We like to build with Legos, blocks, bricks and stones. It turns out we can stack words, too. A crossword puzzle is a set of words that cross where they share the same letter, and you read clues to figure out what words to write. If you have the word CAT and another word going down from that C, you know that word has to begin with C. Before crosswords, there were word squares, where you could read the same set of words both across and down, like this:
D O G
O D E
G E T
Do you see the three words in that word square? Things got fancier when Arthur Wynne made a diamond shape of squares, starting with the word FUN. So you could write the word “FROG” going down starting from the F, or “BUGS” using the U.
Wee ones: How many different letters does that 3×3 “DOG” box use? Try to spot them all!
Little kids: If you’ve filled in the word “HOUSE” going across, but the word “HAT” going down using that same H, how many letters in total have you written? Bonus: If the first word going across were your name, what word could you write going down from the first letter? Try to think of a word, and how many letters it has!
Big kids: If your crossword has 25 words going across and 21 going down, how many clues does the puzzle have to give you? Bonus: If it takes you 2 minutes to solve each clue, will you finish the puzzle in an hour and a half? (Reminder: an hour has 60 minutes.)
Wee ones: 5 letters: D, O, G, E, and T.
Little kids: 7 letters…it would be 8 (5+3), except they share the H. Bonus: Different for everyone…see if you can think of a word that shares the same first letter.
Big kids: 46 clues. Bonus: Not quite, because you’ll need 92 minutes, whereas an hour and a half is 90 minutes.
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.