Christmas Mathematics Lessons

Sunday 8 December 2013

“Can we do something fun today?”

This is the question that irks me most when we approach the end of Christmas term. Of course, I would want to reply that all lessons are fun! However, the forthcoming Christmas break always presents with me with a challenge for lessons: How to embrace the festivities and excitement, yet offer something worthwhile where some real learning takes place? Finding this type of resource and planning these lessons always seems to take three times longer than a classic lesson. To help, I’ve built up a series of lessons that I can dip into depending on the class and mood. I thought I’d share them with you to save you some time too.

The Great Elf Game

This is an absolute favourite at my school. Once students have played they want it again and again! It’s a game based on chance in which students have to make decision about running their elf business. Should you send the elves to the nearby woods to bring back little trees or to the dangerous faraway forest to bring back giant trees? The weather, and hence the safety of the team of elves is determined by the roll of a dice. The game develops in complexity and there are lots of bonus rounds to keep them on their toes and the excitement levels up!

I cannot cope with a whole day with different classes playing the great elf game and so I when I need some calm here are some other activities that I turn to:

Paper Baubles


Beautiful tetrahedral and dodecahedral baubles can be made from attaching triangles and pentagons and then some impressive Archimedes solids can be made from attaching hexagons and triangles. The mathematical content of this activity can be beefed up by the students having to construct the shapes for themselves.

Festive Snowflakes

In this activity students use their computers and some dynamic geometry software to produce some beautiful symmetrical images. The crystalline structure of water has six-fold symmetry. Hence snowflakes tend to have the same symmetry. Quickly students can build up a sophisticated and realistic image of a snowflake. An added bonus of the activity I produced here is that students can share their images with the world by posting them on a google presentation. An extra challenge of making the snowflake change colour or twinkle provides a nice extension.

Christmas Hexaflexagons

Every student should make a hexaflexagon at some point. Why not do it at this time of the year and produce a Christmas themed one? A mathematical toy to give away!

Fractal Christmas Tree

Again I always think that I’d like to introduce students to fractals but struggle to find time or a place in the curriculum to fit them in. Students could learn about the Sierpinski triangle, the Koch Snowflake and the Manger Sponge fractals and put them altogether to make a Mathematical Christmas tree.

Fractals in Christmas Ornaments

Here’s an amazing demonstration of fractals and the Wada property that you can make with 4 reflective baubles, some scraps of coloured paper and a light source. Just beautiful!

12 days of Christmas

From MEIs newsletter for December here are some nice little puzzles that have been given a festive tilt. The following is a link to a PowerPoint for the 12 days of Christmas. These are great for posting one per day on your classroom door. Chocolate prizes go down well for the first correct answers!

Have a Merry Mathematical Christmas!


Tags: christmas


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