Our fan Thomas Z. asked us a great question: “What’s the longest word in English?” Of course, the joke goes that it’s the word “smiles,” because there’s a “mile” between the s’s (ha!). But the real longest word in the English dictionary is a lot longer than that. It’s “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.” The word has 45 letters, and it is what happens to you if you breathe the dust from a volcano. Luckily that’s not something that happens to us every day, or it would take us forever to answer the question “How are you doing?”
Wee ones: How many letters does your name have? Spell your name and count!
Little kids: How many letters are in the word “volcano?” Bonus: This longest English word has 1 e, 9 o’s, 6 i’s, 2 u’s, and 2 a’s. How many vowels are there?
Big kids: Once you say “pneumonoult,” you’ve knocked off 11 of the 45 letters. How many letters do you have left? Bonus: If you could string together 4 45-letter words to make an even longer one, would that new word reach 200 letters?
Wee ones: Different for everyone…say the letters in your name and count them!
Little kids: 7 letters. Bonus: 20 vowels.
Big kids: 34 more letters. Bonus: Not quite…it would give you only 180 letters.
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.