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This Week From Bedtime Math: Truck of Treats

How long have ice cream trucks been rolling around, and how many cones have they served up? The answer might surprise you in today's math challenge.
on August 12, 2014

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, every week, we'll be posting a new problem right here on Scholastic Parents!

Ice cream is always a treat. But somehow it's even more exciting when it comes out of an ice cream truck. Ice cream trucks are boxes of yumminess on wheels, rolling through the streets while playing a fun little song so everyone knows the truck is coming. It wasn't always so easy, though. For one, we couldn't have ice cream trucks until we had trucks; the motorized car wasn't invented until 1886. Then there's the freezing, which in the 1800s was hard work: heavy blocks of ice were made during the winter and stored underground, then delivered by horse and wagon. But eventually people figured out how to refrigerate using chemicals, and then the electric fridge was invented in 1913. Finally in 1920, Harry Burt, who first had the idea of coating ice cream with hardened chocolate on a popsicle stick, decided to drive around town to sell his new "Good Humor" bars. He loaded up 12 trucks, hired drivers dressed in clean white uniforms, and the rest is sticky, messy, yummy history.

Now that we've whetted your appetite, see if your kids can come up with the answers to these ice cream-inspired math challenges:

Wee ones: If your neighborhood ice cream truck carries SpongeBob popsicles, sundae cones, ice cream sandwiches, and Choco Tacos, how many different treats does it sell?

Little kids: Ice cream trucks often follow the same route so kids can find them. If your ice cream truck always drives 4 blocks north, 5 blocks west, and 1 block south to reach your home, how many blocks does it drive?  Bonus: If it stops after the 2nd block and then every 2 blocks after that, after which blocks does it make stops?

Big kids: Ice cream trucks make a lot of money for the amount spent up front. If you run a truck and spend \$20 on gas and \$40 on ice cream, but sell all the ice cream for \$95, how much extra money or "profit" did you make?  Bonus: If you find a better stop where you can charge more, for how much would you have to sell the ice cream to double your profit on those same costs?

Wee ones: 4 types of treats.
Little kids: 10 blocks.  Bonus: After the 2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th, and 10th blocks.
Big kids: \$35.  Bonus: \$130. You want to make \$70 profit now, and you still have costs of \$60.