So how do you say “tomato,” anyway? Tomatoes are tricky. When people first found them in America hundreds of years ago, everyone thought they were poisonous. But people figured out that you could eat them safely. Thanks to their bravery, we now eat around 70 pounds per person of tomatoes or foods made from tomatoes every year. Salsa, spaghetti sauce, soup…even a bottle of ketchup uses up to 14 tomatoes! It’s a good thing tomatoes can each hold about 200 seeds, so we can grow new plants and lots of new tomatoes.

*Wee ones:* What shape (roughly) is a tomato?

*Little kids:* If your tomato plant has 2 flowers on one branch and 3 flowers on another, how many tomatoes do you hope to grow? (Each flower makes just 1 tomato.) *Bonus:* If you need 14 tomatoes to make a bottle of ketchup, how many more tomatoes will you need from your plant?

*Big kids:* If you plant 4 rows of 4 baby tomato plants (seedlings) in each, how many of those seedlings are on the edges? *Bonus:* 5 tomato plants together grow enough tomatoes for a family for 1 year. If 20 families live on your street block, how many plants would your neighborhood garden need to grow for them?

*The sky’s the limit:* If you want to plant 24 tomato plants in rows with the same number in each row from left to right, and you want at least 2 rows in each direction, how many different lengths of rows can you plant?

Answers:

*Wee ones:* A circle, when you look at it from the side. In 3D it’s a “sphere.”

*Little kids:* 5 tomatoes. *Bonus:* 9 more tomatoes.

*Big kids:* 12 plants, since of the 16 plants, just 4 make a little square in the middle. *Bonus:* 100 plants.

*The sky’s the limit:* There are 6 ways: 2 left-to-right rows of 12 plants each, 3 rows of 8 each, 4 rows of 6 each, 6 rows of 4 each, 8 rows of 3 each, and 12 rows of 2 plants each.

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.