Count on Bugs for Math Fun

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.

Count on Bugs for Math Fun

July 21, 2014


Summer brings lots of creepy crawlies and buzzing bugs. Many kids are naturally curious about our six-legged friends, but learn to fear them based on adult reactions. Take a positive approach to these multi-legged invaders and catch (and release) them for observation.

Make a Bug Hotel

All you need to create a mini bug hotel is two clear plastic cups, some screening or netting (window screen material or a little bit of tulle from the fabric store works), a rubber band for securing the screening, and, of course, insects! A magnifying glass is a fun tool to add if you have one on hand.

1. Chop the bottom off of one cup.

2. Wrap the netting/screening around the bottom of the cut cup and secure with the rubber band.

3. Decorate the other cup near the rim, if you wish.

4. Scoop up bugs and then place the cup with the netting/screening inside the other cup so the bus stay put while you are checking them out.

See how many bugs you can catch–is it easier to catch crawling bugs or flying bugs?

The bugs you catch are arthropods–a scientific classification (phylum) of animals with exoskeletons that includes insects, arachnids (like spiders), and myriapoda (like centipedes and millipedes).

Count Those Legs

The main way you can tell the bugs apart is by counting…their legs! Insects, like beetles, ants, and bees, generally have six legs. Arachnids have eight legs. Myriapoda means many legs and that’s what these bugs have!

Centipede means one hundred legs but really they have fewer. Centipedes usually have an odd number of pairs of legs, 15 or 17, for example. A centipede with 15 legs on each side of its body (15 pairs) has 30 feet! Any two odd numbers added together will equal an even number. Think about humans for a minute, we have an odd number of fingers on each hand, but an even number of fingers on our body.

Back to the critters, millipede means one thousand legs and they can have more than centipedes but the most legs on a millipede is 375 pairs. How many more feet would it need to truly be a millipede? Most millipedes have between 36 to 400 legs.

At first glance, a caterpillar may seem to have more than six legs but, as an insect, it has only six “true” legs–the rest are “pro-legs” for gripping and climbing leaves.

Friendly Insects

If you are lucky enough to catch a ladybug, try counting its spots. You cannot tell a ladybug’s age by its number of spots but you can sometimes identify its species. Some ladybugs have no spots and one species has 24 spots.

Lighting bugs, or fireflies, are especially fun to catch and observe. Can you find any patterns to the way they light up?

Catch and count your bugs and you will be well on your way to understanding the arthropods that share your backyard!

Feeling buggy for more math?

Don’t miss these fun problems from our archives: firefly math, ladybug math, and holy moly are these guys crazy looking bristle brush bug math.

Image courtesy of Kim Moldofsky

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About the Author

Candace Lindemann

Candace Lindemann, of Naturally Educational, is a nationally recognized and quoted educational expert and published children's writer who holds a B.A. from Yale University and an M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education,

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