A Very Thirsty Turkey

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.

A Very Thirsty Turkey

November 26, 2015

It’s Thanksgiving, that American holiday when we show our thankfulness for food, mostly by eating too much of it at once. People have all kinds of favorite foods for Turkey Day: turkey, of course, plus bready stuffing, cranberries, sweet potatoes, green beans, pumpkin pie… But no matter which of those foods you choose, what ingredient shows up in all of them? Water. Not only do wheat, squash and other plants need water to grow, but animals like turkeys drink water themselves, and they eat plants, which need water. Scholastic SuperScience Magazine added it all up, and figured out that hundreds of gallons of water go into the meal on your plate. One serving of turkey alone drank up 116 gallons of water along the way, between the thirsty bird and the thirsty plants it ate. That’s 3 or 4 full bathtubs. Let’s find out where else the water shows up!

Wee ones: If you eat stuffing, turkey, sweet potato, beans, and pumpkin pie, how many foods do you eat that aren’t animals?

Little kids: Your sweet potatoes probably drank up 7 gallons of water along the way, but your much drier wheat roll used 9 gallons. How much more water did the wheat use?  Bonus: How many servings of each would give you a total of 23 gallons?

Big kids: They say almonds, which grow on trees, suck up 98 gallons of water per serving, while a serving of cranberries uses up only 2 gallons. How much water do those servings use together?  Bonus: How many times as thirsty are those almonds compared to the cranberries?

The sky’s the limit: Does the 116 gallons for that serving of turkey make sense? If a turkey lives 10 years, drinks 1 cup of water each day, and eats another cup of water through its food, about how many gallons of water did your serving use if that turkey feeds just 10 very hungry people? (Hint if needed: there are 16 cups in a gallon, and 16 = 2 x 2 x 2 x 2, so to divide by 16 you can just cut it in half 4 times in a row.)




Wee ones: 4 foods, it would be 5 including the one animal.

Little kids: 2 gallons more.  Bonus: 2 7’s and a 9, which is 2 sweet potatoes and 1 wheat roll.

Big kids: 100 gallons.  Bonus: Almonds use 49 times as much water.

The sky’s the limit: That would give us about 45 gallons. 2 cups of water a day for 10 years, or about 3,650 days, comes to 7,300 cups. Since you’re then dividing it among 10 people, that’s 730 cups per person. There are 16 cups in a gallon, so we need to divide that 730 into 16-cup chunks.  Let’s  cut in half 4 times in a row: we get 365 (remember that number?), then round off to 364 to give us 182, then 91, then finally round again to get 45 gallons. If turkeys are thirstier than that, then the number goes up. But most turkeys can feed up to 20 people, which would lower the number. Either way, it’s a lot of water!

And thank you Ellie L. for sharing this story with us!

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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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