Getting Carried Away – by 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.

Getting Carried Away – by Ants

November 14, 2015

And yet another wild question from a fan: Sophia Y. wants to know, how many ants would it take to pick you up and carry you? That sounds pretty itchy, but let’s do the math to find out. Ants are famous for being strong: a leafcutter ant can carry 50 times its own weight! Of course, an ant weighs only about a thousandth of a gram, or 1/200th of a gram tops. So at most an ant can carry about 1/4 gram. A gram is only 1/28th of an ounce, and an ounce is 1/16th of a pound…so it would take several hundred ants to pick up each pound of the person. There are plenty of ants to do the job: scientists think there are about 1 million trillion ants on Earth, or one quintillion — and that together they weigh the same as all of us humans! So before we get carried away here, let’s figure out how many ants each of you would need to get a lift.

Wee ones: Who has more legs, you or one of those 6-legged ants?

Little kids: If 4 ants can pick up a 1-gram paper clip, how many ants does it take to pick up 2?  Bonus: Which needs more ants to pick it up, a 16-oz bag of chips or a 24-ounce bag of cookies?

Big kids: If you carried a truck that weighed 50 times your weight, how heavy would that be? (You can round off your weight to the nearest multiple of 10 if you like.)  Bonus: If we round off that it takes 500 ants to carry 1 pound, how many ants does it take to carry you?

 

 

 

Answers:
Wee ones: The ant has more legs.

Little kids: 8 ants.  Bonus: The bag of cookies.

Big kids: Different for everyone…multiply your weight in pounds by 50.  Bonus: Again, different for everyone…multiply your weight by 500, which is the same as your previous answer here times 10. Now try imagining that many ants!

And thank you again Sophia for some very antsy math! If any of you out there has a question you’d like us to solve, just send it in to feedback@bedtimemath.org and we’ll give it a try!

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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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