Message in a Bottle

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.

Message in a Bottle

September 10, 2012

The idea of writing a message on paper, sticking it inside a bottle, and chucking it into the ocean to be found by some future stranger, is the romantic storyline of countless songs, poems, and books. But even in real life these bottles do sometimes get found, as this past month when a Scottish fisherman scooped one up out of the sea.  The note inside, written nearly 98 years ago, survived almost a century of hurricanes, tides, and curious octopuses trying to open it.  It was one of 1,890 bottles released by the British government as an ocean-current study, and the note offers a reward of one sixpence (a coin that doesn’t even exist today).  Even with our smartphones and Twitter, you might want to toss a message in a bottle into the ocean…it’ll take longer for anyone to find it, but it will be far more exciting for them than getting an email.

Wee ones (counting on fingers): If you throw 6 bottles into the lake, and 3 of them wash up on the shore while 1 gets caught by a fisherman’s rod, how many are still floating in the lake?

Little kids: The 98-year-old bottle beat the world record by 5 years.  How many years old was the previous record-holding bottle?  Bonus: If another bottle from that same batch is found in 2015, how old will that bottle be by then? (Remember, we’re currently in the year 2012.)

Big kids: If the bottle was 98 years old, in what year were all these bottles tossed into the ocean?  Bonus: Only 315 of the 1,890 bottles have been found.  How many are still left floating around with the octopuses?




Wee ones: 2 bottles.

Little kids: 93 years old.  Bonus: 101 years, since that will be 3 years from now.

Big kids: In 1914 (2012 minus 98).  Bonus: 1,575 bottles to go.

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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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