When you pick up a pencil, it weighs almost nothing. But our friend Nya W. asked, how big is the world’s biggest pencil? (and drew this great picture for us!) It turns out 2 pencils have set records, and they could both crush your hand. The world’s longest pencil stretched 3,582 feet, or 2/3 of a mile. It was as skinny as a real pencil, just really, really long. The biggest pencil that looks like a bigger real one was shorter, but at 76 feet long it weighed 18,000 pounds! The eraser by itself was 2 1/2 feet long, and the lead — the dark middle part that marks the paper — was 10 inches across and weighed 4,500 pounds by itself. You might want to stick with the pencils in your desk.
Wee ones: Find a pencil (or pen or crayon) and hold it against your longest finger so they start at the same spot at one end. Which one is longer?
Little kids: If you line up 7 pencils in a row, which number pencil is exactly in the middle? Bonus: If you use up 1 foot of that 1,509-foot pencil by drawing, now how long is it? See if you can remember the whole number and subtract 1!
Big kids: The eraser made up 2 1/2 feet of that giant 76-foot pencil. How long was the rest of it? (Hint if needed: What if the eraser were just 2 feet long?) Bonus: If you write your name in letters half as tall as that 76-foot pencil, how tall are those letters?
The sky’s the limit: If a kid can pick up 50 pounds, how many kids would it take to pick up that 18,000-pound pencil? (Hint if needed: What if each kid could pick up 100 pounds?)
Wee ones: Either the pencil or your finger could be longer.
Little kids: The 4th pencil. There are 3 pencils on either side of it. Bonus: 1,508 feet.
Big kids: 73 1/2 feet. Bonus: 38 feet — still probably taller than your home!
The sky’s the limit: 360 kids. If each could pick up 100 pounds, you’d need just 180 kids, but if each can lift only half of that, you’ll need twice as many people.
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.