Alabama is famous for its football, but today we’re going to celebrate a lesser-known team sport: mail delivery. One town called Magnolia Springs has a crazy way to bring mail to people’s homes: by boat! The mailman rides down the river with letters and packages for the 180 houses along the river’s edge. The town started this more than 100 years ago, because back then boating was easier than driving on the muddy roads. The mailman does get some company: he’s seen plenty of alligators and swimming deer, and has even had fish jump right into his boat. It takes about 4 hours to drop off all the mail. But it must be a pretty fun job, because this guy has been doing it for 13 years!
Wee ones: If you get a letter on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, how many days did you get letters?
Little kids: If the mail carrier has 4 fish flop into his boat and then 1 flops back out into the river, how many fish are still in the boat? Bonus: If there are no fish, then 5 jump into the boat, then 2 jump back out, then 6 new fish jump in, then 1 jumps out, NOW how many fish do you have?
Big kids: If the mailman has 50 letters to deliver, but for 12 of them he accidentally gives the person a slimy fish instead of the letter, how many letters does he deliver like he’s supposed to? Bonus: If he gives a fish to every 3rd house starting with the 3rd, how many of the 180 houses get a bonus mail fish?
The sky’s the limit: If every boat mail carrier has worked exactly 13 years, how many mail carriers have there been since 1915? (We’re in 2019 right now.)
Wee ones: 3 days.
Little kids: 3 fish. Bonus: 8 fish.
Big kids: 38 letters. Bonus: 60 houses get a fish.
The sky’s the limit: 8 mail carriers. 2019 – 1915 = 104, and 104 / 13 = 8.
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.