It’s hard to study penguins in Antarctica. In winter it’s dark all day and the average temperature is 72 degrees below zero. Also, humans make penguins nervous, which makes their hearts beat faster than usual. So scientists built a small robot to hang out with the penguins to measure heartbeats. But the robot made the penguins nervous, too. Finally the scientists made the robot look like a penguin, all cute and furry, and that solved the problem. Some penguins have even tried singing to it. The robot doesn’t sing back, but it learns a lot about the penguins, and doesn’t get cold while doing it.
Wee ones: What shape are the wheels on the robot penguin?
Little kids: If the robot penguin you see here has 2 wheels on this side, 2 on the other, and a spare underneath, how many wheels does it have? Bonus: If there are 8 grown-up penguins, 3 baby penguins, and 2 of these fluffy robots, how many real and fake penguins are there in total?
Big kids: Right now the South Pole is heading into summer, so it’s a nice warm -15 degrees by midday. How much warmer than -72 is that? Bonus: If there are twice as many penguins as robots and the real penguins have 44 feet in total, how many robots are there?
The sky’s the limit: We can’t tell you how many penguins are hanging out with this robot…but if you take that number, double it, add 2, and divide by 5, you get 46. How many penguins are there?
Wee ones: A circle.
Little kids: 5 wheels. Bonus: 13 penguins.
Big kids: 57 degrees warmer. Bonus: 11 robots, since there are 22 penguins.
The sky’s the limit: 114 penguins. Working backwards, if we divided by 5 to get 46, the number before that step was 230. We added 2 to get there, so we had 228. We doubled the number to get to 228, so we started with 114.
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.