Now Picture a Zillion Cupcakes…

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.

Now Picture a Zillion Cupcakes…

February 21, 2018

You might not believe this, but that South Africa flag is made of cupcakes! This record-breaking picture used 33,600 cupcakes, and covered almost 1,500 square feet (imagine a 1-foot-wide square on the floor…then imagine 1,500 of those). Pictures that are made of lots of tiny dots or pieces are called “mosaics.” Think of the math it takes to make a giant one. You have to figure out how much of your big picture uses each color, based on the small picture you’re copying.  You have to lay out your colors — in this case, cupcakes — in straight rows of the same length. And if you messed up in the middle, you can’t just walk over there to fix it: you have to take out all the cupcakes in your path. When that happens, you might as well just sit down and eat!

Wee ones: The bottom of a cupcake is a circle. Find 4 circles in your room.

Little kids: If you place 2 rows of cupcakes with 3 cupcakes in each row, how many cupcakes have you placed?  Bonus: If half of them have white vanilla frosting, how many vanillas do you have?

Big kids: If you place cupcakes in 6 rows of 6, how many do you have?  Bonus: How many of those cupcakes are NOT touching an edge of the square?

The sky’s the limit: If you have 60 cupcakes, how many ways can you arrange them in a rectangular picture with equal length rows and at least 2 cupcakes in any direction?





Wee ones: Items might include a button, a shoelace hole, the rim of a cup or glass, or clocks.

Little kids: 6 cupcakes.  Bonus: If half of them have white vanilla frosting, how many vanillas do you have?

Big kids: 36 cupcakes.  Bonus: 16, since the edges outline a 4 x 4 square in the middle.

The sky’s the limit:  There are 10 ways to line them up:
2 rows of 30 cupcakes each
3 rows of 20 each
4 rows of 15 each
5 rows of 12 each
6 rows of 10 each
…and then the rotation of each of those (10 rows of 6 each, 12 rows of 5 each, etc.).

For tomorrow, check out our new friend, a skateboarding goat!

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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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