When you turn on the faucet, have you ever wondered where that water comes from? Or why it sprays out so fast? Water comes from many places, but to make it across town to your house, it first has to be pumped up into a water tower. It’s just a giant tank high up off the ground. When the water comes back down, it pushes down on itself and rushes through the pipes underground. So our friends Elijah and Shane S. asked us, how much water does a water tower hold, and why are water towers so high off the ground? The higher they are, the farther the water has to fall and the faster it goes; also, the more weight of water at the top pushing down on the water below. Water towers come in all sizes, but hold about 1 day’s worth of water needed for its town. It can be a million gallons or more — that’s 50 times as much as a swimming pool! Thankfully, we get to swim in that water, but do all kinds of other things with it, too.
Wee ones: Hold a glass under a faucet, turn on the water, and count “1 alligator, 2 alligator…” until it’s full. How many seconds (alligators) did it take? Try again running it faster!
Little kids: If it takes 1 minute to fill a big bucket of water from your faucet, but 10 minutes to fill your bathtub, how much longer did the tub take? Bonus: If your tub holds 40 gallons, how would you count those up counting by 10s?
Big kids: Can you “spell” the number 1 million in digits? Bonus: A fire hydrant gushes water really fast: up to 1,500 gallons a minute or more! If your pool party starts 20 minutes from now and your pool needs 28,000 gallons, will that hydrant fill it in time?
Wee ones: Different for everyone’s faucet…see what you get!
Little kids: 9 minutes more. Bonus: 10, 20, 30, 40.
Big kids: 1,000,000. Bonus: Yes! The hydrant will put out 30,000 gallons.
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.