The 12 Days of ... Math?

It's the end of the year (but NOT the end of the world), which means it's time for review, reflection, and "best of" lists.  Today's blog includes my top dozen suggestions for holiday math fun.  If you're a parent, you can use these ideas as fun ways to keep your child engaged and thinking about math, even during the holiday break.  If you're a teacher, you can add these ideas to your collection of activities to get your students engaged and back on (math)track once classes resume.  If you're a student, you can do some of these fun things during the holiday break when you get bored or if you just want to impress your friends and teachers once you go back to school.  Ready?  Here they are:

Day 1:  Math Bracelets

Really great math craft idea:  boil craft sticks to make bracelets!

Crafty Math for Day 1

This idea is a really fun way to add math to an arts & crafts project.  AND, it's really simple to do, which is even better!  The project is making math bracelets and all you need are craft sticks (those wooden popsicle stick things), a cup or glass with a diameter close to your wrist's, and some markers.  First, plop the sticks into a pot of boiling water (this is to soften them up so they'll bend).  Give them about 15 or 20 minutes and (carefully) get them out (use tongs!) then put them into the cup or glass to make your bangle bracelet to be!  Give them some time (24 hrs is good) to dry (and cool), then take them out and decorate away!  I love these as a culmination to a particular topic -- my favorite is after factoring lessons in algebra, because students can make "study bracelets" with the factored forms for the common binomial and trinomial equations.  They are good for geometry too though (types of polygons look great on these!).  Make some and let me know how they turn out!

Day 2:  Calendar of Math

One of the BEST things about the end of the year is the chance to buy a new calendar and put all the fun events and occasions that are to come in the new year. For a fun (and educational) project with your kids, challenge them to find some "math history tidbit" for each week of the coming year.  For example, they may mark December 10th as special because it is Ada Lovelace's birthday (the world's first computer programmer and a female mathematician who also loved poetry).  There are LOTS of great things to celebrate and it can be fun to find the math connection:  When was the frisbee invented and what math was involved?  Find out, then put it on your calendar!  Share your fun findings with me and others.

Day 3:  Problem Fun

I know it may seem counterintuitive, but solving a problem is FUN!  The challenge, the struggle, and the rush of success when you figure it out -- there's nothing like it!  Here are some fun problems that you can tackle.  (Don't worry, the solutions are included -- but don't look until you've arrived at your own solution!)  Here's Polya's process if you need some guidance in getting started.  If it's real-life math you're looking for, try out this problem about texting and this one about fuel economy.  The results may surprise you!

Day 4:  Read some Math

There are many excellent books that are both imminently readable and contain solid mathematical content that both educates and entertains.  During your holiday break, check out the joys found in a good book.  Here's my suggested list:

Day 5:  Climbing Math

Math is all around us, even in unlikely places.  Some of my favorite STEM lesson plans and projects involve my passion of kayaking for example.  I also really love this piece that shows the math in rock climbing.  Check it out!

Day 6:  Math Art

This is an impossible triangle version of the Sierpinski fractal.

Amazing art can be created with math.  One of my absolute favorite examples of this is Mike Naylor's Naked Geometry site.  (It's PG-rated, don't worry!)  This site shows some fabulous impossible figures and fractals like the one shown to the left.  You can create your own amazing math art using software like The Geometer's Sketchpad -- here's a design I made with Rimwe's MathTracks graphic (with math showing):

Math art created by Dr. Perdue using The Geometer’s Skechpad. This particular design is created by two transformations (rotation and dilation).

Day 7:  Ode to Math

Lyrics to the math carol: Derivatives, Derivatives

Poetry may not seem like it lends itself to math applications, but it does!  This can take on many forms; for example, re-writing holiday songs.  Shown here is one of my favorites.

Your ode to math doesn't have to be put to music though; there's opportunity for math poetry ranging from the short and manageable six-word memoir ("Math, go find your (e)x yourself!") or the haiku ("Homework for five hours. Then I find out it's not due. I’m going to cry."to the epic poem.

Day 8:  Picture of Math

Fantastic HD photo of the glacier.

Pictures, especially the fantastic HD pictures available on the web, are an amazing source of math applications and questions.  The above picture is of Mt. Everest's Khumbu Glacier and it's especially amazing because of how much zooming is possible (that's what a gigapixle image will allow - try it!).  The math discussions are limitless from pictures such as this one:  What are the angles of the mountain peaks visible in the photo?  What is the elevation of the 2nd highest peak you see and what percent is that of the highest? What rate of hiking would be necessary to go from the base to the top of the shortest peak in 8 hours?  Is that realistic? and more... think of the explorations and problems that your child will dream up by exploring this fantastically rich picture!

Day 9:  Video Math

With YouTube channels from NCTM, NASA, Key Press, Rimwe,and many more, there are many opportunities to learn something new and cool about math by watching a video.  One of my favorites this year was the virtual field trip to Mars sponsored by  You can also learn new educational software, like the introduction to The Geometer's Sketchpad that I taught via webinar for Key Press:

Day 10:  Mysterious Math

Secret codes and math go together like Christmas and snow.  A great way to spend time with family and friends over the winter break is trying to crack super secret ciphers.  Learn how to get started here

Day 11: Build some Math

The Pythagorean Theorem is one of the most famous in geometry and there are many proofs of it -- here is one you can build yourself!

Want more?  Here's a complete unit lesson plan on modeling Pythagoras' famous theorem and here's a great manipulative set you can purchase as well.

Day 12:   Math Tracks

One of the best ways to incorporate math into your day to day life with your child is going on a "math track".  I've created these simple mathematical journey's with students, friends, and family and you can too.  One of my favorites is a Geometry Scavenger Hunt that you can do with just a digital camera and a bit of time to take a walk around your neighborhood.  After a fantastic holiday feast, this might be just the thing to get you up and moving and learning some math!

I hope these 12 Days of Math gave you some great ideas for learning some new and fun math over the winter break and into the new year.  Email me and let me know how you like these and give me your favorite ideas for next year's list!


Math Bracelets source 1 and source 2

Problems source

Reading math source

Climbing math source

Haiku math source

Math carols source

PIcture of math source

Source for building math unit plan

More ideas for keeping up your math skills over the holiday break.


The Solver Blog

Author:  Dr. Diana S. Perdue

© Rimwe Educational Resources LLC 2019