Have you ever thrown a basketball and landed it in the basket? It’s hard to get the ball in there: the ball is big and heavy to throw, and that hoop with the net is way above your head. But if you think that’s hard, try making a shot from hundreds of feet above! Brett Stanford of Australia set up a basketball hoop at the bottom of a dam (a huge wall that holds back the water of a river to make a lake behind it). Then he threw the ball from 593 feet above it. As the video shows, the ball falls on a crazy curve thanks to the wind, then finally swishes through the hoop. He made the shot on his third try, sealing the world record — until someone else topped it with a 660 foot shot!
Wee ones: What shape is a basketball? What shape does it look like from the side?
Little kids: If Brett made the shot on the 3rd try, how many times did he shoot before that? Bonus: If Brett had kept throwing and kept making every 3rd shot, what would have happened on the 12th throw?
Big kids: If Brett had wanted his shot to be 600 feet, on how tall a ladder would he have had to stand? (Reminder: His shot was 593 feet as is.) Bonus: Instead, how tall a ladder would he need to make the shot 1000 feet high?
The sky’s the limit — for real: It didn’t happen this way, but if the ball had fallen 1 foot the first second, 2 more feet the 2nd second, then 4 more feet, then 8 more feet, then so on, how many seconds would it have to fall to know you’d made it to 600 feet?
Wee ones: A “sphere,” which looks like a circle from the side.
Little kids: 2 times. Bonus: He would have made it! It’s a multiple of 3.
Big kids: A 7-foot ladder. Bonus: A 407-foot ladder.
The sky’s the limit: After 9 seconds. The ball needs to fall 1+2+4+8+16+32+64+128+256 to reach 511 feet, which isn’t enough. It needs to fall the next second to ensure 600 feet. If the ground weren’t there, it would fall another 512 feet, bringing the total to 1023 feet. Notice how the total is always 1 less than the next doubled number! Why?
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.