## Holiday Math Puzzles and Activities for Christmas, Winter Break

Do you know of any great math-related seasonal games, crafts, or activities I missed? Please add them to the comments section below.

As you scroll through the links below, you find several puzzle graphics from the wonderful Visual Patterns website.

Use them as conversation-starters with your kids: What do you notice? How does each pattern grow?

For older students: Can you write a formula to describe how each pattern? What will it look at stage 43?

### A BIT OF FUN

Setting the mood: Enjoy this bit of seasonal fidgeting from Vi Hart. If you don’t understand some of the references, that’s normal! Pick a phrase, Google it, and enjoy the fun of learning something new.

Every year, some of my favorite websites offer a seasonal selection of activities to encourage your children’s (and your own!) mathematical creativity, one for each day in the run-up to Christmas.

### LET IT SNOW! LET IT SNOW! LET IT SNOW!

• Clarissa (@c0mplexnumber) demonstrates how to make beautiful, challenging origami snowflakes. She recommends beginners try the first few folds — which create a pretty cool design on their own. Let it Snow…

### PUZZLES UNDER THE TREE

• Unfortunately, the holidays come smack in the middle of flu season. Did you come down with The Grinch Bug?
• Speaking of Christmas carols, the Christmas Price Index shows the current cost for one set of each of the gifts given in the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” I wonder what’s the cumulative cost of all the gifts, when you count each repetition in the song?

### CHRISTMAS ADVENTURES WITH ALEXANDRIA JONES

Alexandria Jones and her family are fictional characters from my old Mathematical Adventures newsletter. Their stories appear sporadically as I find time to transcribe them from the back-issues. You can find them all on this blog page.

Here are all the Alexandria Jones stories Christmas stories, with activity and craft ideas…

Do you need to keep your kids busy and work in a bit of math practice? Try these Christmas word problems:

Or visit the sites below for worksheets to cover all ages:

CREDITS: “Circle Packing” feature graphic (top) by fdecomite via Flickr (CC BY 2.0). Picture pattern puzzles from Visual Patterns website.

Once again, some of my favorite websites offer a seasonal selection of activities to encourage your children’s (and your own!) mathematical creativity, one for each day in the run-up to Christmas.

Including an especially tough Advent meta-puzzle for truly determined problem-solvers…

Click the images below to visit the corresponding December Math Calendar pages.

### For Primary Students

Easier activities for elementary and middle school.

A problem or game that uses dice for each day in the run up to Christmas.

When you get to the Nrich website, click a number to go to that day’s math.

### For Secondary Students

Activities for middle and high school.

Most of the tasks require dotty paper or circles which you can find on the Nrich Printable Resources page.

When you get to the Nrich website, click a number to go to that day’s math.

“Because sometimes, in the midst of all the family fun, it’s good to put your headphones in and retreat into a word of your own, this year’s advent calendar brings you some of our favourite Plus podcasts. From the secrets of the Universe to the maths of football stadiums, there should be something there for everyone. Happy listening and happy Christmas from the Plus team!”

When you get to the +Plus Magazine website, you can tell which links are live because they jump to a larger size when you tap or mouse over the picture.

One link becomes live each day — so come back tomorrow and discover something new!

### Christmas Meta-Puzzle

Or try your hand at the biggest mathematical mystery of them all — and save Christmas!

“It’s nearly Christmas and something terrible has happened: one of Santa’s five helpers — Jo Ranger, Fred Metcalfe, Kip Urples, Meg Reeny, and Bob Luey — has stolen all the presents during the North Pole’s annual Sevenstival. You need to find the culprit before Christmas is ruined for everyone.”

If you solve all the clues and enter the answer on Christmas day, you may win a present for yourself, too.

### Still More Mathy Fun

Colleen Young has collected several more holiday math calendars — enough to keep your kids playing and learning well into the New Year. Take a look!

“Peanuts Christmas Panorama” photo [top] by Kevin Dooley via Flicker. (CCBY2.0)

## Playful Math Education Carnival 123: Hundred Chart Edition

Do you enjoy math? I hope so!

If not, browsing this post just may change your mind.

Welcome to the 123rd edition of the Playful Math Education Blog Carnival — a smorgasbord of delectable tidbits of mathy fun.

The Playful Math Carnival is like a free online magazine devoted to learning, teaching, and playing around with math from preschool to high school. This month’s edition features $\left ( 1 + 2 + 3 \right )^{2} = 36 \:$ articles from bloggers all across the internet.

You’re sure to find something that will delight both you and your child.

By tradition, we start the carnival with a puzzle in honor of our 123rd edition. But if you would like to jump straight to our featured blog posts, click here to see the Table of Contents.

Or more, depending on how you count. And on whether I keep finding things to squeeze in under the looming deadline. But if there are more, then there are certainly 36. Right?

## The 1-2-3 Puzzle

Write down any whole number. It can be a single-digit number, or as big as you like.

For example:
64,861,287,124,425,928

Now, count up the number of even digits (including zeros), the number of odd digits, and the total number of digits it contains. Write those numbers down in order, like this:
even 12, odd 5, total 17

Then, string those numbers together to make a new long number, like so:
12,517

Perform the same operation on this new number. Count the even digits, odd digits, and total length:
even 1, odd 4, total 5

And do it again:
145
even 1, odd 2, total 3

If you keep going, will your number always turn into 123?

