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In the frame: One Hundred Hungry Ants

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By Cherri Moseleyprimary teacher

In this new series, we will be using a different picture book each month to help you teach the Renewed Primary Framework creatively

one-hundred-hungry-ants book cover.jpg

You can get so much out of a good book. This is one of my favourite mathematical stories for young children. First and foremost, it is a fabulous story that is perfectly pitched for Key Stage 1 children. Secondly, the mathematical content is intrinsic to the story and not simply an add-on. Through this story you can cover several of the Primary Framework objectives for mathematics in Years 1 and 2.

The main focus of the activities is on problem solving using multiplication and division. However, estimating, rounding, doubling and fractions also occur, as does partitioning, addition and subtraction.


In One Hundred Hungry Ants by Elinor J Pinczes, illustrated by Bonnie Mackain (Houghton Miffin, ISBN 0395631165), a soft breeze carries the suggestion of a picnic to 100 hungry ants. The littlest ant tells the other ants that marching in single file will take too long, so organises them into lines of 50, then 25, then 20, then ten. Will they get there before all the food is eaten?

Read and enjoy the book with the children the day before you intend to use it for a mathematical focus. Have fun with the story, and get the children to join in with the obvious choruses such as:

We’re going to a picnic! A hey and a hi dee ho!


There’ll be lots of yummies for our hungry tummies, A hey and a hi dee ho!

Ant activities

The following activities are suitable for both Year 1 and Year 2 classes. You will need to decide where to start and how far to go with each activity, depending on the needs of your class.

  • A hundred hungry ants could travel in twos, fives or tens – but how many groups are there each time? Cut up 0 to 100 numberlines or blank 100 squares to find out, or investigate verbally by dropping a counter or cube into a container as you say each multiple. When you reach 100, count the cubes to find out how many groups there are.
  • Cut up 0 to 100 numberlines or blank 100 squares to demonstrate each calculation in the story. Blank 100 squares help to avoid confusion when counting the squares after cutting. Write the division calculation next to each set of pieces. Photocopy the numberlines or squares onto different coloured paper. Give each child a range of colours to avoid mixing pieces of different lines. Revisit this work the next day, asking how many groups of ten, 20, 25 and 50 there are. Write the corresponding multiplication calculation next to each division calculation. Use the paired sums to introduce the idea of inverse calculations. Look at each pair of calculations and tell the matching ant story.
  • Study the picture where the ants are racing here and there. Estimate how many ants are in the picture and then count to check. Calculate how many ants are missing by subtracting the mini swarm from 100. Use blank 100 squares to support the calculation; each small square represents one ant. Colour in the appropriate number of squares, using either the columns or rows as tens. Count the remaining squares to work out how many ants are missing. Focus on using the rows or columns as tens for useful practice at partitioning numbers into tens and units.
  • Clone a small ant on your interactive whiteboard to create a swarm of hungry ants. Ask the children to estimate how many there are. Mark off groups of ten, five or two as appropriate to count. Count one swarm in all three ways to show that the total is the same however you count. Give the children the opportunity to refine their estimate part way through, and discuss why they want to change it. Print out other swarms for the children to estimate and count. Extend the activity to include rounding to the nearest ten.
  • Use blank 100 squares to calculate change from £1. Each small square is worth 1p. Colour in the amount spent – the remaining amount is the change. This activity is another useful reminder of partitioning numbers into tens and units and a good way of reinforcing 100p = £1.
  • Investigate doubling. Start at 1, double it, then keep doubling each answer. Can you reach 100? Try starting at different numbers. If you cannot reach 100, how close can you get? Investigate halving. Start from 100, halve it, then keep halving each answer. Can you reach 1? Compare the two sets of results.
  • Investigate 100 ants. How many legs are there? How many heads, eyes, antennae? Ask the children to do the same for their own body parts. How many legs does the class have in total? How many eyes, heads, and so on?
  • Dramatise the story for an assembly, changing the number of ants to reflect the number of children in your class. Alternatively, focus on counting in fives with 20 children each carrying a banner showing five ants. We included the story of ‘52 Hungry Ants’ in our Ugly Bug Ball, held in the summer term to celebrate our work on minibeasts. Beware – lots of children wanted to be the littlest ant!


  1. Andrea
    on 20 March 2011

    100 Hungry Ant Activities

    I love the variety of activities provided and the free grid to use with manipulatives!