When we think of sheep, we usually think of fluffy white sheep, or maybe black ones from the song “Baa Baa Black Sheep”…or maybe just brown, dirty, smelly sheep. We definitely don’t think of pink sheep or green sheep. So we’ve always loved this photo of rainbow sheep from Scotland; they say the farmer dyed his sheep different colors, from blue to yellow to purple. The sheep don’t seem to care, and when he shears their wool, the sweaters he makes will already look beautiful!
Wee ones: Some of these crazy sheep are green. Try to find 3 green things in your room.
Little kids: If the farmer dyed 3 sheep pink and 7 sheep purple, how many eye-catching sheep is that? Bonus: If he then dyed that same total number of sheep blue, now how many colored sheep does he have?
Big kids: If the farmer dyes 6 sheep green, how many green sweaters will they make at 8 sweaters per sheep? Bonus: If the farmer wants 61 blue sweaters, how many sheep does he need to dye blue to have enough blue wool?
The sky’s the limit: If you have sheep in 5 colors — pink, purple, green, blue and yellow — and you’re making striped sweaters with any 3 different colors of stripes, how many different color combos can you make? (Don’t worry about the order, just the trios of colors.)
Wee ones: Items might include shirts, socks, tennis balls, plants, or leaves from outside.
Little kids: 10 sheep. Bonus: 20 sheep.
Big kids: 48 sweaters. Bonus: 8 sheep, since 7 sheep will give him only 56 sweaters.
The sky’s the limit: 10 trios of colors. This is a 5-choose 3 math problem, which is the same as a 5-choose-2, because it’s like picking the two colors you WON’T use in each sweater. You can leave out the pink and either purple, green, blue, or yellow, giving 4 choices; you can leave out the purple with green, blue or yellow, since you already counted pink + purple; that gives you 3 more. And so on until you get 4+3+2+1 = 10.
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.