Holidays and Annual Events

Investigations that relate to regular annual events.

Civil rights marches, how do you count a crowd?

On October 16, 1995, perhaps a million black men gathered for the Million Man March on Washington.  This was 32 years after Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his historic “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial to 250,000 civil…

At least the days are getting longer

What’s your guess as to how fast the number of daylight hours will change each day from now until June 21st?  Will the changes be dramatic? Will the lengthening days be only a subtle change? Students make guesses; compute how…

Earth’s Perihelion

On Wednesday, January 4, 2017, Earth will be as close as it gets to the Sun during its orbit. Shouldn’t that make this the warmest time of the year? In this activity students become familiar with the terms perihelion and aphelion as they calculate…

Times Square New Year’s Eve ball drop

On Saturday evening, December 31st, 2016 at 12:59 pm, much of the world will be watching the iconic Times Square Tower’s New Year’s Eve ball drop 141 feet to the roof of the One Times Square Building in Manhattan, NY.  This…

Pre-winter holiday activities!

Christmas tree lights – Students first guess how many feet of lights would be required to decorate this tree.  The class finds the mean and median of those guesses.  Then they brainstorm and refine their guesses. Lastly they figure out how…

It’s latke time

In my family it is traditional to eat latkes (Yiddish for potato pancakes) at this time of year.  They are fried in a lot of oil and salted generously.  My mom’s latkes were wonderful but they couldn’t have been good for…

Dark days – Winter solstice

This year’s winter solstice will be at 5:44 AM EST on December 21st  (10:44 UTC December 21, 2016). In this geometry/Earth science investigation, we’ve asked students to question the Earth’s latitudinal divisions, recognize its tilt, and appreciate the relationship of these…

Wrapping presents on the diagonal

Dr. Sara Santos is a popular mathematician and speaker on mathematics.  She has worked out a method for wrapping boxes (rectangular prisms) as efficiently as possible. (Watch the video above)  Her method was written up in this article in Mental Floss and…

Do I have enough wrapping paper?

I have to wrap this box. In this problem based activity students first guess and then try to calculate whether they will have enough paper to wrap this present without taping pieces of wrapping paper together. …with this wrapping paper …

Christmas tree lights – How many do I need?

Check out our Christmas Tree.  You need to buy lights for the tree.  Without calculating, guess how many feet of lights you will need.What information do you need to better estimate the number of feet of lights that you need?…

Giant macaroon nutcracker, revisited

Each year the Boston Ballet highlights the holiday season with the Nutcracker ballet.  In 2014, the Boston Ritz Carlton Hotel’s chef, Andrew Yeo and his pastry team, created a gorgeous and massive Nutcracker cake of macaroons and fondant to celebrate the…

Consumer Spending 2016

We spend a lot of money as consumers in the U.S. In this activity we look at historical data to see if there are any patterns in our spending.  How does our holiday spending show up in these graphs?  What…

Black Friday, football, and giving

Construction This is a 3-act activity about an annual display of creativity, engineering, and design as artists contribute cans of food for the shelters and food banks of their city.  Students analyze, look for patterns, discuss solutions, and finally quantify the number…

Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade, 2016

As we get ready for next week’s holiday, students can study a map of the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, describe, measure and hypothesize why this route was chosen and then calculate how long each band will be marching and…