Big Bad Sue (the Dinosaur, That Is)


Students will gain a fresh appreciation for the size of “Sue,” the largest, most complete, and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex ever found. Using Sue's actual dimensions, they will solve word problems by employing basic mathematical operations.


Sue the dinosaur was discovered by a fossil hunter named Sue Hendrickson. In the summer of 1990, Hendrickson was working with a team of fossil hunters at a dig site in South Dakota. On the morning of August 12, the team decided to drive into the nearest town. Unfortunately, their truck had a flat tire. Hendrickson decided to stay behind while the other members of her team took the tire into town to have it patched.

As she was waiting for them to return, her attention was drawn to some sandstone cliffs several miles away. She hiked over to the cliffs, located in the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, and right away noticed some small bone fragments on the ground. She wondered where they had come from. Looking up, she spotted dinosaur bones in the cliffs themselves. She thought they looked as if they belonged to a T. rex. Later, when her team returned, they determined that what she had found were indeed the bones of a T. rex. They named it “Sue” in honor of Sue Hendrickson.


The species of dinosaur named Tyrannosaurus rex lived about 67 million years ago. Its name comes from the Greek and Latin words meaning “tyrant lizard.” Its legs were enormous, but its arms were only about the size of human arms and couldn't even reach its mouth. Scientists still don't understand how this mighty dinosaur used such tiny forelimbs.

After Sue Hendrickson's discovery in South Dakota, it took 17 days for a team of six fossil hunters to remove the dinosaur's bones from the ground. But that was only the beginning of their work. Another two years were required to clean and repair the bones. A T. rex skeleton has more than 250 bones. Sue the dinosaur is the most complete T. rex ever found. Most of her bones were uncovered at the dig site. Only a foot, an arm, a few ribs, and some vertebrae are missing. Her jaw contained 58 teeth. Throughout her lifetime, Sue was able to shed and regrow her teeth, which were razor-sharp while she lived.

What You Need

What to Do

  1. Tell students the story of Sue Hendrickson's discovery.
  2. Distribute copies of the Dinosaur Data worksheet to each student.
  3. Inform students that the solution to these worksheet problems depends upon basic mathematical operations, such as multiplication, division, subtraction, or addition.