You probably know today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but we bet you didn’t know it’s also Penguin Awareness Day. After all, you probably don’t think about penguins very often, because how many penguins do you have wandering around in your life? Almost all of the 17 types live only on the southern half of our planet, in and near Antarctica. And did you ever wonder why they all look like they’re wearing cute black and white suits? It’s “camouflage,” or coloring that helps them hide by looking like their surroundings. When they swim, their black backs match the dark ocean to animals looking down from the sky; for animals looking up at them, the penguins’ white bellies blend with the sunshine coming down through the water. But because their attackers usually come from the water, penguins aren’t afraid of land animals like people, and will walk right up to you — if you’re okay with visiting that Antarctic weather.
Wee ones: The tallest penguins, emperor penguins, stand 4 feet tall. Is that taller or shorter than you?
Little kids: Penguins can’t fly, but like all birds they each have 2 wings. How many wings do 3 penguins have? Bonus: How many more penguins do you need to have 8 wings in total?
Big kids: If penguins are taking a nap, and most lie with their white bellies up but every 3rd penguin starting with the 3rd has its black back facing up, what number penguin is the 11th one with its belly up? Bonus: On top of Penguin Awareness Day, we’re also going to have World Penguin Day on April 25. If you’re reading this on January 20, how many days will we wait for World Penguin Day? (Waiting until tomorrow would count as 1 day.)
Wee ones: Different for everyone…find out your height in feet!
Little kids: 6 wings. Bonus: 1 more penguin, to make 4 birds in total.
Big kids: The 16th. The first 10 belly-up penguins are from the first 5 sets of 3, or the first 15. Bonus: 96 days. We wait 5 days until January 25, then 31 until February 25, 29 more until March 25 (leap year!), and then 31 more to April 25.
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.