A Tummy Scratch for Elephants

A Tummy Scratch for Elephants

August 28, 2019

We’re loving this photo of a very itchy elephant stopping to scratch his tummy on a couple’s car when they drove too close. Those who take care of elephants can tell you how much attention they need: zookeepers in St. Louis bathe their Asian elephants once a week, and every day they have to weigh them, check out their toenails without getting stepped on, and feed them 125 pounds of food! Luckily you don’t have to have a pet elephant to enjoy World Elephant Day.

Wee ones: How many legs does that itchy elephant have? Do you have more legs or fewer?

Little kids: If you take a bath every day and an elephant takes 1 bath each week, which of you takes more baths?  Bonus: Elephants eat 100 pounds just in hay each day. How much hay do they eat in a week? Count up by 100s!

Big kids: Elephants actually eat 210 pounds of food each day, because they nibble on trees and shrubs. How many pounds more is that above the 125 pounds of fancy zoo food?  Bonus: Elephants eat huge amounts because they digest only 60% (6/10) of their food! Then how many pounds of that 125 pounds of food “count”? (Hint if needed: See if you can simplify the fraction to make the math easier…)

The sky’s the limit: If a car weighs 3,000 pounds and an elephant weighs 8,000 pounds, how many ways can you stack cars and elephants to weigh a total of 55,000 pounds?




Wee ones: 4 legs, and you have fewer — just 2!

Little kids: You take more baths.  Bonus: 700 pounds: 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, 600, 700.

Big kids: 85 extra pounds.  Bonus: Just 75 pounds, since 6/10 is also 3/5.

The sky’s the limit: There are only 2 combinations that work, since there are only 2 multiples of 8,000 that have a multiple-of-3 gap from 55,000. You can have 2 elephants (16,000 lbs), which leaves 39,000 lbs of car, or 13 cars. Or you can jump by 3 elephants so you maintain a 3-divisible gap, giving you 5 elephants (40,000 lbs) and 5 cars (15,000 lbs).

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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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