What happens when you get hiccups? Your “diaphragm,” the muscle between your lungs and your stomach, freaks out. Normally it shrinks slowly to make you breathe, but sometimes it gets out of control and pulls a lot faster than it should. That makes your vocal chords in your throat snap shut, which makes that silly hiccup sound. Holding your breath, drinking water from a glass while upside down, or eating a teaspoon of sugar sometimes stop them, but not always. Usually hiccups stop after about 30. Then there’s poor Charles Osborne, who started hiccupping one day in 1922 and didn’t stop until 1990! Looks like the teaspoon of sugar didn’t work.
Wee ones: If you just counted your 5 hiccups, what are all the numbers you said before that?
Little kids: If you start hiccupping twice today, and take 2 teaspoons of sugar each time, how many teaspoons of sugar do you get to eat? Bonus: If you hiccup on 10 days straight and it all starts on a Tuesday, what’s your last day of hiccupping?
Big kids: If Charles Osborne hiccupped from 1922 to 1990, how many years was that? Bonus: If he hiccupped 2,000 times each year, how many hiccups did he have in total? (Hint if needed: What if he hiccupped just twice each year…and then how does 2,000 a year change that?)
Wee ones: 1, 2, 3, 4.
Little kids: 4 teaspoons. Bonus: On a Thursday…remember, Monday will be your 7th day, not the Tuesday.
Big kids: 68 years. Bonus: 136,000 hiccups!
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.