Illinois is home to the city of Chicago, where the world’s first “skyscrapers” were built. But it’s also where the world’s first Ferris wheel was built! Back in 1893, Chicago hosted a giant fair called the World Expo. They needed something as exciting as the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. So a guy named George Washington Gale Ferris built a 264-foot-tall wheel that spun in place. This huge wheel had 36 cars that could each hold 60 people. One ride took 20 minutes: 11 minutes in the first full turn, including stops to let people on, and then a 9-minute non-stop ride. People loved it then, and still do. In the past 30 years, the record for tallest Ferris wheel has been broken 8 times. We can thank Illinois for wheeling us to new heights!
Wee ones: Ferris wheels, like all wheels, are circles. Can you find a circle near you?
Little kids: How much longer did the 11-minute spin take than the 9-minute spin on the world’s first Ferris wheel? Bonus: If you ride up a Ferris wheel for 4 minutes, stop at the top for twice as long as that, and then ride down for 2 minutes, how many minutes long is your ride?
Big kids: If a Ferris wheel has 15 triangular sections, and 3 spokes in each of those sections, how many spokes does it have? Bonus: If that first Ferris wheel had to make 6 stops to fill its 36 cars, how many cars were filled on each stop?
The sky’s the limit: If the first Ferris wheel could hold 60 people in each of its 36 cars, and took 20 minutes per ride, how many people could ride it in 1 hour?
Wee ones: Circles might include buttons, clocks, coins, the bottom or top of a cup, and many other objects!
Little kids: 2 minutes longer. Bonus: 14 minutes: you take 8 minutes at the top, and 4 + 8 + 2 = 14.
Big kids: 45 spokes. Bonus: 6 cars, because 36 / 6 = 6.
The sky’s the limit: 6,480 people every hour. 6 x 360 = 2,160 people in a 20-minute ride. Since 60 minutes / 20 = 3, they can fit 3 rides of 2,160 people in 1 hour, and 2,160 x 3 = 6,480.
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.