In that swampy part of southern Florida called the Everglades, alligators are everywhere. They love the warm, muddy water, and the egrets, herons and other birds they eat for lunch. There are so many alligators — over 3 million — that if you ride through the swamp on an airboat (a flat-bottomed boat with a giant fan to blow it forward), alligators swim right up to you! Here we see “Buckethead,” as the tour guides call him. Alligators are full of math: the distance from their eyes to their nostrils in inches tells you the length of the whole gator in feet! Better yet, alligators’ snouts become more rectangular as they get older — the guides think Buckethead is about 80 years old. We might have to change his name to Blockhead.
Wee ones: Who has more legs, you or Buckethead the alligator?
Little kids: Buckethead is 11 feet long. Try counting from 1 to 11! Bonus: Buckethead’s friend Eileen has an 8-inch gap from eyes to nose. How many feet longer is Buckethead than Eileen?
Big kids: Alligators have dozens of teeth. If you have 20 teeth and the alligator has 4 times as many, how many does the alligator have? Bonus: If Buckethead is exactly 80, how much older than you is he?
Wee ones: The alligator has more legs — you have 2, he has 4.
Little kids: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. Bonus: 3 feet longer.
Big kids: 80 teeth. Bonus: Different for everyone…subtract your age from 80. Or if you’re 80 or older, find out how much older you are by subtracting 80 from your age!
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.