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Illustrations by David Coulson; DidGason/ (clover)


CCSS: 6.SP.B.4, 6.SP.B.5, 7.SP.B.3, 8.SP.A.1, MP1, MP5, MP6

TEKS: 6.12A, 6.12B, 6.12C, 6.12D, 6.13A, 7.6G, 7.12A, 8.5C, 8.11A


Are You Superstitious?

Do you knock on wood to prevent a jinx? Do you avoid opening an umbrella indoors? Are you spooked by Friday the 13th? Well, get ready! March 13 is the first Friday the 13th of 2020. This supposedly unlucky date typically occurs once or twice a year. But it’s a relatively new superstition that evolved from two older ones.

“Many superstitions originate from ancient traditions that gave symbols—like animals, numbers, and shapes—evil or protective properties,” says Donald Saucier, a psychologist at Kansas State University. “By avoiding black cats or throwing salt over their shoulders, people were able to believe they could better control what happened to them.”

The number 13 was considered unlucky in Norse, Maya, and Christian traditions, explains Saucier. This superstition has persisted since then. Many modern hotels and tall buildings will not have a “13th” floor, instead numbering the floor above the 12th floor as the 14th floor.

Fridays have been considered unlucky since medieval times. The two superstitions morphed into Friday the 13th sometime in the 1800s. When Thomas Lawson published a stock market-based scare novel titled Friday, the Thirteenth, in 1907, the superstition was firmly planted in popular culture. Even former president Franklin D. Roosevelt was a believer—along with 13% of Americans!

Google Quiz

Click the Google Quiz button below to share an interactive version of the questions with your class. Click Download PDF for the non-interactive blank answer sheet.

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Answer the following questions using the information in the charts and graphs above. Record your work and answers on our answer sheet.

What percent of U.S. adults ages 45-64 are superstitious?

A. 6%

B. 11%

C. 18%

D. 22%

Which age group had the greatest share of superstitious respondents?

A. 18-29

B. 30-44

C. 45-64

D. 65+

What percent of survey respondents said that opening an umbrella indoors is bad luck?

A. 13%

B. 14%

C. 21%

D. 33%

About how many people surveyed think a black cat crossing your path is bad luck?

A. 127

B. 224

C. 291

D. 324

The same number of people think it’s bad luck to open an umbrella indoors as ________.

A. knocking on wood

B. walking under a ladder

C. a black cat crossing your path

D. breaking a mirror

About how many more people think walking under a ladder is bad luck than think breaking a mirror is?

A. 82

B. 134

C. 155

D. 179

How many 30-44-year olds would you expect to be superstitious in a group of 350?

What percent of the activities in “American Superstitions” are considered lucky, rounded to the nearest percent?

Is your 70-year-old grandparent or 19-year-old cousin more likely to be superstitious? Explain your reasoning.

Poll your class on what superstitions they believe in. Customize your own poll using the Google form below. Then make a circle graph of the results.

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