Holiday Math Lesson Plans and Activities

December is filled with holiday traditions using numbers. Here are some holiday math lesson plans that you can do with your students.

By Kristen Kindoll

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Holiday Math Lesson Plans

'Tis the season for count downs. December is month filled with numbers. And the numbers are generally connected to lots of excitement. Students can count the number of days until they get presents, add up their lists, check them twice, and measure the size of gaily wrapped gifts in order to guess what is inside. Each big holiday (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year's Eve) is connected to some kind of number. In fact, December is a mathematical wonderland of learning.

Once December begins, Christmas is only 24 days away. An Advent calendar helps many children to get through this anxious time. They come in a variety of themes. Some have chocolates behind numbered windows.  Others, like the Jessie Tree, have special ornaments related to the Old Testament, which give meaning to the story of the birth of Jesus. 

Hanukkah or the Festival of Lights is an eight-day celebration of the Maccabees triumph over the Syrians.  Each day a candle (eight in all) is lit on the menorah to represent how long the oil lasted.  The History of Hanukkah by the History Channel is a video which provides great information about this holiday. One Hanukkah tradition is the game of dreidel. It is enjoyed by both children and adults. The book, My Jewish Learning has details about the rules. Using this book for reference, you could easily incorporate the game of dreidel into your holiday fun.

Kwanzaa falls after Christmas.  The Official Kwanzaa website is a great way to begin to explore this relatively new holiday.  There are seven principles which govern the celebration of the holiday.  A principal is celebrated each night, and a candle is lit.

Perhaps the biggest countdown happens on New Year’s Eve.  People around the world celebrate by watching the televised ball dropping ceremony in Times Square. Children get to practice counting backwards as they get closer to the New Year and new possibilities.  The Times Square Alliance has information about New Year’s Eve and the history of the ball.

Of course, the whole month is characterized by yummy treats. Cooking is a perfect activity to practice graphing. You could use gingerbread men to have your children take bites out of a cookie and tally what body part is missing. Another terrific holiday group activity is a cookie exchange.  Families bake a predetermined number of cookies. Then they gather together with other families so they can trade cookies. At the end of the party, each family gets several sets of different cookies. This activity involves counting out your cookies, as well as the cookies you receive at the party. Once you are home, you can taste the cookies and graph preferences. Christmas cookies is a website that can provide you with plenty of recipes for experimentation. Below you will find other resources that may help you to incorporate numbers into your December lessons.

Holiday Math Lessons and Activities:

Kwanzaa has students explore the seven principles.  It talks about the first fruits, five fundamental activities, etc.  There are great ways numbers are used in these holiday traditions.

Time and Time Again has children focus on the effect of time zones.  Children calculate the New Year in the different zones.  Word problems are also solved in connection with the New Year.

Holiday Greeting Cards:  A Graphing Activity has students compile data on the most popular Christmas card.  Different types of graphs can be created to illustrate the information

How Many Ways Can You Say Merry has children study the multiple ways to say Merry Christmas in different languages.  A world map is used with index cards for children to place the country's way of saying the greeting on the country itself.

Celebrate Hanukkah has children compare the Jewish holiday to other holidays.  Venn Diagrams could be incorporated with this lesson as another illustration of comparing and contrast. 


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Kristen Kindoll