- Expand number sense by estimating solutions to problems.
- Add and multiply and apply these skills to finding obtain solutions to word problems.
- Calculate percentages.
- Learn how to collect, graph and analyze data about pet ownership.
- Appreciate the significance of the pet overpopulation problem and the importance of spaying or neutering pets.
Children love puppies and kittens, but are often unaware of pet population problems and the importance of spay/neuter programs. Calculating the number of offspring a pet can produce over the years can bring home the importance of this issue.
Surveying pet owners about topics of interest is a fun way to look at survey design, data collection and graphing.
Curriculum Connection: Alberta Education Program of Studies
Grades 4: Number Operations
- Apply an arithmetic operation (addition, subtraction, multiplication or division) on whole numbers, and illustrate its use in creating and solving problems.
- Use and justify an appropriate calculation strategy or technology to solve problems.
Grade 5-6: Number Operations
- Apply arithmetic operations on whole numbers and decimals, and illustrate their use in creating and solving problems.
Grade 4: Statistics and Probability (Data Analysis)
- Collect first- and second-hand data, assess and validate the collection process, and graph the data.
- Construct bar charts.
Grades 5/6: Statistics and Probability (Data Analysis)
- Develop and implement a plan for the collection, display and interpretation of data to answer a question.
- Display data in a number of ways.
Begin by having studies estimate how many kittens or puppies one pair of cats or dogs can produce in a lifetime. The poster, “They can’t read or write, but they sure can multiply”, might be a good conversation starter.
A simple guided math exercise will help students work through some calculations of pet reproduction: Companion Animal Overpopulation Math Sheet.
Students can also work through an exercise to see how wild cats have very different annual reproduction rates than domestic cats: Domestic or Wild? (ASPCA)
|Type||1 yr||1½ yr||2 yr||2½ yr||3 yr||3½ yr||4 yr|
|Domestic cat||24 / 32||96 / 128||384 / 512||1536 / 2048||6144 / 8192||24576 / 32768||98304 / 131072||African wild cat||4 / 6||0 / 6||12 / 18||0 / 18||36 / 54||0 / 54||108 / 162|
A number of word problems have been included to further examine how pet populations can skyrocket. Most include answers at the bottom of the page.
- ASPCA Cats
- ASPCA Dogs
- ASPCA Rabbits
- AVMA Shelter math Answers: 1. 21, approximately 90, 1095; 2. 225; 3. 78
- ASPCA Cats2 Answers: 1) 1; 2) 5; 3) 4; 4) 15; 5) 6; 6) 8; 7) 35; and Total) 74.
- Canadian Federation of Humane Society Cats
Any of these exercises can be extended for a greater number of years to show population explosion over the lifetime of a pet. See Spay USA posters for estimates for cats and dogs. These show how tens of thousands of dogs and millions of cats can be produced in a few years.
Note: Each exercise makes a few different assumptions, so you will get different results. Discussing the differences with students can help show that the number of offspring produced depends on a number of factors ( litter size, litters per year, life expectancy).
Once students appreciate the incredible number of offspring that can be produced by one pair of pets, have students brainstorm and discuss some of the problems this can cause:
- unneutered pets that are more likely to roam and get lost or annoy neighbours
- stray animals that suffer from lack of food and shelter
- overpopulation of feral cats that kill songbirds
- large numbers of unwanted animals euthanized at shelters
- health problems for your pet
The BC SPCA has produced a colourful issue of their newsletter Bark! for students. It deals with pet overpopulation in a very lively manner and includes photos, and an illustrated calculation of pet reproduction numbers.
The ASPCA has prepared an easy to read info sheet on this topic: Pet Overpopulation. Spay USA has also produced a good poster series. As follow-up, have students do the SPCA Pet Population true/false quiz. A key with explanations is provided.
Different organizations have prepared a number of fun exercises on the topic of pet overpopulation. The first two can help students appreciate what these huge numbers really mean.
- make a flip book of cat population growth ( Humane Society of the US)
- make an overpopulation scroll to illustrate how pet population can grow (Best Friends organization)
- complete a word puzzle ( Humane Society Youth)
- complete a true/false word game (Humane Society Youth)
Pet Ownership Survey
Pets are really a part of the family. In this exercise students survey family and friends to get information on spay/neuter rates, but also on how pets are treated as family members. The survey can be as serious or as fun as you like.
Depending on students’ age and the time you have for this activity, you can provide a survey for students to use with their family and a few friends, or your students can make up their own questions as a group exercise. Be sure to design questions with simple yes/no answers. One set of sample questions is attached.
Once students collect their data, they can work together to add up the total number of responses and calculate the percent of “yes’s for each answer. Then they can make bar charts of their results. See the attached sample bar chart.