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.

October 24, 2013

We listened to a lot of Tom Chapin music when my boys were young. From “Big Rock Candy Mountain” (I just saw the real one in Utah and sadly it’s all rock, no candy) to songs about crazy cousins whipping through and destroying the house on a quick visit, his music captivated us. One song in particular moved us to action. After listening to, “What is a Didgeridoo?”  we decided to make some of our own.

Originally played by Australian aborigines, real didgeridoos are created when termites hollow out long tree branches. The instrument makes a unique sound when the player buzzes his lips (think: blowing raspberries on your little one’s belly) and the sound resonates down through the hollow tube.

Lacking long branches and, thankfully, termites in our yard, we searched the house for suitable tubes (in math terms, cylindrical shapes) to make our didgeridoos. The house was full of them- hollow tubes from toilet paper (meaning we have an endless supply), paper towels, gift wrap, and mailing tubes!

As described in the song, the instrument “goes from your nose to the top of your shoes.” You can measure that distance for your child and tape the tubes together to make a suitably long instrument.

Designate one end as the blowing end and reinforce that end with duct tape, which now comes in all sorts of fun colors. This will not only make the end pretty, but also better able to stand up to the inevitable spittle and easier to wipe down between users. That last bit is important because everyone will want a turn at playing the didgeridoo.

Now comes the fun part-decorating the didgeridoo- there are no limits here!  Stickers, markers and paint are all good options. Add in some math elements by decorating with patterns like recurring stripes. Yarn is also a fun embellishment Measure a piece of yarn (or string) that equals your child’s height. How many times will you be able to wrap it around the tube?

You can estimate the number of wraps or, if you want a math challenge, measure the circumference with a tape measure or by wrapping a length of yarn around the tube one time and holding that length up to a ruler. Dividing your child’s height by the circumference will tell you the number of times the yarn will wrap around the tube.

This is such a simple activity, it’s easy to replicate. It’s fun to compare the sound quality and tones that come from using hollow cores that vary in diameter and length. For a richer sound and longer-lasting instrument consider a trip to the hardware store for a length of PVC pipe.

Now that your child knows how to make a didgeridoo, she’ll gather up her friends and extra cardboard tubes and they can all start a didgeridoo band!