We know we can teach an animal to dance: we see it at the circus all the time. But do regular wild animals hear music and dance on their own, matching the beat? One scientist watched thousands of YouTube videos of animals “dancing” to music, and found 33 of them were in fact dancing. Of those 33 animals, 29 of them were birds! (The rest were elephants.) Another scientist tested one cockatoo named Snowball, playing the bird’s favorite song, “Everybody” by the Backstreet Boys.Whether he sped up the song or slowed it down, Snowball bopped to the beat about 1/4 of the time. There’s almost no chance that happened by accident, so that bird really can boogey.
Wee ones: If you clap to the beat 4 times, what numbers do you say?
Little kids: If the 5th dancing bird and the next 2 after that all liked rap music, what numbers were those next 2 birds? Bonus: If the 29 birds plus Snowball could all dance, how many dancing birds is that?
Big kids: If Snowball dances on the beat for 30 seconds and that’s just 1/4 of the song, how long is the song? Bonus: If the song “Everybody” is 3 minutes 44 seconds long, how many seconds would Snowball get to dance if she danced the whole song?
The sky’s the limit: If a bunch of birds and elephants hit the dance floor, and there are 4 more birds than elephants and 10 more elephant feet than bird feet, how many dancing feet are there in all?
Wee ones: 1, 2, 3, 4.
Little kids: The 6th and 7th birds. Bonus: 30 birds.
Big kids: 120 seconds, or 2 minutes. Bonus: 224 seconds.
The sky’s the limit: 62 feet. If we have b birds and e elephants, then we have 2b bird feet and 4e elephant feet. Using those:
b = e + 4 , so 2b = 2e + 8
4e = 2b + 10
Substituting the first equation into the second, we get
4e = 2e + 8 + 10
So 2e = 18, and e = 9. There are therefore 9 elephants and 13 birds, giving us 36 elephant feet and 26 bird feet (which is 10 fewer than the elephant feet, like it’s supposed to be). That gives us 62 dancing feet in total.
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.