When Hippos Hang by a Hair

When Hippos Hang by a Hair

October 9, 2019

No matter what crazy question you ask, some scientist has probably studied it. So if you’re wondering how strong your hair is, you’re in luck. It turns out that just one skinny hair on your head can hold up to 3 ounces, which is about 34 pennies! Better yet, a person’s head has up to 150,000 hairs on it. So even if each hair isn’t holding 3 ounces itself, all together your whole head of hair can hold up 15,000 pounds or more, which is about 3-4 hippos (if for some reason you wanted to do that).

Wee ones: If you try to pick up 4 hippos with your hair, what numbers do you say to count them?

Little kids: If 4 hippos are swinging from your hair and 2 more hippos want to join the fun, how many hippos do you have now?  Bonus: If you could pick up 40 pennies with 1 strand of hair, how would you count those up by 10s?

Big kids: If a helicopter rescues you by lifting you by your hair, and each hair can hold 1/5 of a pound, how many of your own hairs do you need for the job?  Bonus: If your hair can hold up to 30,000 pounds without breaking, how many 4,000-pound hippos could you hold up?




Wee ones: 1, 2, 3, 4.

Little kids: 6 hippos.  Bonus: 10, 20, 30, 40.

Big kids:  Different for everyone…you need 5 hairs to pick up 1 pound, so multiply your weight in pounds by 5.  Bonus: 7 hippos, since that comes to 28,000 pounds; 8 hippos would tip you past 30,000.

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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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