Friday, April 1, 2011

The Joke That Wasn't

An April Fool's to remember this one! Kiddo's voice turned all hoarse and for one stricken moment, I actually thought it had cracked. That puberty was hitting sooner than expected (he sure has been acting prepubescent!). Turns out poor kid had a hoarse throat and all the sneezes he'd been producing from a few days before were not due to the dust that's been collecting at home. He started burning up soon after.

I'd planned for him to finish a little math homework today so those plans were of course (happily for him) abandoned. It was a lovely, sunny day outside (feeling bad for the East Coasters who are still under layers of snow!) but he was only able to enjoy it for a few minutes. He spent the morning doing what he likes best. Cuddled up in his blanket and reading his math, puzzle, and Horrible Books.

The day away from planned lessons turned out to be quite interesting because we (or rather he...I'm just his sounding board) discovered a really cool concept called cyclic numbers. Take for example, the number 142857. Multiply by two and you get 285714. Notice how they are both made of the same digits and that the digits "cycled" through? Multiply it by three and you get 428571. Isn't that neat? For a nice layman's explanation, read this. He read about cyclic numbers in his Number Freak book (highly recommended!).

Another fun activity we did, when he began feeling better today, was to play a Needle Pie game. Instead of needles, we used toothpicks. The idea is that if you drop 100 needles (see why we used toothpicks?) arbitrarily over a set of parallel lines, then divide 100 (the number of needles) with the number of needles that end up touching a line, you'll get a ratio that will come close to 3.14!

The lines have to be drawn two needle lengths (toothpick lengths for us) apart. It's supposed to be more accurate when you use a larger number of needles. So we dropped 100 toothpicks and that got us to 3.03 but dropping 115 toothpicks got us to 2.33. We decided that we hadn't thrown the toothpicks arbitrarily enough (lol). Being the curious, not easily satisfied souls we are, we plan to buy another box of toothpicks to see if dropping 500+ toothpicks works better. Idea from one of the books in Fabrice Mazza's Big Book of Puzzles series.
Well, this is the kind of fun kiddo likes getting up to when he's sick but not too sick.
Hope you're having a healthier beginning of April dear reader!


  1. Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa ( may be another solution to hoarse and sore throat. i know a lot of people use it, its also non alcoholic, though it's effectiveness is not as good as alcohol based cough medicine, but it's still good to use on not so serious sore or hoarse throat. Hope you are getting well soon!!!

  2. The best times of learning seem to occur when we least expect it! Hope kiddo feels better soon!

  3. Poor kiddo! Hope he's feeling better soon.

  4. Interesting that the sequence of cyclic numbers is the same as the numbers after the decimal when you represent sevenths. 1/7 = .142857..., 2/7 = 285714..., 3/7 = .428571..., etc. I'll be checking out the Number Freak book--thanks for the tip!

  5. Thanks so much everyone for your well wishes! Kiddo is feeling a lot better today although he's still hoarse.

    Risa, isn't it fabulous how the sevenths do that? I am now researching to see how that relates to pi (22/7). The next fraction that does it is the seventeenths if you're interested. :)

  6. Number Freak arrived today from Amazon (bargain book - $6!). My son (8) is supposed to be going to bed, but keeps popping out of his room to tell us what's cool about numbers. It's a hit!

  7. That's AWESOME Stephanie! Both that he likes it and that you got it for $6! I'm so glad we picked ours up because it's one of kiddo's best friends. Hope it remains a hit! :)

  8. I showed my husband your toothpick-drop picture, and he thinks you might have to drop the toothpicks one-by-one to get the correct result. The toothpicks interacting with one another in the air and crossing on the ground could be throwing things off. I think it's time to learn to program a simulation...


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