Have you ever kicked a ball as hard as you could? How far did it go? Can you imagine it flying over a couple of houses? That’s what happens every year in American football. The game uses a funny-looking, pointy brown ball, which players have to bring to the other end of the field by throwing it or running with it. If they make it to the end zone, they score a “touchdown,” for 6 points. But if the team with the ball thinks they can’t make it, they can try to kick the ball between 2 yellow bars and over the bar holding them up. If the kicker can get the ball through that U shape, his team scores 3 points for a “field goal.” So from how far away can the kicker kick the ball through those bars? That’s where the math comes in!
Wee ones: If the kicker kicks the ball through, then misses on the 2nd try, then makes the 3rd try, then misses the 4th…what do you guess happens on the 5th try?
Little kids: If a team scores all its points from 3-point field goals, could they have a total score of 10? Bonus: The longest high-school football kick was 68 yards — longer than 2-3 houses in a row! But the longest college kick ever was 1 yard longer. How long was that kick?
Big kids: If you kick the ball right over your 30-foot house, how many yards long is that? (Reminder: A yard equals 3 feet.) Bonus: If you have a big foot and can kick the ball 70 yards, how many feet would that be?
The sky’s the limit: If the best 10-year-old can kick the ball 36 yards and the best college player kicked that 68-yard kick, how far can you kick it if your distance is halfway between those?
Wee ones: The kick makes it.
Little kids: No, because 3s can’t stack up to add to 10 — you will get 9 or 12. Bonus: 69 yards.
Big kids: 10 yards. Bonus: 210 feet.
The sky’s the limit: 52 yards. 36 and 68 are 32 yards apart, so your kick will be half of that more than the 36, or 16 yards farther.
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.