Sunday, 9 December 2012

Day 15: The Twelve Days of Christmas

The Twelve Days of Christmas. It's full of mathematical opportunities.
  • For primary school kids, you can focus on the numbers - drawing pictures of the gifts, using either the original version or an Australian version. Maybe the kids could come up with twelve days of gifts on another theme and illustrate those.
  • Find the total number of presents given over the twelve days. This opens up a lot of potential for strategies for adding lots of numbers and looking for patterns.
  • Or, use it as an exercise to learn the basics of formulas in Excel.
  • The daily gift totals are triangular numbers. I find students forget triangular numbers easily (even though... they make a triangle... seems straightforward to me) so another opportunity to discuss them is good. Since they make a triangle, they can become a Christmas tree, or a Santa hat... is there anything else triangular at Christmas?
  • The presents also relate to the numbers in Pascal's triangle, as this exploration shows (and Pascal's triangle also makes a Christmas tree...). I imagine drawing up a big Pascal's triangle and putting it up somewhere, then moving on to a Twelve Days activity, working out the numbers. Then ask the kids if they can see those numbers anywhere in the room....
  • Check out Vi Hart's Christmath Special video for some other funny and interesting ideas. You could put up the numbers from 1 to 12 and get your kids to come up with interesting things about that number and make their own song.

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