When you drizzle real maple syrup onto your pancakes, you probably use just a few tablespoons. What’s amazing is that bottle of syrup came from gallons of maple tree sap! This month the maple tree farms collect maple sap from their trees. They drill holes in the bark and stick a “tap,” or tube, into the tree. As the sap runs up the inside of the tree trunk, some of it drips out through the taps into buckets. Then the farm folks cook the sap until almost all the water boils away, leaving behind thick, yummy syrup. The thing is, they have to boil down 30 to 50 gallons of sap to make just 1 gallon of syrup! To get that sap, the farm has to tap a huge area of trees. One farm we talked to makes 600 gallons of syrup a year from its 20 acres of forest, which have thousands of trees. It’s much easier for us to fit a bottle of syrup in the fridge!
Wee ones: If you eat 4 waffles and 3 pancakes, of which food did you eat more?
Little kids: If you drizzle syrup into the 1st square hole in your waffle, then the 3rd, then the 5th, then the 7th…what number hole gets syrup next? Bonus: What number is the 10th hole that gets syrup?
Big kids: If you use 3 tablespoons of syrup on your pancakes, and it took 40 times as much sap to make that, how many tablespoons of sap made your breakfast syrup? Bonus: To imagine what that would look like, about how many cups is that? (A cup has 16 tablespoons.)
Wee ones: More waffles.
Little kids: The 9th hole. Bonus: The 19th hole.
Big kids: 120 tablespoons of sap. Bonus: More than 7 cups! It’s 7 1/2 to be exact.
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.