Usually you aren’t supposed to pound on your toys with hammers, but then there’s the xylophone. This musical instrument has wooden bars of different lengths that you hit with “mallets” (hammer-like sticks) to play notes. This photo shows the Lancaster Percussion Ensemble playing GIANT xylophones the size of pianos — some need 2 people playing them! And this video shows a musician playing the super speedy “Flight of the Bumblebee.” That’s some fast hammering!
Wee ones: If you play 5 notes on your xylophone, what numbers do you say to count them?
Little kids: If you and 3 friends play a giant xylophone together and each one of you has 2 mallets, how many mallets do you all have? Bonus: If on your xylophone you play the notes C, E, G, then C again, E again and so on, what’s the 8th note you play?
Big kids: Xylophones are laid out like a piano keyboard. If each one has 3 whole “octaves” of notes, where each octave has 7 white keys and 5 black keys, how many keys can 1 xylophone have? Bonus: If you play all the white keys twice and your friend plays all the black keys 3 times through, who finishes first? (Assume you play your notes on the same beat.)
Wee ones: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5!
Little kids: 8 mallets total, since there are 4 people (remember to count yourself!). Bonus: E.
Big kids: 36 keys (3 sets of 12). Bonus: You finish first. You have to play 21 notes twice (42 in total), while your friend has to play 15 notes 3 times (45 in total).
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.