With Advent almost here, our children’s excitement levels rising even faster than our energy bills and shops turning on their Christmas playlists, there’s no getting away from the fact that Christmas is rapidly approaching. So I thought it would be timely to share some ideas for Christmas maths activities which might just exploit the children’s natural excitement and give some of our maths a topical context. I also recognise that it’s the time of year when the best laid plans go awry – overrunning Christmas production rehearsals, staff laid low by seasonal viruses and bad weather preventing outdoor activities can all mean that even the best prepared of teachers need to reach for a ‘pick up and run’ activity, so let’s make sure that these have some meaningful mathematical content.
Good sources of Christmas maths activities
For straightforward maths activities categorised into different topic areas try Math Drills Christmas Maths Worksheets; Kidzone has Christmas themed maths pages sorted by age group and Primary Resources Seasonal Activities include lots of maths ideas. For younger children, there are lots of ideas at Making Learning Fun. For a bit more challenge, Maths Salamanders have some Christmas themed challenges to help develop reasoning and problems solving skills. The same site has Christmas themed games and other activities including Christmas co-ordinate pictures. Mathwire has several seasonal investigations and other activities. I like the Mathsticks Christmas activities too. Some of these are free but Mathsticks also produce a whole booklet of Christmas activities each year for about £4 which are well worth investing in.
Work on measures always lends itself to practical activities and Christmas offers a wealth of opportunities. Children can compare the lengths of stockings, parcels or candy canes or measure them using standard or non-standard measures. Christmas cooking brings opportunities for weighing, as does working out the postage costs for parcels. Play games where children have to estimate and measure time, perhaps timing how long different children will take to wrap different parcels. Capacity can be explored when making up drinks for the Christmas party or leaving glasses of milk for Santa’s reindeer. For younger children, this Kindergarten blog has some nice ideas.
It’s usually fairly straightforward to find uses for data handling skills. Make tally or bar charts to record favourite Christmas films or songs or food. Construct a Venn or Carroll diagram to show who likes sprouts, Christmas pudding, both or neither. Track the temperature on a cold day using a line graph. Investigate the types of programmes on television on Christmas day and record the results in a pie chart.
Lots of Christmas themed word problems can be found online including these and these. However, why not challenge children to make up their own word problems to match calculations that you give them and then they can use these to challenge each other. This makes a good quick homework activity at this time of year too.
Calendars and Countdowns
Nrich have an online advent calendar each year with a different mathematical challenge behind each number. I’m sure this year’s will be available soon, but in the meantime, here is the 2012 version. For a different way of counting down to Christmas, this blog has instructions for making a calendar made from Santa’s beard which will get shorter each day as bits are chopped off. The instructions are in Italian but the picture is fairly self explanatory! If your children want to make calendars for 2014, this site has printable templates to make dodecahedron calendars from nets.
Christmas is a good time to play games to practise and reinforce skills and there are lots available online like this Gingerbread Dice game, or this Santa’s Beard game. There are games for practising doubling or games for practising all four operations. For younger children these games are clear and attractive. Or for games that involve a little more strategy and problem solving try these. Gordons Christmas Maths has some nice interactive activities for younger children or if tablets are available, this Christmas themed dot-to-dot app might be useful.
As well as the investigations and challenges at Math Salamanders and Mathwire already mentioned, there are some Christmas themed puzzles here and here. Nrich also have several challenges with a Christmas theme. If the pace slows down a little at the end of term (and I recognise that this doesn’t happen as much as it used to in today’s pressurised classroom environment), it’s great to let children have a little more time to work on puzzles and challenges.
All these ideas (and several more) can be found on my new Christmas Maths pinterest board.