Three Sheets to the Wind

by Laura Overdeck

There’s a lot you can do with a blank sheet of paper. You can draw a picture on it, write a story… or if you want to stir up trouble, you can send it flying through the air. Folding paper to make a paper airplane is a great trick. The two most common shapes are the “ballistic dart” and the “glider.” The dart will travel very fast, but is more wobbly. The glider flies a little more slowly, but smoothly. So how far can a paper airplane fly? The world record is more than 226 feet, thrown by a former college football quarterback. Of course, you might want to make those stunt planes that loop-de-loop in the air or fly back to you like a boomerang. The good news about that last one is that then you get to throw it again.

Wee ones: How many edges (sides) does a regular sheet of paper have?

Little kids: If you fold a rectangle piece of paper once through the middle, what shapes can you make? Try it!  Bonus: If your boomerang-style paper airplane flies 6 seconds away from you, takes 2 seconds to turn around, and flies back for 6 seconds, how long does it fly?

Big kids: The longest a paper airplane has flown is about 28 seconds. If yours has flown 19 seconds so far, how much longer does it have to fly to match the record?  Bonus: If that record-breaking plane had flown 8 feet each second, how far would it have flown? (Hint if needed: Multiplying by 8 is the same as 2 x 2 x 2, so you can just keep doubling!)












Wee ones: 4 sides.

Little kids: Rectangles, triangles, and crooked 4-sided shapes called “trapezoids.”  Bonus: 14 seconds.

Big kids: 9 more seconds.  Bonus: 224 feet — very close to the distance record!

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