Bees with backpacks


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  • number
  • algebra
  • measurement
  • geometry
  • statistics


  • understanding
  • problem solving
  • reasoning

Bees are necessary for assisting many other plants to produce the foods we eat, including meat and milk. But in Europe and America, beehives are disappearing. This could have catastrophic effects on food production. This “colony collapse disorder” has not yet been seen in Australia.

Australian scientists are studying bee behaviour to add their knowledge to the problem. Bees are fitted with electronic chips which record their movements in and out of the hive. In this way, the scientists can build up a picture of the behaviour of a healthy hive.

Teacher notes

The teacher notes contain: an overview of each of the activities; curriculum links and suggested year levels; background information; prompting questions and key mathematical points; practical suggestions for running the activity; a list of resources needed; and further ideas.


Activity 1: Making beehives

Years 7–9

Students construct three different regular polygonal prisms from cardboard and join them to make three different types of beehives. They then test the hives for strength and stability. Students compare the capacities of the different prisms which can lead to formulation of appropriate formulas for perimeter, area and volume.


Activity 2: Dancing with bees

Years 7–10

Students emulate a ‘waggle dance’ to indicate the direction and distance of a particular place. They do this as an outdoor activity, by creating a video of the directions for a place a long distance away located via google maps.

If this is impractical, there is a modified version for the classroom.


Activity 3: Counting bees

Years 7–9

Students conduct a sampling experiment of the form ‘capture-recapture’ to predict the total population.


Activity 4: Clever bees

Year 11 General

Students explore the number of possible routes between various numbers of points. They create a network diagram to represent a particular situation and find the shortest route by trial and error. Students then apply the Nearest Neighbour and Minimum Spanning Tree algorithms to arrive at a good approximation of a solution.


Activity 5: Bee food

Years 7–8

Students gather and display data about the foods that they eat and which would have been pollinated by bees.


Activity 6: Bee patterns

Year 7–9

This activity investigates some of the properties of regular polygons, introduces angle sums through tiling patterns and encourages geometrical reasoning.


Activity 7: Bee patterns tiles


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