The use of open-ended tasks and mathematical investigations provides opportunities for students to demonstrate their abilities in a creative, non-threatening and meaningful way while promoting high levels of engagement and providing rich assessment data. Although the end of the year is near, the use of Christmas as a context for meaningful mathematics is an opportunity that is too good to miss. Providing students with a context that is exciting and relevant will ensure they maintain their engagement with mathematics until the end of the school year.
This week I am sharing a set of tasks that are taken from a book written by John Pattison and myself: Engaging Maths: Everyday Investigations for Early Years (2014). The tasks are separated into short activities, investigations, and extension activities. The short activities are intended as a warm up for the more complex investigations.
- This year how many days holiday will you have before Christmas Day? How many days will there be between the beginning of the school holidays and the last day of the year?
- Do you have a Christmas tree? How tall is the tree? Can you touch the top of the tree if you stand on tip toe? Is the tree taller than your dad or mum? How many lights are there on the tree?
- Does your family put presents under the Christmas tree? How many presents did each member of your family receive? How many of the presents were yours?
- How much tinsel would you need to decorate the Christmas tree?
- Your grandmothers, grandfathers, uncles, aunts and cousins are coming to your house for Christmas. If each person has a Santa bag full of presents under the Christmas tree, how many bags would there be?
- If each person is given a knife, fork and spoon with which to eat their Christmas dinner, how many pieces of cutlery would you need altogether?
- Make a list of the ten presents you would like Santa Claus to bring you for Christmas. Put the presents in order starting with one (1) for your first choice. Write a letter to Santa giving reasons for your choice of presents.
- Use store catalogues to help you to find the cost of your list of presents. Santa has said that he can only supply one hundred dollars worth of presents. Which presents will he choose to give you?
- Make a list of all the food items that Mum and Dad have to buy for the Christmas dinner. How many shopping bags will they need to take to the shops to carry all the food?
- Christmas Day always takes place on the 25th of December. Christmas Eve is the day before Christmas Day and Boxing Day is the day after Christmas Day. In 2013 Christmas Day was a Wednesday. What day was Christmas Eve and what day was Boxing Day in 2013? On which days of the week will Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day take place in the next five years? What did you discover?
- Christmas celebrations are very different in other countries. Use the Internet and the books in your library to investigate how people in other countries celebrate Christmas. Share the information you discovered with your classmates and teacher.
- There are many books with stories about Christmas in Australia. Find some of these books in the school library or on the Internet. Read your favourite story to the rest of your class.