Wait a minute – do horses even have toes?! They do. Animals with hooves, like horses, pigs, cows, and even aardvarks, have toes! The hoof is the tip of the toe, and helps the animals walk. Even weirder, it turns out animals with an odd number of toes are all cousins of each other, and those with even numbers are cousins, too. So who has what? Horses and rhinoceroses are odd-toed: in fact, horses have only 1 toe on each foot, but scientists figured out that thousands of years ago, horses had 5 toes inside each hoof! But cows, pigs, giraffes, camels, deer, and hippopotamuses are all even-toed, usually 2 toes per foot: a big one in front, and a small one in back. The question is, where should we put the toenail polish?
Wee ones: Stick out one bare foot, and count your toes!
Little kids: In a set of 5 toes, which number toe is exactly in the middle? Bonus: If you paint nail polish on the 1st toe, then skip the 2nd, paint the 3rd…how many toes on that foot get polish?
Big kids: Horses today have 1 toe on each foot, while goats have 2 toes on each. If you have the same number of goats and horses and there are 24 toes altogether, how many of each animal do you have? Bonus: How many more goats would boost that group to 56 toes altogether?
Wee ones: We have 5 toes on each foot: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
Little kids: The 3rd toe. Bonus: 3 toes.
Big kids: 2 of each animal. One horse-goat pair has 12 toes (4+8), so you need 2 of those pairs to have 24 toes. Bonus: 4 goats, since you need 32 more toes.
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.