For some people, flying 20,000 or 35,000 feet above the Earth on a plane isn’t exciting enough. They have to strap themselves to a bunch of balloons and fly. David Blaine did that a couple years ago, but he wasn’t the first. Back in 2013, a guy named Jonathan Trappe climbed into a basket tied to 370 helium balloons and took off. He started in Maine and hoped to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Had he succeeded, he would have been the first person ever to do it with helium balloons. Well, his trip ended just 12 hours later, when his balloon started having problems and he had to land in Newfoundland (part of Canada). To this day no one has made it across the ocean this way. So if you can track down hundreds of party balloons, you can try to be first!
Wee ones: Jonathan’s balloon went up, then down. Look straight up — what do you see? Now look down — what do you see this time?
Little kids: If you have 7 yellow balloons but want 10 in your bunch, how many more do you need to add? Bonus: If you take off on a balloon flight at 5:15pm and fly for 40 minutes, will you land in time for dinner at 6pm?
Big kids: Trappe was 39 years old when he tried this 9 years ago. If he tries again 10 years from now, how old will he be? Bonus: If each of those 370 balloons can hold up 1 pound, and Trappe weighed 180 pounds, how many pounds could his basket, snacks, etc. weigh all together?
Wee ones: Looking up, you might see the ceiling, or the sky! Looking down, you might see carpet, floor, dirt or grass — and your feet.
Little kids: 3 more yellow balloons to make 10. Bonus: Yes, just barely! You’ll land at 5:55pm.
Big kids: 58 years old, since he’s now 48. Bonus: 190 pounds.
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.