Ants may look tiny, but they’re famous for their strength: they can carry up to 50 times their own weight! They must be pretty hungry after all their hard work. So our friend and pizza fan Emmett L. asked, how many ants can a pizza feed? Well, an ant is small, so it can eat only about 1 milligram of food a day, or 1/1000th of a gram. A gram is about 1/30th of an ounce, and in turn an ounce is 1/2 of a your everyday 2-ounce candy bar…so that ant can eat only a really, really teeny piece. As for pizza, Pizza Hut’s 14-inch pie weighs about 30 ounces (a little less than 2 pounds). If an ant can eat 1/30,000th of an ounce, it can eat 1/900,000th of that pizza, so the pizza can feed 900,000 bugs – almost a million ants! As we’ll see here, a large 18-inch pizza will feed an even bigger crowd…if you take your pizza on a picnic, you’d better eat it fast.
Wee ones: Ants have 6 legs. If they hold up their pizza with legs 1 and 2, which numberlegs aren’t holding the pizza?
Little kids: If you, a (human) friend and an ant share a pizza, how many legs do you have all together? Bonus: If ants eat 1 of the 8 slices, how many ways can you and your friend share the other slices, if each of you gets at least 1?
Big kids: If you’re feeding pizza to 20 animals (people and ants) and there are 4 times as many ants as people, how many of each? Bonus: An ant actually eats about 1/4 its own weight each day. About how much would that be for you?
The sky’s the limit: An 18-inch pie is 9/7ths as wide as a 14-inch one – so its area grows by 9/7 x 9/7, or 81/49ths. If the smaller pizza can feed about 1 million ants, about how many can the large pizza feed? Feel free to round off the ratio!
Wee ones: Legs #3, 4, 5, 6.
Little kids: 10 legs. Bonus: 6 ways: 1 for you and 6 for your friend, then 2 and 5, 3 and 4, 4 and 3, 5 and 2, and 6 and 1.
Big kids: 16 ants and 4 people. Bonus: Different for everyone…divide your weight in pounds by 4.
The sky’s the limit: 1,600,000, since you can round off 81/49ths to a nicer neater 80/50ths, or 8/5ths.
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.