We’ve come up with a few ideas of how you can celebrate the festive season with some Christmas Maths at home. For parents – as we know all too well – it is a tricky balance. Whether it’s OK to not touch upon anything academic during school holidays, or if it’s better to find wily ways of incorporating maths talk into family life throughout the festive season.
It’s a matter of tying maths as closely to Christmas as possible – heights of Christmas trees, figuring out how long to cook a turkey, ratios for the Christmas pudding, and – of course – the distances Santa must travel on Christmas Eve in outdoing Amazon Prime in deliveries for one night only.
If you’re still scratching your head thinking about how to bring about some Christmas Maths at home… For parents pondering how to sneak these concepts into conversations, we’ve got you covered with some handy Christmas maths activities you can do at home!
Activity 1: Christmas cards: counting, shape and symmetry
We’ve put together some mathematically-minded Christmas card designs for your children to enjoy.
They incorporate many areas of maths – symmetry, counting and shape to name a few!
Here are some how-to videos on putting together some cards, and they can be used as a way to encourage some Christmas Maths at home!
Activity 2: Getting the most out of all of those empty chocolate boxes – 3D shapes and nets
Another way to bring shape into Christmas Maths…
At home, you’re likely to have a number of boxes lying around – from presents, gift wrapping, deliveries and treats.
The different types of boxes you have amassed over the Christmas period can be put to good use, by creating pull up nets of varying 3D shapes and different configurations of nets too.
Don’t panic if a pull up net sounds a tad too technical for a sleepy Boxing Day afternoon. With a little parental help, your child will love the latest addition to the Christmas toy pile, and might not even realise that they are learning some maths in the process! This is a parental version of our own 1-to-1 tuition and we know that your child will love it!
Activity 3: Reindeer times tables
A cheeky way of encouraging some Christmas maths at home is by using Rudolph and his band of merry reindeer to encourage some times tables practice!
Clement C. Moore’s original poem only calls on eight reindeer: “Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer, and Vixen! / “On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Dunder and Blixem!”
Using the abundance of frozen forest dwellers on show in the festive period, we can practice our eight times tables. For example:
- If each of the eight reindeer has two antlers, how many antlers do they have in total?
- Or, if each of the eight reindeer have four legs, how many legs do they have in total?
- If each of the reindeer have two carrots for breakfast, three carrots for lunch and five carrots for dinner, how many carrots have been eaten in total?
For some extra Christmas Maths at home, you can then include Rudolph to practice some of the nine times table, e.g. If each reindeer has 12 teeth – and there are nine (including Rudolph) – how many teeth do they have altogether?
Activity 4: Christmas pudding ratios
The old figgy pudding is a fantastic way to mix in some Christmas Maths. For parents who like getting into the kitchen with their kids (and for those that may need a small but helpful hand over the festive period) the dried fruit element of a Christmas pudding lends itself quite well to ratio.
We’re basing ours (approximately) on Delia Smith’s classic recipe, so let’s be having you…
Ratio is another area where bar modelling comes in handy, and for those of you who aren’t sure what a bar model is, take a look at our post from our sister site Third Space Learning.
The following flow-chart demonstrates the questions and thinking that lie behind drawing our bar models:
Ratios are like fractions with a ratio of 1:1:3, we can add the parts together to figure out what the relevant denominator would be for the corresponding fraction. So in this example 1 + 1 + 3 = 5, so a fifth of the dried fruit will be sultanas, another fifth will be raisins and the remaining three-fifths will be currants.
Using the bar model above, it becomes clearer that 400 g is equivalent to two-fifths of the total dried. To find three-fifths – figuring out what mass of currants need to be used – its simplest to find one-fifth first, by dividing 400 g by 2.
Now we know that one-fifth is 200 g, we can multiply the amount by three telling us that Santa will use 600 g of currants in his Christmas pud!
Activity 5: Cooking times for the Christmas turkey
Cooking times are a fantastic way to inject some Christmas Maths into your home. It really is everyday maths practice like prices, weights, measures and timings, that come in handy when children are asked to solve word problems.
In fact, Question 11 in the 2017 KS2 Maths SATs Paper 2: Reasoning was all about cooking chickens (apologies to our vegetarian and vegan readers!).
Your child’s teachers might not appreciate early exposure to SATs papers, so we’ve put together a more Christmassy version of the question (thanks to a solid BBC Good Food recipe – suggested temperature/settings: 180C/160C fan/gas 4).
