If you traveled this holiday weekend, you probably noticed all kinds of road signs telling you where you are and what to do, like stop or slow down. Turns out the letters on those signs are WAY bigger than you think, because they’re high above our heads and far away. Your cute little STOP sign at the corner is actually a 2 1/2-foot tall octagon, almost half the height of a grown-up, and the letters are twice as tall as your hand. On a big green highway sign, the blue and red interstate number is bigger than that whole stop sign. If you ever stand next to a sign lying on the ground, you’ll find that some letters and numbers are just as tall as you!
Wee ones: A STOP sign is octagon-shaped: it has a top and bottom, a left side and right side, and 4 angled sides where a square would have corners. How many sides is that?
Little kids: The letters on a STOP sign are about 10 inches tall. If your hand is 5 inches long, how much taller are those letters? Bonus: If there’s a STOP sign at 2nd Avenue, then 4th Ave, then 6th Ave….where do you think you’ll see a stop sign next?
Big kids: In the photo, that little red, white and blue highway number shield is 3 feet tall! If the sign is 4 times as tall as that plus 2 more feet, how tall is the whole sign? Bonus: If those interstate highway numbers are exactly 3 feet tall, how does that stack up against your height? (Reminder if needed: 1 foot has 12 inches).
Wee ones: 8 sides.
Little kids: 5 inches. Bonus: At 8th Ave.
Big kids: 14 feet tall. Bonus: Different for everyone…subtract 3 feet from the “foot” part of your height in feet and inches, or you can subtract 3 x 12 (which equals 36) from your height in inches.
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.