Today is Corn on the Cob Day, a great time to celebrate a very math-y food. For starters, what are all those bumpy kernels for? Unlike fruits that come from a fluffy flower, for corn the ear IS the flower, and the kernels are the seeds. It turns out that every ear of corn has to grow an even number of rows. Most ears have 16 rows, which hold 800 kernels in total. Those kernels add up fast: A “bushel” is an 8-gallon barrel, and a bushel of corn will have about 72,000 kernels and weigh 56 pounds! We use corn to make more than 3,500 things, including foods like cereal, peanut butter and marshmallows. The starch is also used to make stuff like fireworks, glue, and batteries. Very cool, but the foods sound yummier!
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: A number is even if it can be cut into 2 equal parts. What numbers from 1 to 10 are even? Bonus: All even numbers end in the same digits as those 5 numbers. If an ear of corn has to have an even number of rows, can it have 15 rows?
Big kids: If you eat every 3rd row of corn as you go 1 full time around a cob with 16 rows, at most how many rows can you eat without passing where you started? Bonus: A bushel (8-gallon barrel) of corn holds enough sugar to sweeten 400 cans of soda. If you drink 1 of those cans, how many cans are left?
Wee ones: 7 colors.
Little kids: 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10. Bonus: No, because 5 isn’t even, either.
Big kids: 6 rows at most: rows 1, 4, 7, 10, 13, and 16. Bonus: 399 cans.
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.