The riddle “Why is 6 afraid of 7” has delighted and confused children and adults alike for generations. On the surface, it seems nonsensical – why would the number 6 be afraid of the number 7? But concealed within this simple question is a clever play on words that reveals a deeper meaning. In this article, we’ll explore the origins of this riddle, analyze why it works so well, and provide tips for using it as a fun way to help kids learn math concepts. We’ll also include some variations on this classic riddle that put a new spin while still capturing that “aha!” moment when the answer clicks. So let’s dive in and demystify why 6 is so afraid of 7!
A Tricky Play on Words
The key to unraveling this riddle lies in homophones – words that sound the same but have different meanings. Specifically:
- Six = The number
- Sticks = Thin pieces of wood
So what happens when we substitute “sticks” for “six” in the riddle?
Why is sticks afraid of seven?
Suddenly it makes sense! Sticks sound the same as six, creating a play on words. And sticks would be afraid of seven because seven eight nine. Seven ate nine…as in devoured. This riddle takes advantage of the fact that many children learn to count and say numbers in sequence before they learn to spell them. So they are familiar with the sound of the numbers, even if they haven’t quite mastered the unique spelling of each one.
Why This Riddle Works So Well
There are a few key reasons why this simple play on words delights kids and adults alike:
The humor and silliness of sticks being “afraid” of a number because it might eat them is inherently amusing. It sparks the imagination and creates a funny visual.
When first posed with “Why is 6 afraid of 7?”, most people don’t anticipate a pun or play on words. The surprise factor and abrupt shift in meaning are unexpected and therefore delightfully entertaining.
It Teaches Sequencing
To get the joke, the listener has to mentally sequence the next numbers that come after 7. Recognizing number patterns and order is an early math skill, so this riddle provides practice in a fun context.
While the homophones of “six” and “sticks” make this riddle work perfectly in English, similar riddles can be created in other languages by substituting different words with the same sound. For example:
- French: “Pourquoi huit a peur de neuf?” (Why is “huit” afraid of “neuf”? Because neuf dix!)
- Spanish: “¿Por qué ocho tiene miedo a nueve?”
So the riddle translates well across cultures while still following the same structure.
Using This Riddle to Teach Math
Integrating playful content like riddles into math lessons can help keep kids engaged and motivate them to learn foundational concepts. Here are some ideas for incorporating “Why is 6 afraid of 7?” into teaching:
Use this riddle when teaching numeracy and number recognition. Write out the riddle sentence by sentence, leaving blanks for key numbers:
Why is ______ afraid of _______?Because ______ _______ ______!
Have students fill in the missing numbers, reinforcing the sequence and spelling for each one.
Skip Counting Patterns
Pose follow-up questions like “Who is 8 afraid of?” or “Is 3 afraid of 4?” prompting kids to apply skip counting patterns up and down the number line.
Math Art Project
Have students create their artwork to depict the riddle visually. They can draw six looking afraid, with seven next to an outline of the number 9. Get creative with different art materials!
Use this riddle as a jumping-off point to discuss real-world themes like bullying, fear, safety, and healthy relationships that tie into classroom learning.
Incorporate creative writing into the lesson by having students write a short story that explains why 6 is afraid of 7. What happened in the numbers’ past? Did 7 do something mean? Encourage imagination!
More Number Riddle Variations
While no riddle has quite the same punch as the original “Why is 6 afraid of 7?” there are many variations that follow a similar structure. Here are a few more number riddles to try:
Why was 10 afraid of 7?
Because 7 8 9!
Why should 7 stop bullying 9?
Because you should never hit 10!
Why can’t 2 and 4 play together anymore?
Because they had a fight and 6! You can create endless variations by substituting different numbers and punchlines. Just be sure the final phrase contains a number homophone that completes the joke.
On the surface “Why is 6 afraid of 7?” seems like an abstract, nonsensical riddle without an answer. But upon closer look, it reveals itself as an extremely clever play on words that connects sounds to create meaning. This simple riddle has endured across languages and cultures because it incorporates humor, surprise, and playfulness in a way that transcends age.
Next time you want to get kids excited about math, bring out this classic riddle and its numerous variations. With a bit of creativity, you can adapt it into all sorts of fun math lessons and activities. Just be prepared for some groans and laughs once that final pun lands! The silliness and surprise never seem to get old.
So why is 6 afraid of 7? Because 7 8 9!