The Twelve Math Days of Christmas - Easy as Pi!
Copyright 2007 Susan Jarema

Factor Tree

The holidays are almost here, the kids will be at home and families spending more time together. Here's your chance to make your family time a learning time by incorporating math into your busy holiday schedule. Math can be found in all sorts of activities we do in this season. Learning to combine math in your daily routine is one of the best ways to help your child develop strong math skills. Here are 12 great ways to combine math in your Christmas activities.

1. Santa Claus

Tracking Santa's big trip is a great exercise in geography, cartography, distance, speed, temperature and time zones. How far is it to the North Pole? What's the temperature at the North Pole? Does Santa have any daylight? How far does Santa have to travel? How fast is he going? What if Santa had to travel to the moon? Why can't we find Santa? Maybe he actually lives at the magnetic North Pole, which changes every year!

2. Christmas Baking

Take your favorite recipe, double it, convert it to metric and use only a teaspoon and a quarter cup to measure. Use an oven thermometer to compare the actual temperature with the stove setting. Convert this to Celsius. By the way, how long does it take a turkey to cook, measured in seconds?

3. Christmas Budget

Get everyone to prepare a shopping budget and stick to it! Teach the kids how to use a spreadsheet. Compare your actual expenditures with your budget at the end. Bonus points go to anyone who spends less!

4. Christmas Lights

How many Christmas lights are decorating your house? How many extra watts of power are they using? How about on your street, in the neighborhood, your city, the world?

5. Christmas Countdown

Count down and chart the days until the big day. Make your own advent calendar. Have older kids include minutes and seconds.

6. Wrapping Presents

Have your tape measure handy to measure the dimensions of the package. How much wrapping paper will you need? Try estimating. Why not make your own wrapping paper, using tessellations!

7. Christmas Trees and Snowflakes

Explore symmetry and fractals by talking about snowflakes and Christmas trees. Create your own decorations. Don't forget to measure the height of your Christmas tree using trigonometry!

8. Christmas Cards

Make up your own Christmas card puzzles in cryptarithm. Decorate the cover with a tangram candle, dove or other thematic creation.

9. Ornaments and Decorations

Construct your own polyhedral paper ornaments for the tree. Create patterns as you string popcorn and cranberries to decorate the tree. Make a Christmas paper chain with a math fact on each loop!

10. The Twelve Days of Christmas

How many gifts in all are given in the song? Try using Pascal's Triangle to find out. By the way, what would you prefer -- the twelve gifts, or $1 doubled for 12 days? What about 12 factorial?

11. Holiday Calorie Count

Are you eating more than normal? Try tracking what you eat along with your activities for the day, charting the calories consumed and burned. This requires both measuring and arithmetic. Demonstrate your results on a bar graph. This is a great time to also discuss nutrition and health. Do candy canes count as a red vegetable?

And finally...

12. Unwrapping Gifts (and Math)

Well, I doubt that anyone will be in the mood, but here goes! Determine the probability that Dad gets a tie. Estimate and time how long it takes to unwrap all the presents. Compare and contrast this with how long it took to wrap them. Chart the number of gifts received versus those given. Estimate and weigh the bags of recycled wrapping paper. Explore nets with the extra boxes, and measure them using cubits. Sort your gifts into Venn diagrams and make a pie chart to illustrate your findings. Line up all the Christmas chocolates into arrays; sort, group and put them into sets. Use the leftover ribbon to explore topology and create a gigantic mobius strip. Try to build a rhombicosidodecahedron out of the recycled wrapping paper or just take a short break from math. Now wasn't that as easy as Pi? You'll soon be finding math everywhere and having googols of fun!

Now wasn't that as easy as Pi? You'll soon be finding math everywhere and having googols of fun!

Visit our Christmas Math section for information, links, and downloads for all of these activities!

About The Author:
Susan Jarema is the founder of Googol Learning, the Crazy 4 Math Contest,, and Kidzinfo The Googol Learning Website has many free resources to inspire mathematics and family learning in your home through music, games, stories and layered learning.

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