We love the geometry — the math behind shapes — in this amazing sculpture. At the Anthem Veterans Memorial in Arizona, the sun is part of the show every Veterans Day. Every year on 11/11, at exactly 11:11 in the morning, the sun lines up perfectly to shine through the 5 ovals, and lights up the United States Seal on the ground. With Earth traveling around the Sun, and spinning all day and night on a tilt, this sculpture lines up only at this moment of the year — plus one moment in the spring, because Earth hits the same tilt somewhere on the other side of the Sun. Each rectangle stands for a branch of the U.S. military: Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. As America honors our veterans today, the sun can celebrate with us.
Wee ones: The holes in the pillars are “ellipses,” or ovals. How are ovals different from circles? Discuss!
Little kids: If the moment happens at about 11 am and you show up 3 hours early, at what time do you get there? Bonus: The shortest rectangle pillar stands 6 feet tall. If each pillar were exactly 3 feet taller than the one before it, how tall would the next two pillars be?
Big kids: If the heights of the pillars are all evenly spaced from each other between 6 and 17 feet, how tall is the middle pillar? Bonus: If the other day of the year that this happens is as many days before the start of fall (Sept. 23) as this day is after Sept. 23, on what other day does this sun show work? (Reminder if needed: 30 days hath September, April, June, and November…all the rest have 31, except February which has 28.)
Wee ones: They’re both round, but circles are the same width in every direction, while ellipses are longer across one direction and shorter across another.
Little kids: At 8 am. Bonus: 9 feet and 12 feet.
Big kids: 11 1/2 feet. Bonus: On August 5. November 11 is 7+31+11 days after Sept 23, or 49 days. So we now need to find the date 49 days before Sept. 23. September 1 is 22 days before, so August 31 is 23 days before it…we need to back up another 26 days from that, bringing us to August 5.
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.