Catch It by the Tail

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.

Catch It by the Tail

November 29, 2015

It must be fun to have a tail. You can swing it around, smack things with it, and if you’re a possum, hang from tree branches with it. You can even measure using tails: as Bedtime Math fan Nhya points out, in the Warrior Cat book series they measure cats in tail lengths, which equal 1 foot. But which animals out there have the longest tails? As you would think, big cats have longer tails than housecats, with lions having tails up to 41 inches long — almost 3 1/2 feet. But we can go bigger. A giraffe’s tail looks short and cute on its owner, but can be up to31 inches long, and elephant tails can reach 51 inches — that might be taller than you! Of course, if you think of a worm as one big squiggly tail, the winner is the bootlace worm, the longest animal on earth: it can grow to 180 feet long. No matter how much of that counts as tail, it’s going to be longer than anyone else’s!

Wee ones: Who has the shorter tail, a girl cat with an 8-inch tail or a boy cat with a 12-inch tail?

Little kids: If a 3-foot alligator has a 3-foot tail, how long is the whole animal?  Bonus: If you have a pet giraffe with a 31-inch tail, a lion with a 41-inch tail, and an elephant with a 51-inch tail…what tail length would come next to follow the pattern?

Big kids: If a cat tail length is 12 inches, how long is a Warrior Cat who is 3 tails long?  Bonus: Who is taller, an elephant’s 51-inch tail or you — and by how much? (Reminder: A foot has 12 inches.)

The sky’s the limit: If the bootlace worm can count 160 feet of itself as “tail,” how many times would a possum’s 15-inch tail have to double in length to match that? It works out perfectly…

 

 

 

Answers:
Wee ones: The girl cat at 8 inches.

Little kids: 6 feet.  Bonus: A 61-inch tail, if we can find one.

Big kids: 36 inches.  Bonus: Different for everyone…take your height in feet and inches, and subtract 51 from it, or subtract it from 51.

The sky’s the limit: You double it 7 times. 15 inches doubles to 30 inches, which then doubles to 60 inches – which is exactly 5 feet. From there we double it to 10, 20, 40, 80, and finally 160 feet. Another way to solve: 15 inches is 1 1/4, feet, which doubles up to 2 1/2 feet and then 5 feet, and so on.

And thank you Nhya L-G for this great math topic!

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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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