Poison Apples for All

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.

Poison Apples for All

July 18, 2014

In places with lots of farms, it can be tricky to keep crops and farm animals safe from wild animals, while still letting those wild animals live. For once, we can solve both problems at the same time. Africa has a plant known as the Sodom apple – it isn’t an apple at all, but a poisonous cousin of the eggplant that makes sheep and cattle sick. It turns out that it’s a favorite food of elephants and impalas, a type of antelope. Scientists from Princeton University filmed fields of these “apples” for over 30,000 hours to find out which animals were eating them and to count how much. In areas eaten by impalas, they counted less than 1 fruit left on each plant; in areas eaten by elephants, 3 fruits per plant; but in areas that neither animal nibbled, 50 fruits per plant! Countries like Kenya were planning to spend a lot of money getting rid of Sodom apples, but now we see that elephants do the work — and they get a great dinner out of it, too.

Wee ones: If you, your pet elephant and your pet impala are each munching an apple, how many apples do you have in total?

Little kids: If an elephant and an impala stop to nibble on poison apples, how many legs do they have together?  Bonus: If a plant has 50 poison apples on it before the elephant shows up and just 3 afterwards, how many did the elephant eat?

Big kids: Impalas run a lot faster than elephants. If an impala and elephant race to a poison apple patch, and the impala runs 3 times as fast and gets there in 8 seconds, how long does the elephant take?  Bonus: If an elephant can eat 20 poison apples a day, how many elephants does a farmer need to invite to clear out the 700 apples on his sheep farm in 1 week?




Wee ones: 3 apples.

Little kids: 8 legs.  Bonus: 47 poison apples.

Big kids: 24 seconds.  Bonus: 5 elephants, since each can eat 140 poison apples that week.

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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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