It can’t feel so good to be known as the world’s worst-smelling animal. But that’s the way life is for skunks. Sure, they have that cute white stripe running through their black fur and down their tails, but skunks strike terror in the hearts of anyone who stands too close. That’s because skunks have small “glands,” or little pouches of liquid, near their hind legs that are filled with one of the yuckiest-smelling liquids out there. When a skunk gets scared, it can spray that liquid at attackers to scare them off. Skunks aren’t big, fast, strong or tough, so that’s their one weapon. By the way, if you aren’t sure what a skunk smells like, you can actually make that smell at home, using food right in your fridge. To find out how, hold your nose and read on.
Wee ones: To make your own skunk smell, you mix rotten eggs, coffee, and chopped garlic. How many ingredients is that? (Exact recipe is below!)
Little kids: Skunks can spray you from up to 10 feet away. If you’re only 8 feet away, how many feet farther away should you run to escape that squirt? Bonus: If a skunk could double that spray distance, how far could it squirt?
Big kids: The baby skunk shown here, called a skunk kit, is only about 9 inches long, including the tail. But some skunks can grow to 37 inches long. How much more does this little guy need to grow to reach that size? Bonus: Actually, a 3-foot-long skunk like that sounds pretty huge. If you lay down next to it, how would that 37-inch skunk compare to your length?
The sky’s the limit: You need 8 rotten eggs, 2 cups of coffee and 5 spoons of garlic to make each batch of skunk smell. If you have 42 eggs, 12 cups of coffee and 34 spoons of garlic handy, which ingredient will run out first if you mix only full batches at a time?
Wee ones: 3 ingredients.
Little kids: 2 more feet. Bonus: 20 feet. Watch out!
Big kids: 28 inches more. Bonus: Different for everyone…subtract your height in inches from 37, or subtract 37 from your height. Yuck!
The sky’s the limit: The eggs will run out first. 42 eggs allow only 5 batches, because it can fit only 5 full sets of 8 eggs (40 total). To compare, you have enough coffee for 6 sets of the 2 cups, and the 34 spoons of garlic also allow 6 full sets of 5 spoons, with leftover.
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.