Look at that tasty sack of snacks. That isn’t just any old popcorn: it’s kettle corn. Kettle corn has a special sweet taste because it’s coated with caramel, not just melted butter. To make it right, you’re doing science and math: you heat the popcorn kernels in a mix of oil, sugar and salt. When sugar melts, the heat changes it into gooey golden caramel, which then coats the kernels. You can buy kettle corn at the store, but if you make your own, you get to eat it nice and warm. Your kitchen will smell amazing, too.
Wee ones: To make kettle corn you need popcorn kernels, oil, sugar and salt. How many ingredients (types of food) do you need?
Little kids: If 3 out of 10 kernels you cook don’t pop, how many do pop? Bonus: If you grab 12 sticky pieces, eat half of them, and then eat half of what’s left, how many pieces do you still have in your hand?
Big kids: Each 1/2 cup of kernels needs 1/4 cup of sugar for that yummy caramel. How much sugar does a full cup of kernels need? Bonus: How much popcorn do you think is in that bag? How did you come up with a guess?
Wee ones: 4 ingredients.
Little kids: 7 kernels. Bonus: 3 pieces, since you eat 6 of the 12, then eat 3 of the 6 left.
Big kids: 1/2 cup of sugar, since you need twice as much. Bonus: There are lots of ways to guess. You could guess there are 16 layers of kernels and 20 pieces in each, which would give you 320 pieces. But see what number you think it is!
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.