This Week From Bedtime Math: Breakfast, by the Gallon

Would you eat a tree? What about the sticky stuff inside of one? Things get a little sappy as we (short)-stack up the syrup in today&s math challenge.
By Laura Overdeck
Jul 02, 2013



Jul 02, 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!  

When you drizzle a few spoons of real maple syrup onto your pancake or waffle, you're actually pouring gallons and gallons of tree sap onto your meal. It's just been boiled down into a smaller, much thicker, much yummier syrup for you.  Every March, all the maple-tree farms harvest the sap from their maple trees to make syrup.  They do this by basically sticking a "tap," or tube, into each tree and letting the sap drip out into a container.  It takes anywhere from 30 to 50 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. And, to get that sap, a farm has to tap acres and acres of trees. Thanks to the farms doing all that work for us, it's much easier for us to fit a bottle of syrup in the fridge.

Now that we've piqued for taste buds, try challenging your kids with these tasty math problems:

Wee ones: If you pour 2 teaspoons of syrup on each of your 3 waffles, how many teaspoons of syrup did you use?

Little kids: If you put 2 tablespoons of syrup on your pancake stack, and you need 40 times as much sap to make that syrup, how many spoons of sap did it take to make that much syrup?  Bonus: If a small maple tree can yield 8 tablespoons of sap, how many trees did it take to make your syrup?

Big kids: One farm makes about 600 gallons of syrup each spring, and has to tap 20 acres of trees to get the sap for it.  How many gallons of syrup does that farm make from each acre of trees? (Hint: to divide by 20, you can divide by 2, then by 10.)  Bonus: If this year, the farm needs 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup, how many total gallons of sap will it harvest this spring?

The sky's the limit: Suppose a diner serves 20 waffles and pancakes in total one morning – but you don't know how many of each.  All you know is that customers usually put 2 spoonfuls on each pancake, but 4 spoonfuls of syrup on each waffle, to fill all those little square holes.  If the customers use up 64 spoonfuls of syrup, how many pancakes and waffles did they serve?

Wee ones: 6 teaspoons.

Little kids: 80 spoons.  Bonus: 10 trees.

Big kids: 30 gallons of syrup per acre.  Bonus: 24,000 gallons of sap.

The sky's the limit: On this one, algebra is faster than guesswork.  If there are "w" waffles and "p" pancakes, then we have "w+p=20" in total, and "4w+2p=64" spoonfuls of syrup. The waffle numbers is "20-p," so if you stick that in, you get "4x(20-p)+2p," or "80-4p+2p=64" spoonfuls. That means "80-2p=64," so "2p" must equal 16, and "p" must be 8 pancakes. That leaves you with 12 waffles.

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