## Hundred Charts Galore!

Check out my new printables for playing math with your kids:

The free 50-page PDF Hundred Charts Galore! file features 1–100 charts, 0–99 charts, bottom’s-up versions, multiple-chart pages, blank charts, game boards, and more. Everything you need to play the activities in my 70+ Things to Do with a Hundred Chart book (coming soon from Tabletop Academy Press).

If all goes well, the hundred chart book should be out (at least in ebook format) by the end of this month. While you’re waiting, you can try some of the activities in my all-time most popular blog post:

## Math Journals for Elementary and Middle School

This fall, my homeschool co-op math class will play with math journaling.

But my earlier dot-grid notebooks were designed for adults. Too thick, too many pages. And the half-cm dot grid made lines too narrow for young writers.

So I created a new series of paperback dot-grid journals for my elementary and middle school students.

I hope you enjoy them, too!

## Math Journaling Prompts

So, what can your kids do with a math journal?

Here are a few ideas:

I’m sure we’ll use several of these activities in my homeschool co-op math class this fall.

### Noticing and Wondering

Learning math requires more than mastering number facts and memorizing rules. At its heart, math is a way of thinking.

So more than anything else, we need to teach our kids to think mathematically — to make sense of math problems and persevere in figuring them out.

Whenever your children need to learn a new idea in math, or whenever they get stuck on a tough homework problem, that’s a good time to step back and make sense of the math.

Kids can write their noticings and wonderings in the math journal. Or you can act as the scribe, writing down (without comment) everything child says.

For more tips on teaching students to brainstorm about math, check out these online resources from The Math Forum:

Problem-solving is a habit of mind that you and your children can learn and grow in. Help your kids practice slowing down and taking the time to fully understand a problem situation.

### Puzzles Are Math Experiments

Almost anything your child notices or wonders can lead to a math experiment.

For example, one day my daughter played an online math game…

A math journal can be like a science lab book. Not the pre-digested, fill-in-the-blank lab books that some curricula provide. But the real lab books that scientists write to keep track of their data, and what they’ve tried so far, and what went wrong, and what finally worked.

Here are a few open-ended math experiments you might try:

##### Explore Shapes
• Pick out a 3×3 set of dots. How many different shapes can you make by connecting those dots? Which shapes have symmetry? Which ones do you like the best?
• What if you make shapes on isometric grid paper? How many different ways can you connect those dots?
• Limit your investigation to a specific type of shape. How many different triangles can you make on a 3×3 set of dots? How many different quadrilaterals? What if you used a bigger set of dots?
##### Explore Angles

• On your grid paper, let one dot “hold hands” with two others. How many different angles can you make? Can you figure out their degree without measuring?
• Are there any angles you can’t make on your dot grid? If your paper extended forever, would there be any angles you couldn’t make?
• Does it make a difference whether you try the angle experiments on square or isometric grid paper?
##### Explore Squares
• How many different squares can you draw on your grid paper? (Don’t forget the squares that sit on a slant!) How can you be sure that they are perfectly square?
• Number the rows and columns of dots. Can you find a pattern in the corner positions for your squares? If someone drew a secret square, what’s the minimum information you would need to duplicate it?
• Does it make a difference whether you try the square experiments on square or isometric grid paper?

### Or Try Some Math Doodles

Create math art. Check out my math doodling collection on Pinterest and my Dot Grid Doodling blog post. Can you draw an impossible shape?

## How Would YOU Use a Math Journal?

I’d love to hear your favorite math explorations or journaling tips!

P.S.: Do you have a blog? If you’d like to feature a math journal review and giveaway, I’ll provide the prize. Send a message through my contact form or leave a comment below, and we’ll work out the details.

## Playful Math Education Carnival 115—Women of Mathematics

Welcome to the 115th edition of the Playful Math Education Blog Carnival — a smorgasbord of links to bloggers all around the internet who have great ideas for learning, teaching, and playing around with math from preschool to pre-college.

In honor of Women’s History Month, this carnival features quotes from fifteen women mathematicians.

Let the mathematical fun begin!

## The Women of Mathematics

They came from many countries and followed a variety of interests.

They conquered new topics in mathematics and expanded the world’s understanding of old ones.

They wrestled with theorems, raised children, published articles, won awards, faced discrimination, led professional organizations, and kept going through both success and failure.

Some gained international renown, but most enjoyed quiet lives.

They studied, learned, and lived (and some still live) as most of us do — loving their families and friends, joking with colleagues, hoping to influence students.

I think you’ll find their words inspiring.

“What I really am is a mathematician. Rather than being remembered as the first woman this or that, I would prefer to be remembered, as a mathematician should, simply for the theorems I have proved and the problems I have solved.”
Julia Robinson (1919–1985)

“All in all, I have found great delight and pleasure in the pursuit of mathematics. Along the way I have made great friends and worked with a number of creative and interesting people. I have been saved from boredom, dourness, and self-absorption. One cannot ask for more.”
Karen Uhlenbeck (b. 1942)