Holidays and Annual Events

Investigations that relate to regular annual events.

Will Phil see his shadow?

Phil saw his shadow! February 2nd, Punxsutawney Phil will again, with great ceremony, come out of his burrow and look for his shadow. There’s nothing like a cute animal picture to make your students smile as they calculate the relative…

Super Bowl Numerals 2017

Super Bowl numbers are appearing again. As students start getting into the current Super Bowl hype, help them to understand the notation that the sports writers and advertisements are using. Introduce Roman numerals to your class.  In this activity they learn…

Lunar New Year, 2017

Lunar New Year begins on Saturday, January 28th. This will be the year of the Fire Rooster.  The year name is a combination of 10 Heavenly Stems and 12 Earthly Branches creating a sequence of year names that eventually repeat. Students…

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…

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…