Bumblebee Queen Math

For a teacher’s workshop recently, I was asked to share some ideas about using THE BUMBLEBEE QUEEN (Charlesbridge) in the context of math. Below are some of my informal ideas. I’m sure they will spark lots more activities in educators out there. Let me know what you do!



(A mathematical look at The Bumblebee Queen by April Pulley Sayre) 



(Building number literacy and sensitivity) 

After a first read of the book, as a story, look through it again, as a math detective.

Math can help you notice things and connect facts that you see. 

So let’s be math detectives


What to we notice about numbers in the book?


For younger students:

Let’s look through and write down what we see.

(Write down an honor various responses from kids counting.)


(On the cover, we see:

examples that may be suggested by students:)


three flowers on the left (columbine)

six legs on a bumblebee

two wings on a  bumblebee

Three petals on each flower. Three trillium. They are named “tri” for three.


(On the first full spread we see)

Six-sided snowflakes

Four-toed bird feet. 

One chamber where she lives

You could count the number of pieces of grass

You could count the number of trees.


Do you notice there are lots of things to count on each page?

There are many  numbers to notice on each page. 

Let’s try to narrow down what we count. 

Let’s stay as close as possible to the bee and her life.

What numbers that we hear or see are important to her life? 

Let’s read. 


For older students

1) Read the book and write down any numbers mentioned in the text.  If you find them in a sentence, write down the entire sentence.

One way to look for numbers would be to scan the pages quickly for number shapes.

Try that. Does this technique find all the numbers? Why or why not? 

(No. Some numbers may be spelled out in letters. So you will need to read, not just scan. 

Some numbers may not be spelled out. You may need to look for clues to those numbers in the illustrations.)

Answers: examples numbers students may have noted

250 bumblebee species

In 5 days, the eggs hatch. 

The larvae spin cocoons 10-14 days after hatching

In ten days, the cocoons ripen. (Bees emerge.>) 

A bumblebee colony can contain 30-400 bees

Three kinds of bees: queens, workers, drones




How many places did the bumblebee look before she found a place to build her colony?

By number, which place did she choose?

The 3rd place she looked. 

Pause to investigate ordinal/cardinal numbers

Cardinal number—a number denoting quantity  one, two, three, four five.

Ordinal number—a number denoting order 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th.


Take the figures you have gathered about the bumblebee’s life. Create a timeline, of the days of a bumblebee’s development. 

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