Do you know how to spell xylophone, tyrannosaurus, or guacamole (without peeking)? If you’re great at spelling, you’d probably love to try a spelling bee, a contest where the kids who spells the most words with no mistakes wins. Every year tens of thousands of kids compete in spelling bees in their schools and towns, spelling even tougher words than those. The winners go on to the next big contest for their whole state or region, and the winners of those get to compete in the finals in Washington, DC. At this year’s big final on Saturday, the craziest thing happened: the last two kids standing, a girl and a boy, both spelled every word right, until the judge ran out of words to give them! Vanya Shivashankar and Gokul Venkatachalam both won the trophy. Hopefully they’ll both make it next year for a rematch.
Wee ones: Vanya has made it to the national finals 5 times, and Gokul has made it 4 times. Who has made it to finals more times?
Little kids: If they give you a 13-letter word to spell (like “tyrannosaurus”), but you miss 1 letter from the middle, how many letters do you say? Bonus: Vanya’s sister Kavya won the bee, too! She won 6 years ago, so what year was it? (Right now we’re in 2015.)
Big kids: If at one point there were 16 kids left, and during each round 1/2 of the kids spelled their word wrong and drop out, after how many rounds would there be just 2 kids left? Bonus: This year’s bee had 139 boys and 146 girls. How many spellers competed in total?
Wee ones: Vanya.
Little kids: 12 letters. Bonus: In 2009.
Big kids: 3 rounds: the first round would cut them down to 8, then the next would take it to 4, then the next would leave 2. Bonus: 285 spellers.