Rainbow Sheep

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.

Rainbow Sheep

April 13, 2014

When we think of sheep, we think of fluffy white sheep, or maybe black ones from the song “Baa Baa Black Sheep”…or maybe just slightly brown, slightly dirty, slightly smelly sheep. We definitely don’t think of pink sheep or green sheep. That’s why a farmer in Scotland dyed his sheep different colors: anyone who drives by just has to stop and look. As shown here, he’s put them in all kinds of bright colors, from blue to yellow to purple. The sheep don’t seem to care, and when he shears their wool to make sweaters, the wool will already shine in beautiful colors. With each sheep giving enough wool for 8 sweaters, that’s a lot of ready-to-wear Scottish sweaters.

Wee ones: How many sheep in the picture are either green or blue? Are there more or fewer red sheep?

Little kids: If the farmer dyed 3 sheep pink and 7 sheep purple, how many eye-catching sheep is that?  Bonus: If he then dyed that same number of sheep blue, now how many colored sheep does he have?

Big kids: If the farmer dyes 6 sheep green, how many green sweaters will they make at 8 sweaters per sheep?  Bonus: If the farmer wants 61 blue sweaters, how many sheep does he need to dye blue?

The sky’s the limit: If you have sheep in 5 colors – pink, purple, green, blue and yellow – and you’re making striped sweaters with any 3 different colors of stripes, how many different color combos can you make IF the green sheep and blue sheep say their colors clash and can’t be together in a sweater?




Wee ones: We see 4 of them: 1 green sheep, 1 blue sheep and 2 turquoise sheep. That’s more than the 1 red sheep.

Little kids: 10 sheep.  Bonus: 20 colorful sheep.

Big kids: 48 sweaters.  Bonus: He’ll need to dye 8 sheep, since 7 sheep will give him only 56 sweaters.

The sky’s the limit: To start, this is a 5-choose 3 math problem, which is the same as a 5-choose-2 (pick the two colors you won’t use in each combo). There are 10 possible missing pairs of colors, so there are 10 possible sweater combos.  Only 3 of those color combos have both green and blue, i.e. green and blue with each of the other 3 colors.  So there should be 7 sweater sets that the sheep can agree on.

And thank you Linda F. for introducing us to these stylin’ sheep!

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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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