The World Cup is a big contest. Every 4 years, countries send their best soccer players (or football, as most countries call it) to try to win the top prize. That trophy is a ball, not a cup, but they still want to win it! The countries are clumped into groups of 4, and each team plays the other 3. The 2 winningest teams from each group go on to the round of 16. At that point, teams have to win each game to move on to the next. So the 16 teams chop down to 8, then down to 4, then to the 2 best teams left for the final game. It’s very, very hard to kick the ball into the goal, since the field is so huge. When someone does score, it’s a big deal!
Wee ones: Soccer is played with a ball. Try to find 3 ball shapes in your room.
Little kids: If Iceland becomes 1 of the 16 top teams, how many other teams are still in it with them? Bonus: If the top 9 teams lined up, which number team would be exactly in the middle?
Big kids: There are 8 groups with 4 teams in each, but only 1 will be the final winner. How many of those teams won’t win the World Cup? Bonus: In the group games, a country gets 3 points for a win, 1 point for a tie, and 0 points for a loss. In those 3 games, what’s the 1 total score between 0 and 9 that a country cannot get?
Wee ones: Ball shapes can include sports balls like tennis or baseball, toys like bouncy balls, or lightbulbs or world globes.
Little kids: 15 other teams. Bonus: Team #5.
Big kids: 31 teams. Bonus: A total score of 8. They can score any other total, e.g. 3=3+0+0 or =1+1+1, then 4=3+1+0…and so on. Try to work out all the rest!
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.