Many words have secret numbers hidden within! Discover them with this pair of quizzes. You can download a printable PDF quiz here.

A monorail on a raised track.

Sydney’s monorail was dismantled in 2013.

Image: Wikimedia Commons/Reinhard Dietrich

Geeky Greek

  1. How many rails does a monorail ride on?
  2. Carbon dioxide has how many oxygen atoms in each molecule?
  3. How many horns does a Triceratops have?
  4. In the computer game Tetris, how many squares is each shape made of?
  5. The pentatonic scale has how many notes?
  6. How many points on a hexagram?
  7. How many events in the heptathlon?
  8. An octopus has how many legs?
  9. How many sides on an enneagon?

    Two brightl coloured bicycles.

    Bicycles are a fun way to get around town.

    Image: Wikimedia Commons/Tomisti

  10. How many years in a decade?

Learned Latin

  1. How many cells in a unicellular organism?
  2. How many wheels on a bicycle?
  3. A trident has how many points?
  4. A quadruped has how many legs?
  5. How many babies in quintuplets?
  6. How many sextants would it take to measure a full circle?
  7. A septuagenarian is how many decades old?
  8. How many notes in an octave?
  9. November was originally which number month? (Before Numa Pompilius added January and February!)
  10. The decimal system has how many different digits?

    A sextant, used for navigation in the age of sail.

    Sextants were used to measure angles in the sky, and helped ships to navigate.

    Image: NOAA

What’s happening?

The answers to both quizzes are at the bottom, but you might have noticed that they follow a pattern!

English has borrowed a lot of words from other languages, especially those from Europe. Sometimes these borrowed words are added onto another word – if they are added on the front, it is called a prefix. In these quizzes, the number words all occur on the front, so they are all prefixes.

The ancient Greeks were very good at mathematics. Some ancient Greek textbooks, such as Euclid’s Elements, were so good they were studied for thousands of years. A lot of maths words are borrowed from ancient Greek, including ‘hexagon’, ‘arithmetic’ and ‘mathematics’.

The ancient Romans ruled over a large empire, which covered most of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Even after the fall of Rome, many people used the Roman language, Latin. Latin is still used in some Catholic masses, in the scientific names of species, and by lawyers. A lot of English words come from Latin – including the word ‘science’!

An octopus showing off its legs.

Octopuses and octopodes are both accepted ways of referring to more than one octopus.

Image: Wikimedia Commons/Pseudopanax


The answer to each question is actually the question number!

More information

Maths can reveal some amazing things about the words we use

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