How to Sing with a Whale

How to Sing with a Whale

July 14, 2020

Sometimes when people hear a crazy story, they say that now they’ve “heard it all.” But none of us has really heard it all – at least not from animals. We humans can hear only some notes: if you play higher and higher musical notes, at some point they get so high that our ears can’t hear them. Some animals, like bats, make squeaks that are way too high for us to hear, and elephants make sounds that are too low for us! Whales “sing” really weird noises to each other that we can’t hear either, except with special underwater microphones. Whales also hear so well that they can sing to each other through hundreds or even thousands of miles of water. Ocean scientists try to listen in on these underwater songs to understand whale language….or maybe they’re just trying to learn how to sing in the shower.

Wee ones: If you listen to 4 singing elephants and 6 singing whales, of which animal are there more?

Little kids: If a whale is singing an 8-minute song, what numbers do you say to count down the minutes?  Bonus: Whale songs string together 3-minute chunks of song called “themes.” If a whale song strings together 3 themes, how long is the song?

Big kids: If a whale sings to another whale 500 miles away, and that whale sings to a 3rd whale who can hear it from up to 600 miles away, what’s the farthest that 3rd whale can be from the 1st?  Bonus: What’s the closest it can be to the 1st whale?










Wee ones: More whales.

Little kids: 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.  Bonus: 9 minutes.

Big kids: 1,100 (also called “11 hundred”) miles.  Bonus: It can be right where the 1st whale is! That spot is just 500 miles away, so it’s inside the 600 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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