Balloon Explosion

Here's your nightly math! Just 5 quick minutes of number fun for kids and parents at home. Read a cool fun fact, followed by math riddles at different levels so everyone can jump in. Your kids will love you for it.

Balloon Explosion

December 8, 2013

Maybe you’ve been to a party where a balloon expert twists long, skinny balloons into a dog, a giraffe or some other crazy shape. Usually these squishy, bouncy animals use only 4-5 balloons total. So imagine the excitement in Tasmania, Australia, where the local radio station gathered folks to break the world record for the largest balloon structure ever. DJ Michael AhMazing and his followers looped together a whopping 87,930 round balloons to make a giant Wiggles car. During the event one participant made his own blistering speed record of 84 balloons in 2 minutes. Fortunately balloons filled with regular air don’t float, or that car would be gone into the sky by now.

Wee ones: How many colors can you count inside each black tire?

Little kids: If they wanted to make a window by taking away 100 balloons, how many balloons would come out to make 2 windows?  Bonus: If each wheel hubcap had 4 colored chunks as hubcap sections, how many chunks did 4 tires have altogether?

Big kids: If each of the wheels used 50 balloons for each of the 4 hubcap sections plus another 100 for the tires, how many did each whole wheel need altogether?  Bonus: If all 4 tires used the same amount, how many more balloons were needed to make the 87,000-balloon car?

The sky’s the limit: It looks like the car used 5 colors of balloons: mostly red, plus blue, yellow, purple and black. If there are 20 times as many red balloons as yellow, half as many black as yellow, the same number of blue as purple, and twice as many black as blue and purple together, how many of each balloon color did the car use if there were exactly 87,000?




Wee ones: 4 colors: blue, red, purple and yellow.

Little kids: 200 balloons.  Bonus: 16 colored chunks.

Big kids: 300 balloons.  Bonus: You’re taking away 1,200 balloons total, so 85,800 more.

The sky’s the limit: There are 80,000 red balloons, 4,000 yellow, 2,000 black, and 500 each of blue and purple. The fastest way to solve this is to use algebra: using K for black and B for blue, we have:

K=2(B+P), which you can also write as B+P=1/2 K, and since B=P, 2B=1/2 K so K=4B (or 4P)
Then we know Y=2K, which is therefore 8B
As for red, R=20Y, which is 160B.
In this case they all add up to 87,000, so 87,000 = R+Y+K+B+P
= 160B+8B+4B+B+B
= 174B

So B = a nice neat 500 blue balloons, giving 500 purple as well, and then 2,000 black, 4,000 yellow, and 80,000 red.

And a big, BIG thank-you to Huw R. for sharing this amazing, number-filled story with us!

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About the Author

Laura Overdeck

Laura Overdeck

Laura Bilodeau Overdeck is founder and president of Bedtime Math Foundation. Her goal is to make math as playful for kids as it was for her when she was a child. Her mom had Laura baking while still in diapers, and her dad had her using power tools at a very unsafe age, measuring lengths, widths and angles in the process. Armed with this early love of numbers, Laura went on to get a BA in astrophysics from Princeton University, and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business; she continues to star-gaze today. Laura’s other interests include her three lively children, chocolate, extreme vehicles, and Lego Mindstorms.

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