Bedtime Math: Storytime By The Numbers

Is there anything sweeter than snuggling under the covers with your child and reading a good book? Solving playful math problems together can be just as fun, says Laura Bilodeau Overdeck of Short Hills, N.J., the founder of Bedtime Math.

The astrophysics graduate and mother of three young children posts daily math problems to the nonprofit website so parents can help their kids “learn to love math as a leisure activity, like reading.”

The venture began a couple of years ago when Overdeck and her husband would occasionally make up funny story problems for their children at bedtime. Soon after, the kids were begging for nightly problems.

Overdeck, who often tries out new material on her own children first, launched Bedtime Math last February. Subscription is free, and she already has 20,000 followers worldwide on email and Facebook. Now she’s on a mission to reach a million—and to adjust our mindset regarding math. “You never hear an educated adult say: ‘I’m just not that good at reading,’ It would be ridiculous,” says Overdeck. “It should be just as silly sounding to say: ‘I’m not that good at math.’”

Because she sees Bedtime Math as analogous to storytime, Overdeck and her team are working hard to develop partnerships with libraries. They convinced more than 50 N.J. libraries to participate in a “Summer of Numbers” incentive program where kids earned gold stars for solving math problems. It was such a hit that the Bedtime Math team also plans to roll-out a problem solving pajama party this spring at libraries nationwide, and are running pilots this fall at several local libraries, including Maplewood’s.

Perhaps the most exciting news of all is that Overdeck is finalizing a book deal for three volumes based on Bedtime Math, to be published in late June.

Meanwhile, she continues to steadily win converts among kids–and their parents. Says Overdeck: “I love the notes I get from moms saying they, too, are enjoying math for the first time.”

Here’s a popular problem from Bedtime Math to share with your child tonight.

Eats Like a Bird

When we see someone eating a really small meal in teeny bites, we say that person “eats like a bird.”  The thing is, unlike those dainty nibblers, birds actually eat a lot.  They chow down more like the linebackers on a football team, except the birds eat more politely.

So how much do birds eat?  Some eat as much food in one day as their own body weight, or even double their weight.  But the winner might be the hummingbird, which can eat up to 12 times its weight in one day!   Well, when you flap your wings 80 times per second trying to suck nectar out of a flower, you work up an appetite.  Try flapping your arms that fast, and you might want to eat like a bird, too.

Wee ones (counting on fingers): If a bird eats 2 worms and twice as many beetles, how many snacks in total did the bird eat?

Little kids: If you tried to eat 10 times your weight in one day, how many pounds of food would that be?  Bonus: If M&Ms come in half-pound bags, how many bags of M&Ms would you have to eat that day?

Big kids: An average hummingbird weighs one-sixth of an ounce, about the same as 7 little M&Ms. If the hummingbird eats 10 times its weight in one day, how many M&MS would that be?  Bonus: If you weigh 5,000 times as much as that hummingbird, how many M&Ms would you have to eat to keep up?


  • Wee ones: 6 bugs in total.
  • Little kids: Different for everyone…tack an 0 onto the end of your weight!  Bonus: Double the first answer to get the number of bags.
  • Big kids: 70 M&Ms. Bonus: 350,000 M&Ms!

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