So You Wanna Be A…Buccaneer

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.

So You Wanna Be A…Buccaneer

September 19, 2014

Interview with Anne Bonny, Pirate at www.BedtimeMath.orgAnne Bonny was an unlikely pirate. First of all, there weren’t many female pirates in her day, and most wore disguises to look like men. But not Anne. Second, she came all the way from Ireland to the Caribbean to commandeer her ships. And most impressive of all, she did all this sailing as a red-haired and freckly person in an age before sunscreen existed! We caught up with Anne on board her sloop while it was anchored in a secret cove, and she shared some numeric tricks of the trade with us!

So, how did you decide the pirating life was for you?

Here be the tale, landlubber: I happened across two swashbucklers possessin’ great courage, Mary Read and John Rackham. Such a fine time we had together, we took our adventures to the high seas. We cobbled together a hearty crew of seadogs and have been sailin’ on this sloop ever since!

Why would a pirate need to have math skills?

Why wouldn’t a pirate need to be cunning with numbers? Ye need knowledge just to look like a proper pirate  – ye ever try to make an eye-patch or peg leg without a measuring tape?

I can honestly say, no, I haven’t. I didn’t realize pirates made their own garments.

The clever among us do – ye don’t want to be caught on the high seas with month-old drawers or smelly shirts, so I always bring a chest of cloth and thread and make new clothes as needed. That means consultin’ me calendar and multiplyin’ the cloth needed for one outfit by the number of weeks at sea.

How else do you use math in your daily work?

It not be work if ye love it, and I love piratin’ more than anything! But to ye point, preparin’ for plunder is nothing but math – from bringin’ sufficient rations to studyin’ the wind and tide charts and readin’ treasure maps. Then once the anchor’s aweigh, it be crucial to know how speedy our sloop be, and how many knots quicker it needs to be to outpace other cursed vessels. I’ve spied many a young buccaneer befuddled by compass and map – thank Davy Jones I be steerin’, or we’d be sailin’ in circles from dawn to dusk!

What other responsibilities do you have as this sloop’s captain?

Well, I’m co-captain with Mary and John; I just be the best navigator on deck. After every raid, thar be the dividin’ up of our booty, which can be a bit complex dependin’ upon the size of our crew. Whoever planned the mission takes home 1/3 of the treasure – that’s always Mary, John, or me. The two captains who didn’t plan the plunder split another 1/3 of the lot, which leaves 1/3 to be split evenly amongst the regular crew.

Is that really fair?

Thar be no complaints yet! Ye must understand how much our chests be burstin’ with gold. Our cabin boy makes more than ye average capt’n!

So if a kid wants to be a pirate when they grow up, what math should they learn now?

All the skills ye need to read a map and steer a ship – takin’ the correct angles to archipelagos, accountin’ for currents and wind speed, understandin’ speed in knots and knowin’ when ye need to increase ye speed. And I know it be surprisin’, but the best buccaneers be meticulous planners – like most endeavors, piratin’ be a matter of timing and preparation. Lesser pirates think we be lucky, but we just be more clever with the numbers!

 Argh! Practice ye pirate math skills with our Swashbucklin’ Sums printable.

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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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