this and can swing across 2 bars at a time, grabbing the 1st rung, then 3rd, then 5th, what are the next 3 rungs you grab?  Bonus: If there’s a banana hanging only from the same bars you grab, will you get a banana at the 15th rung?

Big kids: If Ana zoomed across 100 bars in just 1 minute, did she take more or less than 1 second to grab each bar?  Bonus: If there were a banana hanging from every bar, how fast could she collect 150 bananas?




Wee ones: Possible answers include window panes, door frames, the edges of books, and the edges of Lego bricks.

Little kids: The 7th, 9th, and 11th bars.  Bonus: Yes! 15 is another odd number.

Big kids: Less than 1 second per bar.  Bonus: In 90 seconds. If she does 100 bars in 60 seconds, she can do 50 more bars in 30 seconds.

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