The Very Hungry Caterpillar

by Eric Carle

ISBN: 0-590-03029-9

A Set of Math Bag Activities for Grade Primary

Constructed by Elizabeth Amos/ Angela Clarke/ Tamalah Ettinger/ Cory Sanford




The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a popular children’s book that tells the story of a caterpillar which hatches with a hearty appetite. He eats an increasing amount of food every day until, by the end of the week, he has become a big caterpillar. Then he builds a cocoon and later emerges a beautiful butterfly.
The story lends itself to math extensions in a variety of ways, only a few of which follow.

Curriculum Outcomes (ACMC Grade Primary)

The six activities contained within the Math Bag for The Very Hungry Caterpillar have the following ACMC Guide connections:

 Dominoes - involves matching dot sets on domino pieces in a game scenario
A1: sort sets on the basis of number
A4: explore a variety of physical representations in numbers
(Could include SCO A7: recognize the meaning of halves when used in context, if playing Game 2, where the dominoes are given out in ‘fair shares’.

Counting - asks students to count items from 1 to 10 and placing number cards in the correct order on the pictures in the list
A2: count to determine the number in a group
A8: use symbols to represent numbers

Life Cycle - examines the life cycle of the butterfly and has the students place the manipulatives in the order in which they occur on a leaf quadrant
A6: interpret ordinal numbers
D2: sequence events

 Caterpillar Patterns - invites students to create their own caterpillar by sorting and stringing various colours and shapes of beads. Also includes drawing their designs using the paper and crayons provided.
C3: create patterns
E2: develop spatial skills, including eye-motor co-ordination
E3: sort with 2-D and 3-D shapes
E4: create patterns with 2-D and 3-D shapes

 Getting Bigger - involves ordering the caterpillars from smallest to largest, according to the days of the week
C2: copy patterns based on measurement attributes
D1: compare and order objects based on length
D2: sequence events

Letter to the Families

Our class has started on our exciting new project called Math Bags and this week your child has brought home a math activity kit. In this kit , you will find a book for you to share with your child and a number of activities to accompany it. Please read the book together and encourage them to play with and complete all of the activities they are interested in . The exercises are to reinforce the mathematical concepts we have been learning in class and are meant to be fun. This is not homework!

The kits will be taken home on Fridays and are to be returned by the following Tuesday. Please check the Items to be Returned on the inside of the kit’s cover to ensure all the pieces are included. Should a piece be destroyed or go missing, don’t panic. Just leave a note in the kit, along with the broken piece, so that the item may be replaced for the next student who uses the kit.

Please enjoy the kit with your child!

Assembling the Kit

Clear plastic organizer (approx. 26cm x 32cm x 4cm) with a good snap closure
A copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Unlined cue cards
Zip-lock baggies
Photocopy of the cover of the book
Compiled list of Items To Be Returned
Duotang with a copy of Letter to the Family and activity instructions in large type
Mini dictaphone with tape

On the inside of the cover of the plastic kit, tape the photocopy of the book’s cover so that it is visible when the kit is closed. Then attach the list of Items to be Returned to the inside of the kit lid. This list of items is meant to be a checklist for the parents so they are able to easily ensure all the pieces of each activity have been included.
The individual activity instructions for the students were typed onto cue cards and then included in the zip lock bags with their appropriate activity.
A duotang was included with the kit which welcomed the families to the Math Bag experience, and also contained all of the activity instructions in large print for those who have visual impairments.
A mini-dictaphone with a tape was added for those with severe visual, language, and/or literacy difficulties. The tape contains an oral copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Letter to the Family, Items to Be Returned, as well as the activity instructions.

Assembling the Activities:
    Each activity is listed individually with a list of materials and preparation instructions, as well as student instructions and what exactly goes into each Ziplock bag.

1. Dominoes

Contents of the Ziplock bag:
25 domino pieces
Instruction card

Matte (inexpensive scraps available at framing stores)

Cut the matte into 25 rectangles (approx. 7 cm x 4 cm). Use the straight edge of the ruler and a black marker to divide each piece in half, across the length. On each half, you will be drawing one set of the five kinds of fruit eaten by the caterpillar (1 apple/ 2 pears/ 3 plums/ 4 strawberries/ 5 oranges). Each domino piece will have a different combination of two sets of fruit. (We drew large dots using the thick poster markers and then took a thin felt tip to add in the details of the fruit.)

Instruction to the Students:
Dominoes is a game of matching. Each domino piece has two sets of fruit on it. The sets are the same as the fruit eaten by the very hungry caterpillar. In each game you are trying to match a set on one domino to the same set on a different domino. Have fun!!

Game One – See if you can match the sets and lay the domino pieces end – to – end to make a very long caterpillar. Can you use all the dominoes?

