Maths box: The Bad-Tempered Ladybird

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By Mercia Leenumeracy consultant at Worcestershire County Council

Explore size and time with a DIY maths resource based on Eric Carle’s humorous story


I’m sure we all know Eric Carle’s famous picture book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but we may be less familiar with his The Bad-Tempered Ladybird book (Picture Puffin, ISBN 0-1405-0398-6). The ladybird in the story initially ignores the kindness of a friendly ladybird, and flies off in a temper, picking fights with every animal it meets, from a tiny wasp, to a huge whale. Eventually, it learns the importance of friendship. It’s a humorous story and in its brightly coloured pictures the mathematical concepts of size and time are explored.

The format of the book is unusual, in that only a few pages are conventional size. The other pages ‘grow’ as the ladybird meets each animal. As the pages grow so do the animals and the size of the printed words.

The passage of time is clearly shown by the movement of the sun in the sky and the fact that the time of day the ladybird meets each creature is stated in the text and illustrated by small analogue clocks. The bad-tempered ladybird meets the friendly ladybird at five o’clock in the morning as the sun comes up, a wasp at six o’clock, and a different creature on each hour, until it encounters the mouth of a whale at five o’clock in the afternoon. It takes three quarters of an hour to fly its length, passing one of the whale’s flippers at five fifteen, its fin at five thirty and its tail at a quarter to six. It finally arrives back where it started at six o’clock.

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  1. animal lover
    on 14 August 2010

    Bad Tempered Ladybird ideas

    I have been using this book for a while when teaching time - I love Eric Carle! (He has also written 'Today is Monday'- good for the days of the week)
    I really like the lotto idea - I hope to use that. As for finding the animals - good idea in principle, but could take a while to collect! I might use roughly scaled photos instead.

    4out of 5