When you blow up a balloon yourself, it just hangs from the string. But party balloons from the store float straight up. Why? Because the store balloons have a different kind of air in them, a gas called helium. Helium is very light, so those balloons float – and if you let go, they’ll float right up into the sky. So our fan Brayden W. asked, how high can a helium balloon float? It turns out it can float about 20 miles up, not quite into outer space. The better part is that helium balloons really can lift stuff. In the craziest record ever set, 300 8-foot-wide helium balloons lifted a whole 4,335-pound house into the sky! So if anyone tries to hand you a balloon that size, think twice before you take it. It could carry you away!
Wee ones: Party balloons come in all different colors. See if you can find 1 thing of each rainbow color: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple. How many things do you have?
Little kids: If you have a whole bunch of balloons, and you pop balloon number 1, then balloon number 3, then balloon number 5…which number balloon do you think you pop next? Bonus: What number balloons in between did you skip?
Big kids: If just 1 of the 300 balloons lifting that house had popped, how many balloons would have been left? Bonus: About how many of those 300 balloons would it take to pick up YOU? (Shortcut if needed: You can estimate the 300 balloons could lift 4,500 pounds.)
Wee ones: See how many colors you can find! If you can find an item for each, you’ll have 6 things.
Little kids: Balloon number 7. Bonus: 2, 4, and 6.
Big kids: 299 balloons. Bonus: Different for everyone…300 balloons lifting about 4,500 pounds means each balloons can lift about 15 pounds. So divide your weight by 15 to solve for the number it would take to pick you up.
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.