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4 Fun Ways to Use Math Around the Holidays

Tips from the editors of DynaMath

Elizabeth Carney    

Elizabeth Carney, Executive Editor, and her daughter Ellie bake together for Thanksgiving. 

We all know about the Summer Slide. But even during short absences from school like Winter Break, students’ learning can slip. Below are four fun ways to combine holiday cheer with festive math. Share these activity ideas and tips with families to keep students engaged all winter long!

1. Recipes

Cooking and baking are great ways for students to get hands-on practice with measurements and fractions. Over the break, ask students and families to cook and bake together whenever possible. Every recipe is a new chance for math! Students can choose appropriate measuring tools and see how much each one can hold. They can count down minutes and hours for mixing, chilling, and baking.

Try making a simple no-bake recipe with your class before the break, like these Coconut Snowballs. For an added challenge, don’t bring in full teaspoons or cups. Instead, ask students to combine fractions to reach each amount.

Check out this story and math lesson on holiday foods around the world for more ideas. 

2. Gifts

The holidays always arrive with gift catalogues and website sales. These advertisements are brimming with decimals!

Ask students to browse catalogues and compare the prices from different stores. They can also make sample “wish lists,” compare numbers, create budgets, or add up the total.

3. Travel

Many families travel over Winter Break—even if it’s just down the street!

Have students make travel logs this Winter Break. They can record where they went, the amount of time spent traveling, and how far of a distance they traveled. Encourage students to record any trip they take, even if it’s just to the supermarket.

When break is over, travel logs can form the basis of a class discussion. Create a class graph of students’ travels, like the ones in this story on holiday travel stats.

    4. Decorations

    From twinkling lights to wreaths and candles, festive decorations come in many shapes and sizes.

    Have students draw holiday decorations they notice in their community! Use each decoration to explore shapes, lines, and angles. For example, measure the length of each side of a star, and calculate the perimeter.

    Students can also make their own! Create patterns with paper chains and snowflakes. Add in some fraction practice with coloring, like in this story and the math lesson on fractions and holiday lights. 

    Do you have any fun holiday math activities you like to use in your classroom? Email our team at Scholastic and let us know!

    Want more elementary math education tips and news? Check out Scholastic's archive.

    Jessica McKenna-Ratjen is the associate editor for Scholastic DynaMath.

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