It’s Corn on the Cob Day, a great time to celebrate a very math-y food. For one thing, the kernels grow in nice neat rows, and any ear of corn will have an even number of rows in total. There are usually 16 rows, holding 800 kernels. Usually just 1 or 2 ears grow on each corn stalk, but in 2019 farmer Matthew Jacovelli broke the world record with a plant that had 29 ears! Growing more ears is a good thing, since we use corn to make more than 3,500 other things, including foods like popcorn, cereal and marshmallows, and even non-food stuff like fireworks, glue, shoe polish, and plastic. Ew! We think the tastiest way to enjoy corn might be right off the cob.
Wee ones: Corn can grow in many colors: purple, green, blackish, bluish, red, white, and of course yellow. How many colors is that?
Little kids: If an ear of corn has to have an even number of rows, can it have 5 rows? Bonus: If an ear has 16 rows and you munch them one at a time until there are 10 left, what numbers do you say to count down the rows you eat?
Big kids: A bushel (8-gallon barrel) of corn has enough sugar to sweeten 400 cans of soda! How many cans can you sweeten with 2 bushels? Bonus: If you start at row 1 and eat every 3rd row of corn as you go 1 full time around a cob with 16 rows, how many rows do you eat without passing where you started?
The sky’s the limit: If an ear of corn has 800 kernels in 16 rows, how many in each row? (Hint if needed: To divide a number by 16, just cut it in half 4 times in a row.)
Wee ones: 7 colors.
Little kids: No, since 5 is an odd number. Bonus: 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11.
Big kids: 800 cans. Bonus: 6 in total: you’ll eat rows 1, 4, 7, 10, 13, and 16.
The sky’s the limit: 50 kernels per row.
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.