To demonstrate how long the six-kilo turkey takes to cook is a matter of multiplying the first four kilos by 40 minutes, totalling 160 minutes (which should be feasible using their 4 times table knowledge).
Then, there are two extra kilos, the fifth and sixth kilogram, which represent two lots of 45 minutes, which total a further 90 minutes. So, we then add 160 and 90 minutes together to get to a grand total of 250 minutes.
If they were solving this problem at school, your child might use a bar model. This is a visual representation of a number, using cubes, lines (of 10 cubes), sheets (of 100 cubes). For this particular problem, the bar model would look like this:
For the next question – to find the mass of the bird that takes 340 minutes to cook – we start off knowing the total time, 340 minutes – and from the last question that 4 kg takes 160 minutes to cook.
We can quickly figure that to figure out how much the bird weighs over 4 kg is a matter of dividing the remaining time, 180 minutes by 45 minutes (as each additional kilogram takes a further 45 minutes). Ultimately, it turns out that a turkey that takes 340 minutes to cook weighs a total of 8 kg.
Activity 6: Christmas dinner timings
Continuing the theme of Christmas Maths at home – dinner timings is another entry point to some mathematical discussion.
Here we can demonstrate counting back. So, we’d start by counting back three hours to midday and then two more hours to 10 am, and a further 45 minutes to arrive at the start time: 9.15 am.
You can make the questions more complex by changing the times or asking further questions…
We start here by counting forward from 3 pm by an hour and a quarter to 4.15 pm. We then count back four hours to 12.15 pm, then back a further four hours to 8.15 am.
Activity 7: Distances travelled by Santa on Christmas Eve night
Another way of injecting some Christmas Maths into the home is by using Santa’s journey on Christmas Eve as a hook. It’s a great way of slipping in a bit of Geography too – if your house isn’t home to a globe, an online atlas like Google Maps will work just as well!
Each year, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) tracks Santa’s progress on Christmas Eve. This year, they launched a full range of free games and activities – many of which have educational content – in advance of the big night.
Google has also has produced a similar tracker with a full suite of free games and activities too.
Using online distance calculating tools – or the Santa Tracker itself on Christmas Eve – you can make up questions like the following:
Activity 8: Reindeer treat data handling
We’ve put together a pictogram – an early form of data handling mostly used by children aged between 5 and 8 years old (but a good warm-up task for older children – who can be challenged with trickier questions further down the line!).
The sorts of questions you could ask around this particular pictogram include:
- How many treats did each reindeer get?
- How many treats did all the reindeer receive altogether?
- How many more treats did Dancer receive compared with Comet?
- What is the difference in treats received by the most treated reindeer and the reindeer who received the least treats?
Activity 9: Christmas coordinates
With each Christmas Maths at home activity becoming a little less subtle as the blog goes on, it’s time to cram in some coordinates.
However, there’s no need to worry about a primary aged Scrooge appearing when you mention more maths as coordinates are like a puzzle or treasure hunt so shouldn’t be met with the standard moans and groans!
Remind your young mathematician that it’s along the corridor, then up the stairs – or across the roof, then down the chimney at this time of year!
As an example, we need to go along the corridor six spaces, then up the stairs once to find the star which has the coordinates (6,1).
With a simple graph like the one above, you can set your child off on a wild winter adventure to find all of the items that have been plotted in a particular order.
Does your child need to find the tree before they locate the present that will sit underneath it?
Can Santa get through the night if they don’t track down Rudolph first?
There are a huge number of possibilities when coordinates are involved, and if they manage to find everything on the graph why not consider rewarding them with a chocolate or two? Only if there’s any left of course…..
Bonus Activity 10 – Spend time with your family and relax without letting maths get in the way
It’s been a busy 2018 for your child, regardless of which school year they are in. For Year 3 pupils its been all change since moving up KS2, for Year 4 and Year 5 pupils they will have had a lot of new information thrown at them throughout the course of the year and – of course – for those in Year 6, SATs always seems to be on the horizon!
Whilst Christmas can be a time to squeeze in an extra bit of maths this certainly should not be the focus. Use the break to enjoy spending your time together as a family. Once everything has calmed down, think about having your young ones kick the New Year off with some fun and affordable 1-to-1 online specialist Primary Maths tuition!