The “big cats” – lions, tigers, cheetahs, jaguars and so on – really are bigger cousins of our pet cats in our homes: longer tails, bigger teeth, bigger paws. So our friend Leo S. asked us, how many steps does a jaguar take in 1 year? (He also sent an awesome drawing to help us picture it). That’s a great question, because cats are known for loving their naps…how much of the day do jaguars even stay awake? Turns out they’re less sleepy than the other big cats, as they’re up and moving more than 1/2 the day. Then we have to ask, how far do they move? At an animal rescue center in Bolivia, a news reporter who walked a jaguar on a leash traveled 2 miles in just an hour and a half. If the cat moves around for 12 hours a day (8 times as long), that would be 16 miles a day, or 5,840 in a year. Then we have to figure out how many steps it takes for a jaguar to walk a mile. Then of course, it really adds up if that cat has 9 lives…
Wee ones: Who has more legs, you or a jaguar?
Little kids: If a jaguar naps for 2 hours, then runs around for 3 hours, then starts over and naps for 2 hours, what does it do next? Bonus: If a jaguar walks just 10 miles a day for 1 week, what numbers would you say to count its miles by 10s?
Big kids: If a jaguar steps with its front left foot, then its back right, then its front right, then its back left, then repeats…which foot takes the 22nd step? Bonus: If you walk your pet jaguar for 3,000 steps and each step is 2 feet long, will you guys walk a whole mile? (Reminder if needed: A mile has 5,280 feet.)
The sky’s the limit: If a jaguar takes a nice neat 2,000 steps per mile, and walks 5,840 miles in a year, how many steps does it take? (Hint if needed: What if it took just 2 steps per mile?)
Wee ones: The jaguar, since it has 4 vs. your 2 legs.
Little kids: Runs for 3 hours. Bonus: 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70.
Big kids: Its back right foot, since it’s the 2nd step in that set of 4. Bonus: Yes! since the jaguar will travel 6,000 feet.
The sky’s the limit: 11,680,000 steps!
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.