It’s no fun being bored. But sometimes that’s when we have our best ideas. Back when these people were still going into their office, they stuck sticky notes onto the windows to make giant pictures. They show characters from the Super Mario video game! It took some math to make these pictures. The artists had to figure out how many rows of sticky notes could fit from top to bottom, to make sure a character that tall could also fit across. Then they had to check how many sticky notes they might need for each color. This is where math and art come together — and when they do, people don’t stay bored for long.
Wee ones: How many different colors can you count in Luigi (the guy on the left in the top picture)?
Little kids: If Mario uses 3 colors and Luigi uses 4 different colors, how many colors do the 2 brothers use all together? Bonus: What if 2 of Mario’s colors are the same as 2 of Luigi’s? Now how many colors do the 2 brothers use all together?
Big kids: If you have 25 pink sticky notes and 9 yellow stickies, can you make a 32-sticky-note picture? Bonus: How would you guess quickly how many sticky notes Mario (or Luigi) uses, without counting 1 by 1? See if you get close!
The sky’s the limit: If the whole 6-window picture uses the same number of whites as yellows, twice as many reds as whites, and also twice as many blues as whites and twice as many greens as whites, how many stickies of each color does it use if the total is 400?
Wee ones: We count 4: green, blue, yellow, and black (if the buckles on his overalls are the same yellow as his hands).
Little kids: 7 colors. Bonus: Just 5 colors.
Big kids: Yes! You have 34 stickies. Bonus: Lots of ways to do this…you could count the stickies in the biggest row, then count the rows and multiply. You could also guess each color’s count, then add those. The exact count looks like 143 sticky notes.
The sky’s the limit: It uses 50 whites, 50 yellows, and 100 each of red, blue and green. If the set of yellow and the double sets of red, blue and green were all white, we’d have 8 equal sets of white to make 400. So there must be 1/8 of that, or 50, in the white set.
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.