A Very Busy Picnic

Here's your nightly math! Just 5 quick minutes of number fun for kids and parents at home. Read a cool fun fact, followed by math riddles at different levels so everyone can jump in. Your kids will love you for it.

A Very Busy Picnic

April 3, 2016

Spring is picnic time, and wherever there’s a picnic, ants want to join in. So our friend and fan Annika S. asked, how many ants would it take to cover your whole yard? Well, even the biggest ants are pretty tiny compared to a big backyard. A carpenter ant is about 1/2 inch long and about 1/8 inch wide, so you could line up 2 rows of 8 ants each in that little square inch, or 16 ants. But for ants 1/2 as long, you can fit 32. Let’s round off to 20 as our guess. Now, the average yard in America is 1/5 acre. An acre is 66 feet by 660 feet, or 43,560 squares that are 1 foot wide by 1 foot long. 1/5 of that gives us 8,712 square feet. But each of those square feet has 12 rows of 12 little square inches in it, or 144. So we get more than a million square inches – about 1,255,000 – and with 20 ants in each, that’s 25 million ants! You’d better bring a lot of sandwiches on that picnic to feed all your new friends.

Wee ones: If your yard is a square, how many sides does it have?

Little kids: If you and your pet ant go on a picnic, how many legs do you have together?  Bonus: If the 1st ant that shows up takes a bite of sandwich, then the 4th ant, then the 7th ant…does the 12th ant take a bite?

Big kids: If you go out at 1:40 pm for your picnic, and ants show up 1 1/2 hours later, when do they show up?  Bonus: How many legs do 60 million ants have?

The sky’s the limit: If your picnic blanket is 100 inches long and 60 inches wide, how many ants can hang out on there, if they can still fit 20 per square inch?




Wee ones: 4 sides.

Little kids: 8 legs.  Bonus: No, since it will be the 10th and 13th.

Big kids: At 3:10 pm.  Bonus: 360 million legs!

The sky’s the limit: 120,000 ants, since they have 100 x 60 or 6,000 square inches to fill.

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About the Author

Laura Overdeck

Laura Overdeck

Laura Bilodeau Overdeck is founder and president of Bedtime Math Foundation. Her goal is to make math as playful for kids as it was for her when she was a child. Her mom had Laura baking while still in diapers, and her dad had her using power tools at a very unsafe age, measuring lengths, widths and angles in the process. Armed with this early love of numbers, Laura went on to get a BA in astrophysics from Princeton University, and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business; she continues to star-gaze today. Laura’s other interests include her three lively children, chocolate, extreme vehicles, and Lego Mindstorms.

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