The 12 Days of Christmas: A Maths Task!

As you may have already realised, I am a great believer in providing a context for the learning of mathematics. At this time of year it is especially challenging to keep students engaged in learning, so you may be interested in this set of activities based on The Twelve Days of Christmas. The activities can be adapted to suit students from any grade and is only limited to the imagination. The following suggestions would be appropriate for upper primary/lower secondary students and can either be used as investigation starters or activity task cards. Enjoy!

Resources Required:

  • A copy of the lyrics of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”
  • The book “The Twelve Days of Christmas” (There are several versions available)
  • Price Lists
  • Other resources as required, eg. shopping catalogues
  • Possible Investigations starters/Task cards

Teaching/Learning Activities:

  • Read the book/lyrics or listen to the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”
  • Discuss how the gift giver has to increase the number of gifts to his true love each day.
  • Provide students with a price list (this can be adapted according to the ability of the group)
  • At this point students can be asked to investigate the cost of the gifts, turning the activity into an open-ended investigation, or, specific questions can be posed to the students.

Examples of possible questions are:

  1. What is the total number of gifts given?
  2. Is there an easy way to work this out?
  3. What is the total cost of the gifts?
  4. If the department store was holding a pre-Christmas sale and offered a 15% discount for all purchases, what would the new cost be? (This does not include performers, maids, lords etc)
  5. What if the discount offered only applied to live animals?
  6. The maids give a 10% when booked for more than two consecutive days (based on a 7.5 hour working day). What would their new fee be?
  7. The musicians charge a 10% Goods and Service tax and this must be added to the total cost.
  8. How many people arrive at the true love’s house on the twelfth day?
  9. What would it cost to feed all the people and the animals? (Internet would come in handy here!)
  10. Use some Christmas shopping catalogues to replace the gifts with something more appropriate for a modern true love and calculate the cost.
  11. Re-write the lyrics to fit your new list of gifts.
  12. What if there were 15/20/100 days of Christmas? How many gifts would there be? Can you find a pattern to help you work this out?








A partridge in a pear tree




One turtle dove




One French hen




One calling bird




A simple gold ring




One goose a-laying




One swimming swan




A milkmaid hired for 1 hour




One lady dancing




One Lord a-leapin’




One Piper piping




One Drummer drumming




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