When String Gets Silly

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 String Gets Silly

August 10, 2015

Silly string has every right to be called silly. It comes in a spray can, so the person about to be squirted is sure that it’s full of shaving cream or some other big mess – but then the stuff turns into solid string as it squirts out. The guys who invented it, Leonard Fish and Robert Cox, had been trying to make a material that could squirt onto someone’s broken arm or leg and harden into a cast. But the soft string they ended up with seemed even better as a fun toy. They brought their new idea to Wham-O, the toy company, and squirted silly string at the meeting; the Wham-O guy got upset and sent them out of his office. But once he and the Wham-O owners saw how easy it was to clean it up and how funny-looking the pieces were, he sent a letter the next day to order 24 cans for himself. The can squirts 20 to 30 feet of string at once, and the can claims to hold enough stuff to squirt 400 feet of string – enough to make a very silly mess.

Wee ones: Which is shorter, a 6-foot squirt of silly string or an 8-foot squirt?

Little kids: If the guy had ordered 1 more can than those 24, how many cans would he have ordered?  Bonus: If the can squirts 20 feet at once, how much longer is that string than you are? (You can round your height to the closest number of feet.)

Big kids: If the can holds 400 feet of string and you’ve squirted half of it, how many feet of string are left?  Bonus: A baseball diamond is a square 90 feet on each edge. Can a 400-foot squirt of silly string wrap all the way around the bases once?




Wee ones: The 6-foot squirt.

Little kids: 25 cans.  Bonus: Different for everyone…subtract your height in feet from 20.

Big kids: 200 feet.  Bonus: Yes, since the diamond is just 360 feet around!

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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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