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Broadbent Maths - creative primary maths

Christmas maths activities - reasoning and problem solving

Wednesday, 2 December 2015
Choose from this Christmas maths selection: investigating the amount of paper needed to wrap a present, exploring Fibonacci numbers on a Christmas cone or making stars with 2D shapes. A great way to start is with a classic problem for the song, 12 days of Christmas. How many presents will be sent altogether? As well as being suitable for KS2, there are some KS1 ideas too.

Investigation using the 12 days of Christmas song

This is a great problem solving activity that can be explored by different ages. Grouping the numbers (ie total of each day) and adding together is a method often used as children get older and then eventually they will move on to look for patterns. Each method can be prompted by you when you feel your children are ready for the next step.

It can be repeated with children who may have completed it the year before, as the approach to this problem will change as they develop their reasoning skills. 

Counting different totals
Younger children can use it as a counting task with manipulatives, such as cubes, to represent the total for each day. The cubes could be grouped beside a number line or on a large calendar. 

Adding small numbers to 99
On the first day, 1 present was sent. On the second day 2 presents were sent…so that makes 3 presents so far.
How many presents were sent altogether by the end of the 12th Day of Christmas?

Adding small numbers to 999
On the first day, one present was sent. On the second day two presents were sent… and the first present sent again (look at the wording of the song), so that makes four presents altogether so far (1 on first day + 3 on second day = 4).
How many presents were sent altogether by the end of the 12th Day of Christmas?

Download these investigation start cards to print and use with your class.

Teaching points

For this investigation there is no need to give information about how to approach the task before they begin. Let each group discuss the problem and use their own method.
Some will use models or pictures to build up the totals for each day, some will use addition and not see any patterns, some will see patterns and use higher order thinking skills.
Observe the groups and intervene to prompt and encourage as needed.
            • Encourage children to record their work systematically
            • Encourage children to look for patterns
            • How will you record the number of presents?
            • Will you find the total for each day?  …or for each present?
            • How will you explain and show your results?

Take a look at how one Y6 child showed his results based on Pascal’s Triangle.

Start with a youtube video from Hoopla Kidz  for 'The 12 days of Christmas'. It  has clear images, is well paced and easy to hear so is great for singing along to. Small pop-up adverts appear in the first 30 seconds, children might not notice them, but it is always best to remove them.

More Christmas maths activities

How many ways can a star be drawn using 2D shapes?
KS1 placing 2D shapes on top of each other and drawing round the shape.
KS2 making dots on each vertex of a regular shape to make a internal stars.

Make a paper star for Christmas
Folding and cutting to make a paper star – with lots of maths.
Step by step instructions and follow up questions

How much paper is needed to wrap a parcel?
Use 36 interlocking cubes to make different cuboids and investigate the amount of paper needed to wrap each one. Teacher prompts included.

Fibonacci numbers shown on a Christmas cone
All cones grow in spirals. Count all the spirals that start round the base of a cone and find a Fibonacci number! Teaching notes on introducing Fibonacci numbers.

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