Some foods are so weird that we have to wonder who first thought to try eating them. Chewing gum is one of them. Gum is naturally made in trees: it’s the “resin” or sap that oozes up and down the inside of the trunk. As far back as 9,000 years ago humans started chewing the gum from birch trees. Remember, it didn’t smell good like mint or pink bubble gum — it probably smelled more like dirt — sowho knows what gave them the idea. But it’s become all the rage ever since, with 374 trillion sticks of gum now made every year. We’re just glad it doesn’t taste like dirt.
Wee ones: The record for longest time chewing gum is 8 hours! What numbers would you say to count them off?
Little kids: If you walk 2 steps, then chew 2 times, then walk 4 steps, then chew 4 times, then take 6 steps…what do you probably do next? Bonus: If you try 10 times to blow a bubble with your gum and you succeed every time except the last, how many bubbles did you blow?
Big kids: The largest bubble-gum bubble ever blown was 23 inches wide. If your head is 7 inches wide, how much wider than your head was that bubble? Bonus: They say Americans chew an average of 300 sticks of gum per person in a year. If you chewed at that rate, how many sticks would you chew each month? Is it that crazy a number? (Hint if needed: 12 is 3 x 4, so to divide by 12, you can divide by 3, then by 4…)
Wee ones: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
Little kids: Chew 6 times (2, 4, 6). Bonus: 9 bubbles.
Big kids: 16 inches. Bonus: 25 sticks a month…about 1 per day. But some people never chew, so others are chewing a lot!
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.