Whether they’re small houses or tall skyscrapers, the buildings we live in have nice straight walls to hold up our ceilings. But that’s not true for every building out there. The famous Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy has been leaning on an angle for more than 600 years, and without falling! It took 199 years to build, starting in 1173, but stood straight for only the first 5 years. As soon as they added the 3rd story, it started tilting. The problem is, the tower is really heavy for its height. It’s only about 183 feet tall, but it weighs 16,000 tons! Worse yet, it was built on soft clay that couldn’t hold up the building. Over the next few centuries, builders kept adding more stories and making changes in hopes of fixing the tower. By 2001 builders gave up and left it as it stands today. After all, if it hasn’t fallen over for more than 800 years, it hopefully never will!
Wee ones: Stand up straight, then tilt your body to the left as far as you can. Now tilt to the right!
Little kids: The tower now has 7 floors. How many floors did they add after the first 2 good ones? Bonus: The first 2 stories were finished in 1173. If it then stood straight for 5 years, when did it start tilting?
Big kids: The tower needs 4 more steps to have a full 300. How many steps does it have? Bonus: If the tower started tilting in 1178, when did it hit 800 years of tilting?
Wee ones: See if you can figure out your left from your right!
Little kids: 5 more floors. Bonus: In 1178.
Big kids: 296 steps. Bonus: In 1978, just two years after the U.S. turned 200.
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.