Big Fans of Feathers

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.

Big Fans of Feathers

December 30, 2014

One of the coolest things about birds is their feathers. Feathers help birds fly, they keep the bird warm, and in some cases they just look awesome – with peacocks wearing the best feathers of all. Peacocks are famous for their shiny, colorful tail feathers, which can be longer than the bird’s body and can fan out to 10 feet wide. There are 3 kinds of peacocks: Congo peacocks, from central Africa; green peacocks, from southeast Asia; and the Indian peacock, the beautiful blue type we usually see at zoos. You can call both the boy and girl birds “peacocks,” but the girls are actually “peahens,” and the babies are – you guessed it – “peachicks.” Peahens have boring brown feathers, which isn’t much fun, but they need to blend into the dirt to stay safe on their nests, while the boy peacocks show off amazing colors so the girls will want to marry them. On the other hand, the boys have to lug around 5 feet of tail feathers all day, so we aren’t sure who got the better deal.

Wee ones: If a peacock’s tail has blue, green, gold, white and black feathers, how many colors does it have?

Little kids: If a peacock and a peahen have 4 peachicks, how many birds does the family have in total?  Bonus: If each peachick grows up to have 4 peachicks of its own, how many grand-peachicks does the family get?

Big kids: If a peacock is 82 inches long and his tail is 1/2 of that length, how long is the tail? Bonus: The tail can be up to 5 feet long. If the peacock’s body adds another 42 inches, how long is the whole bird in inches?

The sky’s the limit: Peacock feathers have beautiful spots called “eyes,” since they often have a black dot in the middle. If the 1st feather has 3 eyes, the next has 2, then 3, then 2 and so on, is 37 a possible number of eyes the tail can have?




Wee ones: 5 colors.

Little kids: 6 birds in total.  Bonus: 16 grand-peachicks.

Big kids: 41 inches.  Bonus: 102 inches, since the tail covers 60.

The sky’s the limit: No, because no matter how many feathers there are, the total has to be a multiple of 5, or else a multiple of 5 plus 3 extra. The tail could have 35 eyes, or 38.

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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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