When Your Tail Really Counts

by Laura Overdeck

Looks like this ring-tailed lemur really wants to get into that backpack. And it turns out these silly, stripy goofballs are pretty smart: they can do math! Lemurs can count, add, and subtract, and can also line up objects in order from memory. Even their wild long tails have numbers behind them: the lemur’s tail always has 12 or 13 white rings and 13 or 14 black rings, and the tip always ends in black. Lemurs live on the island of Madagascar off the coast of Africa. It’s a beautiful place, so we can see why they’d like to take some pictures of it!

Wee ones: If the lemur’s tail has a black ring at the tip, then white, then black, then white, what’s the next ring?

Little kids: If a lemur’s tail has 12 white rings and 13 black rings, of which color does it have more?  Bonus: If the 1st ring is black followed by white, then black, then white, and so on, what color is the 12th ring?

Big kids: If a lemur’s tail has 27 rings, and there’s 1 more black ring than white ring, how many rings of each color?  Bonus: If a lemur is 18 inches long and its tail is another 1/3 body length longer than that, how long is the whole lemur from head to tail tip?

The sky’s the limit: We can’t tell you how many rings a baby lemur’s tail has, but if you took that number, multiplied it by itself, and added 9, you’d get 58. How many rings does the tail have?

Answers:
Wee ones: A black ring.

Little kids: More black rings.  Bonus: White.

Big kids: 14 black rings and 13 white.  If you took off that extra black ring, you’d have 26 rings that are equally black and white, so then you just cut 26 in half to find the white.  Bonus: 42 inches, since it’s 18 plus 24.

The sky’s the limit: 7 rings.  If you walk backwards, the number times itself comes to 49 (58-9), and 49 is divisible only by 7, so that’s your answer!

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