The Shape of Paddle Splash

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.

The Shape of Paddle Splash

December 8, 2014

Have you ever rowed a boat using oars? The more you paddle the same way over and over, and the more closely you match the timing of other rowers on your boat, the faster the boat goes. People who are really good at this row perfectly every time around – and a photographer has proven it with these amazing photos. Stephen Orlando glued little colored lights to oars from tip to handle, then left the camera lens open to take one long picture while the rowers rowed. Better yet, he used LED lights that changed color after each dip in the water so he could count the number of strokes afterwards. The moving lights made the designs shown here, changing from one rainbow color to the next. This picture was made by one oar; other pictures show even crazier shapes from two oars, one on each side of the boat. The rowers just saw the lights as dots, but we get to see them as beautiful long streaks and swirls — and you can click here to see more.

Wee ones: How many full swings of the oar, or strokes, can you count in the picture? Count the colored points!

Little kids: If an oar had 7 lights on the handle and 3 more on the paddle part, how many did it have in total?  Bonus: If Stephen decided to turn on just every other light, how many lights would have made stripes?

Big kids: If you gave a rower 2 oars with 13 lights on each oar, how many separate stripes would your photo show?  Bonus: If there are 9 full strokes of the oar and the rower rowed it in 27 seconds, how long did each stroke take (on average)?




Wee ones: 9 strokes.

Little kids: 10 lights.  Bonus: 5 lights.

Big kids: 26 stripes.  Bonus: 3 seconds each.

And thank you Catherine M. for sending this beautiful picture of math in action!

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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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