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This Week From Bedtime Math: From Flower to Fluff to Flower

Find out how quickly this misunderstood monster can multiply.
on September 10, 2013

What is Bedtime Math? A message from Laura: Bedtime Math is a pretty simple idea: We all know we should read to our kids at night, but what about math? My husband and I have done fun, mischief-loaded math problems with our kids at night for years, and when at age 2 our third child started hollering for his own math problem, we realized we were onto something:  In a world where so many people say, "Ewww, math!" we had created a household culture where kids don't just tolerate math, they actually seek it out. Now we email parents a fun, lively math problem every day to do with their kids – and every week, we'll be posting a new problem right here on Scholastic Parents!

You know those cute yellow flowers you see growing among the grass? The flowers that turn into a poof of white fluffs that float away when you blow on them to make a wish? Those flowers are called dandelions, and as bright and friendly-looking as they are, a lot of grown-ups can't stand them. Dandelions are weeds, meaning they suck up more than their fair share of water and nutrients from the soil, so they make it harder for grass to grow. The funny thing is, until the 1800s, people used to tear up their lawns to grow dandelions on purpose. It's not surprising: not only do dandelions look beautiful, but every part of the flower is either edible or medicinal. It hardly matters whether we like dandelions or not, as they're pretty determined to multiply: with each flower holding up to 400 seeds that can travel as far as 5 miles, dandelions do a great job of taking over our lawns.

Now that you know how great dandelions are at multiplying, see how well your kids do at handling these math challenges.

Wee ones: If you have 7 dandelions on your lawn and 4 of those have turned to fluff, how many are still bright yellow flowers?

Little kids: If each time you blow on a dandelion to make a wish you blow 5 seeds free, how many wishes until you get 20 seeds to fly off?  Bonus: If half the seeds you blow become flowers, how many flowers will you have?

Big kids: A dandelion can have up to 400 seeds, but the average is around 180.  If you have a maximum-fluff dandelion, how many more seeds do you have than the average?  Bonus: If you blow on the 180-seed flower and 2/3 of the seeds break free and float away, and of those, half grow into flowers, how many new dandelions have you caused?

Wee ones: 3 yellow flowers.
Little kids: 4 wishes.  Bonus: 10 flowers.
Big kids: 220 more seeds.  Bonus: 60 new flowers, because half of 2/3 is 1/3 of the original number.