Maybe you’ve seen the movie Ratatouille, where a talented rat shows a human how to cook fancy meals. It turns out there’s at least one helpful rodent in real life! A man named Stephen Mckears left his bolts, screws, and other metal hardware scattered on his workbench. Every morning, these objects would mysteriously be tucked neatly into a plastic bin. Stephen wondered if he had a friendly ghost, so he set up a camera overnight. It sounds like a tall tail, but the video proved it – a mouse was behind the housecleaning! His secret furry friend, now nicknamed “Metal Mickey”, spent 2 1/2 hours grabbing everything he could with his mouth and dropping it into the plastic bin. Normally you don’t want wild mice, but we could all use a housemate like this one!
Wee ones: Metal Mickey is 3 inches long. If he moves a screw that’s 1 inch longer, how long is the screw?
Little kids: The nuts that fit onto bolts are often hexagons, which have 6 sides. Find 6 stick-shaped things like pencils, crayons, toothpicks or forks, and lay them on the floor end to end to make a hexagon shape. Bonus: If Metal Mickey grabs a screw, a bolt, then a nut, and keeps repeating that pattern, what’s the 7th object he grabs?
Big kids: If Metal Mickey spends 2 1/2 hours cleaning every night, and starts at 2:25 am, when does he finish? (Hint if needed: If it took just 2 hours, when would he finish?) Bonus: How many hours does he clean in 4 nights?
Wee ones: The screw is 4 inches long, because 3 + 1 = 4.
Little kids: Try it…even if the sides aren’t all the same length and it’s kind of wacky and crooked, it’s still a hexagon if there are 6 sides! Bonus: A screw, because the pattern completes a round at the 6th object and begins again with the 7th.
Big kids: At 4:55 am, 30 minutes later than 4:25 pm. Bonus: 10 hours – you can add up the 2 whole hours first to reach 8, then add the 4 1/2-hours to add another 2 hours. Or you can first figure out that 2 1/2 + 2 1/2 = 5, and since 4 days is twice as many as 2 days, Mickey must spend 5 x 2 hours.
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.