The pelican is that tropical bird with the funny sack hanging from its beak. So what’s going on in there? That big hanging pocket is called the gular sack, and pelicans use it to eat. They fly over lakes and oceans, and scoop up fish in that sack. They drain out the extra water, then turn the fish around to swallow it head first. Yuck! That swooping over the water is an amazing trick to begin with: pelicans can weigh up to 25 pounds! Their bones make up only 1/10 of their total body weight, but those wings span up to 10 feet wide to haul that big body into the air. They live on every continent except Antarctica, so fish everywhere need to watch out!
Wee ones: There are 2 pelicans and a shy seagull in that photo. How many birds is that in total?
Little kids: Of the 7 continents (big land areas), pelicans live on all but one, Antarctica. How many continents have pelicans? Bonus: If you can fit 3 little fish in your mouth and your pet pelican can hold 11 more than that, how many can a pelican hold?
Big kids: If your pet pelican scoops up fish every 20 minutes starting at 2:10 pm, how many meals will it have by 5:00 pm? Bonus: How many pounds of fish does a 29-pound pelican need to chug down to weigh the same as you?
Wee ones: 3 birds.
Little kids: 6 continents. Bonus: 14 fish.
Big kids: 9 meals. Bonus: Different for everyone…subtract 29 from your weight in pounds!
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.