Will the Real Tallest Mountain Please Rise…

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.

Will the Real Tallest Mountain Please Rise…

October 26, 2014

Mount Everest is the tallest mountain on Earth, right? Well, not quite. At 29,035 feet, Mount Everest is the highest peak above sea level (the surface of the ocean), but it isn’t the tallest mountain from top to bottom — if you count what’s underwater. Mauna Kea on Hawaii already stands a dizzying 13,796 feet above sea level. But if you measure all the way down its slope to the ocean floor, Mauna Kea runs more than 19,000 feet deep, making it over 32,000 feet tall in total! Meanwhile, because the Earth isn’t a perfect ball — it’s more of a squashed egg shape — there’s another mountain whose peak is the farthest from Earth’s center. That’s Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador, in South America. Ecuador is the Spanish word for “equator,” the imaginary line around the middle of Earth, where Earth is widest. Chimborazo is right on the equator, so even at only 20,703 feet it “sticks out farther” than any other mountain. Wonder how Everest feels about that…

Wee ones: Which is higher, 13,000 feet or 10,000 feet?

Little kids: Mauna Kea is 13,796 feet tall. Can you remember that number and say it back?  Bonus:If Everest is about 29,000 feet tall and Mauna Kea is actually 32,000 feet tall top to bottom, by how many feet does Mauna Kea beat Everest in height?

Big kids: Nothing can live on top of Mount Everest, with air so thin and cold. But the bar-headed goose can fly 21,000 feet high. How much higher is Mount Everest at 29,035 feet?  Bonus: If your airplane can fly twice as high as that goose, how high can you fly?

The sky’s the limit: Mauna Kea stands about 14,000 feet above the ocean and another 20,000 deep underwater. If it were a perfect symmetrical triangle when looking at it from the side, and it were 21,000 feet wide at the water’s surface, how wide is the mountain at the bottom?




Wee ones: 13,000 feet.

Little kids: Try to say thirteen thousand seven hundred ninety-six, and see how long you can remember it!   Bonus: By 3,000 feet.

Big kids: 8,035 feet.  Bonus: To 42,000 feet.

The sky’s the limit: For any right triangle like this one, the ratio between its height and width is the same at any height, meaning if you divide the distance down from the top by its width, you’ll always get the same number. So if it’s 21,000 feet wide when you’re 14,000 feet down from the top, that means its width is always 1 1/2 of that distance. Another 20,000 feet deeper, you’re 34,000 feet from the top, so it would be 1 1/2 of that or 51,000 feet wide – almost 10 miles!

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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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