Ugly Bug Ball Maths

uglybug2 We’ve categorised this post under maths activities, but like all good learning experiences it is so much more – and more importantly will engage Little Sparks with mathematical concepts in a way that is ‘real’ and enjoyable for them.  We love to mix things up here at Raising Sparks because in truth few of us ever learn very much in segments and we rarely learn things in a straightforward linear progression.

Connecting learning experiences and bringing them together in ways that make sense to small children is our aim.  Role-play plays a crucial part in achieving this and to very young children their ‘make-believe’ games and the narratives that arise from these games are very real.

The concept here is to introduce mathematical problems into role-play scenarios.  This game is inspired by the Sherman brothers’ song ‘The Ugly Bug Ball’.  I had a book of this when I was a Little Spark and the beautiful illustrations of the Ugly Bugs’ finery has always stayed with me.  However, shopping for the perfect dancing shoes when you’re a bug is probably not straightforward!

Does the average ant opt for three pairs of identical shoes? How many shoes are needed when three ants turn up at the shoe shop all at once?  Does a caterpillar arrange different pairs in predictable patterns?  (And can she walk in them, never mind dance!)  And when she turns into a butterfly how many pairs of shoes will she have spare?  Enough to donate them to a spider?  You get my drift?  We’ve covered several mathematical concepts here!

Of course, first of all, you are going to have to have fun making your bugs.  We’ve used play-dough, bendy straws (I love bendy straws!), googly eyes and borrowed wings and the like from our Ello drawer.  Play-dough balls of all colours served as shoes which could be pushed on and pulled off according to the fashion whimsy of our bugs.  I’ve often found when doing this with younger children they are not overly concerned with accuracy when it comes to how many legs various bugs have, generally I follow their lead – it means we get to play with some odd numbers as well!

You need to set the scene for your Little Sparks, you can do this as you are creating your bugs.  Explain they have to buy shoes for their very glamorous Ugly Bug Ball.  At the very least, some adult participation is necessary to introduce concepts and supply relevant vocabularies.  I generally start off in the role of the shoe-shop keeper and then pass the role on as children develop the confidence to play independently.  Of course, role-play can always take unexpected turns, go with the flow and exploit learning opportunities as they arise!  I promise you your Little Sparks will have fun with this activity.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kindergarten Lesson Plans June 17, 2011 at 8:59 pm

We LOVED this concept and featured it at our blog, Kindergarten Lesson Plans! We were sure to give idea/photo credit, as well as a link back to your website, but we’d love for you to take a look at it and, if there are any problems, we’ll be sure to take the feature down immediately!

Thanks so much! We have your site bookmarked for future visits :)
Kayla Johnson
Kindergarten Lesson Plans recently posted..Ugly Bugs! Math- Fine Motor- &amp More!My ComLuv Profile


Mandy June 20, 2011 at 7:58 am

Hi Kayla, it’s great to see someone taking an idea and running with it. That’s what Raising Sparks is all about!


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