Game Two – First, pick who will start the game. Next, give everyone the same number of dominoes. The person who is the starter puts down a domino. The next person looks at her dominoes to see if she has any sets of fruit that match the first domino. If she does, she puts one domino down so that the matching end is touching. If she doesn’t have a match, she misses that turn. Then it is the next person’s turn. The game continues until everyone puts down all their pieces.

2. Counting

Contents of the Ziplock bag:
10 numbered squares
Instruction card

Poster board

Cut the poster board into 10 squares (approx. 6 cm x 6 cm). Print one number from 1 to 10 on each of the squares.

Instructions to the Students:
On Saturday, the very hungry caterpillar ate through so much food he had a stomach ache! Turn to the page in the book where he eats all the junk food.

  1. What did he eat on Saturday? How many things did he eat altogether? (You can count out loud!)
  2. Can you use the number cards in this bag to count everything the very hungry caterpillar ate on Saturday? You can put each card on top of the pictures in the book.

3. Caterpillar Patterns

Contents of the Ziplock bag:
20 wooden beads (4 red squares/4 green squares/4 blue squares/4 yellow cylinders/4 blue cylinders)
2 Pipe cleaners
White paper
One crayon in each of the colours of the beads included in their own Ziplock
Instruction card

See above


Instructions to the Students:
In the story the very hungry caterpillar was all green with a red head but caterpillars can come in many colours and patterns.

  1. Use the pipe cleaner to string the beads to make a caterpillar of your own. Did you use more than one kind of bead? Draw a picture of your caterpillar!
  2. Now use at least two kinds of beads and make another caterpillar. Can you make a pattern with the beads? Can you make a pattern with more than three kinds of beads? Draw more pictures of your patterned caterpillars!
  3. You can also draw a picture of a special caterpillar first, and then copy it using the beads and pipe cleaner.

4. Life Cycle of a Butterfly

Contents of the Ziplock bag:
Purchased replicas of the four stages of the butterfly’s life (egg/caterpillar/cocoon/butterfly)
Felt leaf
Instruction card

Large piece of green felt
Paint marker (white)

Cut a leaf shape out of the green felt, as large as possible. Using the white paint marker, subdivide the leaf into four. Starting at the top left-hand corner, number each fourth in a clockwise rotation. This takes about an hour for the paint to dry.

Instruction to the Students:
Do you remember all the stages the very hungry caterpillar was in before he turned into a beautiful butterfly?

Stage one - What was laying on the leaf in the moonlight?
Stage two – Who came out of the egg on Sunday morning?
Stage three – What kind of house did the big fat caterpillar build?
Stage four – Who came out of the cocoon two weeks later?

Open up your leaf and look at the numbers on it. Find the number 1 and place the egg in this area. Now which stage follows the egg? Put it in the next area of the leaf. Where would the cocoon go? What about the butterfly?

5. Getting Bigger

Contents of the Ziplock bag:
8 popsicle stick caterpillars
Getting Bigger (days of the week) board
Instruction card

9 popsicle sticks
Green pom-poms in 4 different sizes (7 tiny/ 9 small/ 18 medium/ 7 large)
Flower stamens (available at craft stores)
Googly eyes in 3 different sizes (4 tiny/ 6 small/ 2 medium)
Hot glue gun

First, attach with glue two of the popsicles in order to make an extended stick. (It needs to be long enough to hold the 7 large pom-poms). Starting with the large pom-poms, glue the 7 on the stick to make a caterpillar. (Attach the pom-poms down towards on end of the stick so the students have an obvious end to hold on to.) The second popsicle stick will have 7 medium size pom-poms, the third will have 6 medium, and the forth will have 5 medium. Continue with the small pom-poms (5, then 4) and then finally the last two popsicle sticks will have 4 and 3 tiny pom-poms, respectively. The stamens can be cut in half and trimmed of some extra length and fashioned as antennae. Then add eyes to all the caterpillars (The 2 smallest are too tiny for eyes).

The matte will form the days of the week board the students will use to sequence the growth of the caterpillar. Trim the matte into a large rectangle and on the left hand side, down the length of the board, print the days of the week, starting with Sunday and ending again with Sunday.

Instruction to the Students:
On Sunday a very hungry, very tiny caterpillar popped out of an egg. He ate a lot of food all week long. By the next Sunday he wasn’t tiny anymore! He had grown into a big fat caterpillar that was ready to rest in his cocoon.

  1. Look at all 8 caterpillars. Can you sort them in size from the smallest to the biggest?
  2. Sunday the caterpillar was very small. Place the smallest caterpillar on Sunday. The next day, the caterpillar would have grown a little bit. Place the caterpillar that’s a little bit bigger on Monday. Keep making the caterpillar grow on each of the days of the week, until he is the very biggest caterpillar on the Sunday. Now he is ready for a rest and so are you!!

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Developed for Education 4173 Elementary Mathematics Methods at the School of Education, Acadia University 2000. Copyright remains with the authors

Developed for Education 4173 Elementary Mathematics Methods at the School of Education Acadia University 2000. Copyright remains with the authors