It’s hard to believe that the thing in that picture is not a toy, but a real bug! Scientists found this creature in a rainforest in South America. The bug grows a little tuft of hair, almost like we do, except the bug’s hair is growing out of his butt, not his head (you can see his eyes at the other end). The bug is only about 1/4 inch long, so those hairs are really tiny. Scientists think these bugs grow that hair to avoid animals who try to eat them. If the animal bites the hair, the bug can let go of the hair and scoot to safety. Either way, a bug that looks like this can’t be too tasty.
Wee ones: If you hold 1 of these little hairy bugs on each of your fingers on 1 hand, how many bugs are you holding?
Little kids: All insects have 6 legs. If you have 2 legs, how many more legs does the bug have than you? Bonus: If you and a friend take this bug for a walk, how many legs do you all have together?
Big kids: If a lizard eats the hairy bug, then an ant, then a grasshopper, then a hairy bug to repeat…what’s the 38th bug it eats? See if you can figure it out without counting up! Bonus: If the bug’s hair is 1/10 of an inch long, and your hair is 30 times as long, how long is your hair?
Wee ones: 5 little hairy bugs.
Little kids: 4 more legs. Bonus: 10 legs all together.
Big kids: An ant. The 30th bug completes a set of three (ending on a grasshopper), as do the 33rd bug and the 36th. Bonus: 3 inches long.
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.