Have you ever had a song stuck in your head? Maybe a song from an ad, or a theme song from a cartoon show? It can be pretty annoying, even if you like the song. You just can’t stop it from playing in your head! This is called an “earworm,” and scientists are trying to find out why this happens to us. They say it shows that there are parts of our brains we really can’t control. They studied lots of people and found that everyone gets different songs stuck in their heads – but all the songs are simple, and play the same notes over and over. Sometimes your brain plays one line over and over – and sometimes the song plays faster than in real life. How much faster? Let’s see if we can count out the beat.
Wee ones: Sing a line of your favorite song. How many words did you sing? Count them out with a grown-up!
Little kids: Sing a line from another song. Did you sing the same note again at any point? How many times? Bonus: If a song sings “I love you” 3 times in a row, how many words is that in total?
Big kids: If a song plays in your head every half-hour starting at 3:00 pm, what number round do you start hearing at 7:00 pm? Bonus: If your favorite song is 3 minutes long, but when stuck in your head it takes only 2 minutes 34 seconds, how much faster does the song play in your head?
Wee ones: Different for everyone…count out the words!
Little kids: Again, different for everyone…see if you can hear the same high or low note more than once. Bonus: 9 words.
Big kids: The 9th round. Bonus: 26 seconds faster.
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.