Article

Quick Ideas: Fun Winter Math Ideas

“Greater than,” “less than,” and “equal to” can be tough concepts for students to master. But not with these December-themed games!

By Susan Dillon
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

The Twelve Days of Christmas

What you need: Chart paper, loud singing voices

How to play: For a festive activity at a holiday party, sing “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” but make changes to the lyrics, such as: “Which was greater than or less than, my true love said to me: five golden rings or one partridge in a pear tree?” Have students sing the answer to the tune of the song. Create a chart with symbols for the golden rings, the partridge, and the other gifts. Then challenge students to make “greater than/less than” statements.


Holiday Trivia

What you need: Index cards, holiday facts

How to play: Create a set of index cards that on one side feature “greater than/less than” questions about the holidays. For example, “Which is greater: the number of candles on a Hanukkah menorah or the number of sides on a dreidel?” or “Which is less: the date of New Year’s Eve or the date of Christmas?” Invite students to illustrate the answers on the backs of the cards, and then ask pairs to quiz one another. You might put the cards in a center with an assortment of holiday books, such as several titles from National Geographic’s Holidays Around the World series.


Snowball Fun

What you need: White paper

How to play: Draw any number of snowflakes on pieces of scrap paper and crumple them up to look like snowballs. Fill a trash basket with these paper snowballs. Invite pairs of students to toss the snowballs at each other, and then race to open them up. The students count the snowflakes and determine which number is greater. You might also make traditional paper snowflakes by folding and cutting paper. Challenge students to identify which snowflakes have the greatest number of openings and which have the fewest. Some may also have the same number, although no two snowflakes are exactly alike!


Less Sun on Solstice

What you need: Index cards, yellow markers or sun stickers

How to play: On the Winter Solstice, the sun is at its lowest point all year, offering the fewest hours of daylight. Celebrate this day by making flashcards with various numbers of suns. Each sun represents an hour of sunlight. (You can use sun stickers or draw yellow circles with rays). Two students play. With cards face down, each child picks a card. The two compare cards. The child with the lower number of suns takes both cards. The game continues until all the cards are gone.


Build A Snowman

What you need: Glue sticks, scissors, sheets of white, black, red, yellow, and orange construction paper

How to play: Invite students to create their very own snowmen. Have them draw two or three circles of different sizes on top of each other (the smallest at the top!) to make the bodies of the snowmen on the white paper. Then have them add the details that bring the snowmen to life by cutting boots and a top hat out of the black construction paper, buttons out of the red paper, carrot noses from the orange paper, and corncob pipes from the yellow paper. Encourage students to think about how tall to make their snowmen, how wide, how many buttons to give them, and how big to make their noses and pipes. Once they’ve completed their creations, invite them to compare their snowmen’s features in pairs by using the terms greater than, less than, or equal to.


Boxing Day Gifts

What you need: Loose change, decorating materials, such as ribbon, glitter, and wrapping paper

How to play: Boxing Day, which is celebrated in many countries on December 26, is a day to show thanks by giving to others less fortunate. Give two matching or unmatching pairs of coins (e.g., a quarter and dime or two nickels) to each student and let each determine which pair is greater than the other pair. Using the example above, 35 cents is greater than 10 cents. Invite students to decorate gift boxes and put these same pairs of real coins inside. You and your students can then donate your Boxing Day gifts to a local food kitchen or other charity organization.

  • Subjects:
    Addition and Subtraction, Charts and Graphs, Arts and Crafts, Counting and Numbers, Money, Number Sense, Songs and Rhymes, Christmas, Hanukkah, Winter Themes, Teacher Tips and Strategies
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