When the Plant Is the Boss

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.

When the Plant Is the Boss

August 6, 2016

Fan picture pitcher plants original artowkr by James HIt must be tough being a plant, worrying that some bird or bug will munch on you. But some plants fight back: the pitcher plant eats bugs! How does it do this? The plant has tube shapes filled with a sweet, sticky liquid. Ants and flies that dare to come close slide down the leaves into the pool, and can’t get out. Eventually they mix into the liquid and disappear; that’s how the plant “eats” the vitamins. So our friend James H. asked, how many bugs can a pitcher plant eat in a year? (and sent a photo of his own pet plants!) We haven’t found exact numbers, but one scientist figured out that some plants catch more than others. Pitcher plants that “turn off” their traps for short breaks catch more bugs in a day. When they’re off, they trick ants into thinking the plant is a safe snack, and the ants bring their friends to share. Then the plant can catch up to 20 bugs at a time!

Wee ones: If a plant eats breakfast, lunch, and dinner just like you do, how many meals in a day is that?

Little kids: If the plant eats an ant, then a fly, then an ant, then a fly…what’s the 8th bug it eats?  Bonus: How many flies has it eaten by then?

Big kids: If a pitcher plant eats 20 bugs in each meal 3 times a day, how many does it eat in a day?  Bonus: If it kept that up every day, about how many would it eat in a year? You can round to 400 days to make a quick guess! (Hint if needed: How many would it eat in 4 days…then see how many in 40 days…then try 400.)

 

 

 

Answers:
Wee ones: 3 meals.

Little kids: A fly.  Bonus: 4 flies.

Big kids: 60 bugs a day.  Bonus: 24,000 bugs!

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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 while still in diapers, 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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