Math Activity Ideas for Holidays

Why not have some holiday fun with math? I know I just used fun and math in the same sentence, but stick with me!  Try some of these activities with your family:

  • Have students help measure ingredients to make seasonal recipes for Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s, or cold winter night.
  • Give each student a certain number of dollars to spend for gifts. (Don’t worry, we’re not talking real dollars.) Then give them either a few catalogs or websites for shopping. The challenge is to spend as close to their amount, without going over, as possible. Some adaptations for different ages:
    • The amount given to spend can vary depending on the student’s age.
    • If the students are quite young, give a small amount of money and use the dollar store for ideas.
    • For older students, tell them that they must include a certain percentage of sales tax and/or shipping fees.
  • Pose the question: How many times is a candle lit on the Menorah during all eight nights of Hanukkah? Be sure to include the Shamash candle used for lighting the other candles in the Menorah. (Hint: The answer is greater than 40!)
  • Make symmetrical snowflakes by folding paper in fourths and cutting out notches on the folds. Unfold and decorate with glitter or markers and hang in the window.
  • Pose the question: In the entire singing of the song The Twelve Days of Christmas, how many gifts are mentioned? (Hint: The answer is greater than 350!)
  • In the celebration of Kwanzaa, the mishumaa saba (the seven candles), representing the seven principles of Kwanzaa are lit. There is one black candle, three red candles, and three green candles. Suppose a young boy was preparing the candle holder for Kwanzaa, and he pulled one candle from a box that held the seven Kwanzaa candles. What are the chances he would pull out a red candle? The black candle? A green candle? Try this experiment with actual candles or with colored strips. Draw a candle, record the color, and put the candle back. Repeat 30 times and compare your experimental probability to your original findings.
  • The year 2012 will soon be here. The sum of the digits in the year 2012 is 5 (2 + 0 + 1 + 2 = 5). How many other years in history can you find that have digits that add to 5?

I’ll be eager to hear which activities you like, which ones you use, and some stories from your family as you did the activities.

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