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The State at the Center of It All

by Laura Overdeck

The next state on our trip is the Sunflower State, better known as Kansas. There’s some cool math happening here: the geographic center of the lower 48 states is in Kansas! Over 100 years ago, surveyors balanced a cardboard cutout of the U.S. on a pin, and found the center was near a town called Lebanon, Kansas. It’s also the middle of “America’s Bread Basket,” since Kansas grows more wheat than any other state. You know what a half-gallon of milk looks like? A “bushel” is more than 18 of those put together, and the 20,000 wheat farms in Kansas grow 333 million bushels of wheat every year. That’s 1/5 of all the wheat in the country, and could make 36 BILLION loaves of bread. Let’s see how fast all of America can eat that!

Wee ones: If you make a sandwich with peanut butter, jelly, and 2 slices of bread, how many layers are in the sandwich?

Little kids: Pretend you’re like that piece of cardboard balancing on a pin. Stand on 1 leg, and count until you tip over. See how high a number you can reach! Bonus: If you take 3 hours to drive from Topeka (Kansas’ capital) to Lebanon, spend 2 hours balancing on 1 leg at the center of the US, and drive back in the same time it took to drive there, how long does your trip take?

Big kids: If Kansas makes 1/5 of all the wheat in the country, and no state makes more than it, can another state make 1/4 of all the wheat in the country? Bonus: If the wheat from Kansas can make 36 billion loaves of standard sandwich bread, how many loaves could it make if a baker made the loaves 3 times the size of standard sandwich bread?

The sky’s the limit: If a standard loaf of bread has 2 dozen slices, how many 2-slice sandwiches can you make with your 110 loaves from Kansas?










Wee ones: 4 layers.

Little kids: Different for everyone…see how long you can stand on 1 leg! Bonus: 8 hours, because 3 + 2 + 3 = 8.

Big kids: No, because 1/4 is bigger than 1/5. Bonus: 12 billion loaves, because baking loaves 3 times as big will make 1/3 of the 36 billion loaves, and 36 / 3 = 12.

The sky’s the limit: You can make 1,320 sandwiches. Each loaf makes 1 dozen, or 12, sandwiches. Using partial products: 12 x 110 = 12 x 100 + 12 x 10 = 1200 + 120 = 1,320.

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