The weeks leading up to Christmas are the perfect time to put aside math textbooks and dive into some exciting “living” math lessons. Not only will the following ideas bring refreshing sighs of joy from your children, but some of them will fit seamlessly into the daily duties that go along with the holiday season. Your children will be thankful for the change of pace, and you’ll rest easier knowing a few Christmas tasks have been completed at the same time.
Brighten indoors and out with patterned garlands. Use any materials you like, such as popcorn, cranberries, mini-pretzels, gumdrops, or dried fruit slices to thread patterns onto string. Younger children can make simple AB or ABC patterns, while older children can create more in-depth patterns such as AABCDD or ABBCDD.
A huge variety of homemade Advent calendars can be made, all of which count down the days until Christmas in some way. Use this time daily to practice counting and subtraction skills.
Use a variety of round ornaments to measure circumference.
Use a variety of wreaths to measure circumference, diameter, and radius. Although not the official way to calculate volume, a fun activity for younger children is finding the volume of a stocking by filling it with manipulatives like chocolate kisses or marshmallows. Use different sized manipulatives to measure the same stocking and discuss why the volume changes depending on the size of the measurement tool.
As Christmas cards arrive in your mailbox, measure them and compare perimeters and areas. For fun, use non-standard measurement tools like candy canes or gumdrops.
Cut the fronts from several cards into pieces to make simple puzzles.
Sort Christmas cards by attributes. For example, your child might sort cards into groups based on scenery – Nativity scenes, winter scenes, etc. The cards can be sorted by colors, sizes, shapes, or any characteristic your child can imagine.
Let your children take care of making your Christmas cards as they practice drawing with symmetry. Fold paper in half, and then cut out one-half of a simple shape like a star, bell, or gift on the fold. Open to find cards with symmetrical designs.
Use a calculator to determine total postage cost for your family’s cards.
Collect stamps from the envelopes you get in the mail, and use a map to determine which Christmas card came from the farthest location.
Decide on a budget for gifts. Before going shopping, use newspaper advertisements and coupons to make a purchasing plan. Don’t forget to figure in taxes. Allow your child to go to the store with his purchasing plan to complete the shopping and check out with your supervision only.
Freezer paper or recycled paper bags can be turned into patterned gift wrap with the use of inexpensive rubber stamps.
Measure to estimate the amount of gift wrap you need to wrap a gift box.
Plan for the amount of ribbon needed to go around your packages by measuring circumferences.
Include your child in the holiday dinner planning process. As you complete a menu together, your child should help you shop, compare prices, determine if coupons are helpful, and stick within the budget you have determined.
If you have a party to plan, involve your child in as many aspects as possible. Not only will just about every academic area be incorporated during the process, but math skills of logic and problem solving also will be utilized every step of the way.
Anytime you cook or bake, you’re using math skills. Encourage your children to complete as much of a recipe on their own as possible. Older children can practice doubling, tripling, or halving recipes.
Sort, weigh, measure the circumference, and measure the height, length and width of any variety of harvest vegetables such as pumpkins, gourds, or squash.
Estimate the number of pieces in a bag of Christmas candy. After estimating, use the nutritional guide on the back of the package to estimate more accurately how many pieces should be in the bag. Then, count (and eat) the candy.
Poll friends and family about their favorite Christmas cookies, pies or main courses. Use the information to create homemade graphs. Younger children can use manipulatives like gumdrops to create concrete graphs, while older children can draw bar and circle graphs. Encourage older children to use a spreadsheet program on the computer to create a fancy graph. (Non-food related graphing ideas include favorite Christmas movies, gifts, and service projects.)
I hope these ideas spark your creativity and help you perceive delightful math lessons hiding around every corner this Christmas season!
Copyright 2010, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the 2010 Digital Holiday Supplement issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.