This Week From Bedtime Math: Made It by a Whisker

Everyone knows cats have 9 lives, but do they also have more than 5 senses? Find out in this fun challenge from Bedtime Math!
By Laura Overdeck
Nov 18, 2014



This Week From Bedtime Math: Made It by a Whisker

Nov 18, 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!
Cats are furry and fuzzy all over, but the most important bit of fluff might be a cat's whiskers. Cats' whiskers are super-sensitive, meaning when the whiskers brush against anything, cats really feel it. The whiskers stretch across the same width as the body, so they help the cat figure out if it can squeeze through an opening. In fact, you never want to trim (cut) those whiskers because it will leave the cat dizzy and confused. What's really interesting is that beyond the 8-12 whiskers on each side of their nose, cats also have whiskers above their eyes, on their chin, and on the backs of their front legs. All those whiskers help a cat feel its way around and wrestle with prey. The nose whiskers also show a cat's mood: whiskers sticking straight out show that a cat is calm; whiskers tilted forward are excited and alert; and whiskers flattened back show anger or fear. It's hard to count all those whiskers, but we can definitely count on them looking cute.

Now see if your children can come up with the answers to these cat-inspired math problems:

Wee ones: If a cat's whiskers reach 8 inches across and a hole in the wall is 9 inches wide, will the cat think it can sneak through?

Little kids: If a cat has 10 whiskers on each side of its nose, how many does it have?  Bonus: What if it has 12 on each side – how many in total now?

Big kids: The whiskers on a cat's eyes, chin and legs are tinier and harder to count. But if a cat had 9 whiskers on each side of its nose, above each eye, and behind each front paw, how many whiskers would that be in total?  Bonus: If a cat's height, body length, and tail length add up to 40 inches, and the tail is 2 inches longer than the cat's height and its body is 6 inches longer than its tail, how long is the cat's tail? (Hint if needed: What would be the total if the tail and body shrank to match the height?)
Wee ones: Yes! The hole is wider than its whiskers.

Little kids: 20 whiskers.  Bonus: 24 whiskers.

Big kids: 54 whiskers (6 sets of 9).  Bonus: 12 inches long. If they were all the same as the height, the tail would lose 2 inches and the body would lose 8 (since it's 6 more than the tail, which is 2 more than the height). So they'd add up to 30, and the height would be 1/3 of that, or 10 inches. The tail is 2 inches longer, giving us 12 inches (you can show this with algebra: h + (h+2) + (h+2+6)=40).

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