Today is Valentine’s Day, and there’s candy everywhere — including those tiny sugar hearts with words printed on them. The idea is almost as old as love itself. Back in the 1700s American colonists would scratch messages like “Be Mine” onto candy to give to their sweethearts. But in 1860 the New England Confectionery Company figured out how to print them with a machine, making zillions of hearts at once. NECCO makes about 8 billion candy hearts every year, using the same recipe and machines from over 100 years ago. The question is, which love message shows up the most often?
Wee ones: How many purple candy hearts can you count in the photo?
Little kids: How many letters does a “Be Mine” heart have on it? Bonus: How many more or fewer letters would a heart with your first name on it have?
Big kids: If NECCO makes 8 billion candy hearts every year, how many have been made since you were born? Bonus: If NECCO made 100,000 pounds of hearts today and you ate 1 pound all yourself, how many pounds does that leave for everyone else?
Wee ones: 2 purple hearts.
Little kids: 6 letters. Bonus: Different for everyone…subtract 6 from the number of letters in your name, or subtract that number from 6.
Big kids: Different for everyone…take your age in years and multiply by 8, then tack on 9 zeros, or the word “billion”! Bonus: 99,999 pounds.
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.