Home Sweet Home for Ants

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.

Home Sweet Home for Ants

September 9, 2015

If you’ve ever felt like your home is crowded, imagine what it must be like for ants. They live in anthills, which have rows and rows of tiny underground tunnels. For your usual North American ant, about 4,000 ants can live in a colony that’s just 5 feet deep. The pile of dirt you see in the grass is just the tippy top of that anthill: it’s the leftover dirt that the worker ants dug out from below. In this video sent by Bedtime Math fan Tyger W., a guy poured molten (melted) aluminum down an anthill hole to see what would happen. The metal filled up all the little tunnels and then cooled into a giant chunk. As he digs out the huge anthill and rinses it off, we see what the inside of an anthill looks like. It’s like a crazy mini-apartment building! We can’t even try to count all those little hallways, but there’s a lot of other math to check out.

Wee ones: Who has more legs, you or an ant? An ant is an insect, so it has 6 legs…

Little kids: How many more legs than you does an ant have?  Bonus: If this anthill stuck 4 inches above ground but is 18 inches tall in total, how much of its height was hiding below ground?

Big kids: If this anthill has about 20 “stories” (layers of tunnels) and 40 ants can live on each story, how many ants could have lived there?  Bonus: How many more ants would need to move in to reach 4,000 ants? (Hint if needed: How many more would they need to reach 1,000?)




Wee ones: An ant has more legs.

Little kids: 4 more legs.  Bonus: 14 inches.

Big kids: 800 ants.  Bonus: 3,200 more ants.

And thank you again Tyger W. for sending us this math topic idea!

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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 before she could walk, 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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