The world’s tiniest bird is only as big as an insect — and it’s named after one, too. The bee hummingbird is just 2 inches long from beak to tail, about the same as a grown-up’s pinky finger. its nest could fit on your thumb, and the whole bird weighs only as much as a penny! But this teeny tiny bird doesn’t look or act like a bee at all. Instead of yellow and black, bee hummingbirds have shiny blue-green, gray, and pink feathers. And the only things they “sting” are flowers: the birds stick their needlelike beaks into the center of a flower to drink “nectar” out of it. These small but speedy birds can visit as many as 1,500 flowers in one day. That’s a lot of snacking!
Wee ones: Which is shorter, your 5-inch long hand or the 2-inch long bee hummingbird?
Little kids: If your hand is 5 inches long, how many full 2-inch hummingbirds can you fit end to end on your hand? Bonus: Boy (male) hummingbirds have blue spots on their wings, while female birds (the girls) don’t. If in a flock there are 8 blue-spotted wings, how many male birds are there?
Big kids: Again, only male hummingbirds have blue spots on their wings. If out of 21 bee hummingbirds there are 12 blue-spotted wings, how many of the birds are female? Bonus: Bee hummingbirds flap their wings 80 times per second — too fast for our eyes to see. If slower hummingbirds flap 20 times per second, how many times as often do bee hummingbirds flap?
Wee ones: The bird is shorter.
Little kids: Just 2 birds, since 3 birds would stretch 6 inches and hang over the edge. Bonus: 4 birds.
Big kids: 15 girl birds, since the wings belong to 6 male birds. Bonus: 4 times as often.
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.