It’s St. Patrick’s Day, that Irish holiday when we wear dye all our food green to see if it tastes better that way. We also watch out for leprechauns, those funny elf-like fellows from Irish fairy tales. They’re said to be only as tall as kids, but they have big magical powers. Supposedly they keep all their coins in a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, which would be a great thing to find. It’s even better to find the leprechaun himself, because if you capture him he’ll grant you 3 wishes. St. Patty’s Day gives leprechauns an excuse to come out and play their little tricks, like hiding your shoes, leaving doors open, and dyeing the toilet water green. What’s happening at your house?
Wee ones: Which has more leaves, a 3-leaf clover or a 4-leaf clover?
Little kids: If you hand 6 green cookies to your friends, who eat all but 1 cookie, how many green cookies did they eat? Bonus: Which have more leaves in total, 2 4-leaf clovers or 3 3-leaf clovers?
Big kids: If you have 10 pairs of shoes and a leprechaun randomly hides 5 of your shoes, what’s the greatest number of full pairs you could still have? Bonus: If 1 of those leprechauns has a pot with twice as many coins as the 2nd, and together they have 18 coins, how many coins does each pot have?
Wee ones: The 4-leaf clover!
Little kids: 5 cookies. Bonus: The 3 3-leafers (9 leaves vs. 8).
Big kids: 7 pairs. If the leprechaun took as many matching shoes as possible, he’d take 2 pairs plus 1 shoe from the next. Bonus: The 1st pot has 12 coins, and the 2nd has just 6. It’s as if the 1st leprechaun has 2 pots the same size as the other leprechaun, making 3 little pots in total that have 18 coins.
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.