The ant is one of the strongest animals out there. Sure, ants can carry only a crumb or a teeny piece of a leaf. But compared to their own body weight, ants rule. Some ants can carry 50 times their own weight! So our fan Sara D. asked, how long would it take for an army of ants to carry her across the U.S.? For starters, about 1,800 ants can lift 1 pound. So a 70-pound kid would need 70 of those armies, or 126,000 ants to do the job. But how fast are they? The fastest ants can run about 900 feet in an hour. So to travel the 2,680 miles across the US, even the speediest ants would need 15,722 hours for the trip, which is almost 2 years. Maybe it’s easier to take a plane!
Wee ones: Ants have 6 legs, like any insect. What numbers would you say to count them?
Little kids: If 1 ant takes 5 months to cross Texas and another ant takes 11 months, which ant walked more slowly? Bonus: If the ants start their trip in April, what is their 2nd month of walking?
Big kids: If ants start carrying you across the U.S. today (in June 2016), in what month will they finish if it takes 22 months? Bonus: In what month will you be halfway across?
The sky’s the limit: If really slow ants take 50 years to carry you across America, and your age at the end is 6 times your starting age, how old were you at the start?
Wee ones: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
Little kids: The ant that took 11 months. Bonus: May.
Big kids: In April 2018, since it’s just 2 months short of 2 years. Bonus: 11 months from now, which is May 2017.
The sky’s the limit: If your starting age was just 1/6 of the total, then the 50 years added the other 5/6 of the total. 50 is 5/6 of 60, so you began the trip at 60 – 50 = 10 years old.
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.