Camels are known for a couple of weird things. For one, they have that strange hump on their backs — or is it two humps? It turns out there are 2 living “species” or types of camel: the dromedary, which has 1 hump, and the bactrian camel, which has 2 humps. Their four camel-like cousins have the same long neck and legs, but aren’t quite as lumpy: the alpaca, llama, guanaco, and vicuña (that last one lives in South America). Also, camels can go for days without drinking water, even in the hot dry desert. But they don’t keep extra water in their hump, like people used to think. The hump is just a big lump of fat: it stays up there because it if were spread as a layer all around their bodies, they’d be too hot in the desert. Camels aren’t super friendly — they’re known to spit at you if they get annoyed — but if you can climb up on one, you can enjoy a nice bumpy ride.
Wee ones: Who has more humps, a dromedary or a bactrian camel?
Little kids: A grown-up camel stands 6 feet tall at the shoulder, but its hump is 1 foot higher up than that. How high is the top of its hump? Bonus: If 2 dromedaries and 2 bactrian camels go for a walk, how many humps do they have?
Big kids: Camels can live for 50 years. How many years from now will you match that? Bonus: If you have 20 humps in the room, and there are twice as many bactrian camels (2-humped) as dromedaries, how many of each animal do you have?
Wee ones: The bactrian camel, since it has 2 instead of 1.
Little kids: 7 feet. Bonus: 6 humps.
Big kids: Different for everyone…subtract your age in years from 50, or maybe you’ve already passed it! Bonus: 4 dromedaries and 8 bactrian camels. Each “set” of a dromedary plus 2 bactrian camels has 5 humps, and there are 4 sets of 5 humps in 20.
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.