Play-doh, the colorful, squishy clay with the nice salty smell, can almost seem to come alive. You can cut it into diamonds and stars, you can shape it into animals, or you can pump out spaghetti strands. You can mix colors until they turn that murky overmixed-Playdoh brown, or holler when anyone lets the blue touch the totally clean white. If you do mix up colors, you’ll find that the more colors you mix, the less you have of each one – and that trade-off can make or break your creations.
Wee ones (counting on fingers): If you have Play-doh in the 3 primary colors – yellow, blue and red – and you make the 2 color combos that use yellow (orange and green), how many total colors do you have now?
Little kids: If you have 4 fresh colors of Play-doh – green, red, blue and orange – and you pair some of each one with some of each of the others, how many new color combos do you make? Bonus: If you decide half of the new colors came out kind of gross, but the other half would look really cool mixed with white, how many new combos do you end up with in total?
Big kids: If you have 1 container each of red Play-doh and white Play-doh, and you need half-and-half pink to make a pig, how much of each starting color should you use to end up with equal amounts of red, pink and white? Bonus: Suppose you’re making Play-doh zebras and a Play-doh sheep, which both need white Play-doh. If you need 3 lumps of white for each sheep and 2 same-sized lumps for each zebra, and you have 20 lumps of white Play-doh in total, how many animals you can make if you want the same number of each animal?
Wee ones: 5 colors.
Little kids: 6 new mixed combos: green with each of the other 3, then red with the remaining 2, then finally blue with orange. Bonus: 9 mixed colors in total, including the 3 with white.
Big kids: 1/3 container of each, so you end up with 2/3 container of red, 2/3 of white, and 2/3 of pink. Bonus: 4 of each animal. You’re making them in pairs to end up with the same number of zebras and sheep, and a pair uses 5 lumps. There are 4 sets of 5 in your 20 lumps of white.
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.