Santa’s little helpers do maths

Christmas is busy enough at the best of times but trying to prepare when you HE can make it even more so.  No popping to the shops while they are at school, no commute to stop off en route and get some late night shopping done.  It’s all shopping online and  having helpers in tow 24/7.  Does this sound familiar? To help a little with this, I thought I would share some maths we did  last year, which C and I loved, and shall be repeating this year with an extra elf on the team!

Once we had printed our wrapping paper (star potato prints, but this could easily have been more mathematical with repeating patterns or sequences), we set up an elf workshop n the lounge.  Nothing fancy Just 4 work stations:

Weighing area

Measuring area

Cutting area

Wrapping area

IMG_6792

We planned these together with C making the signs and then preparing our resources before we set to work.  I think the areas speak for themselves.  What was key here though was how the learning was extended so that it was fun, but he was still learning at a level suited to him.  We devised a basic chart for him to record the weight and length of each present before he moved it to the cutting area where I had to follow his recorded measurement to accurately cut the paper.  He ‘quality controlled’ this!  We then wrapped together and placed presents in weight or size order before placing under the tree.

weighing
weighing
IMG_6791
measuring
... and under the tree
… and under the tree

With gentle questioning, whilst keeping in role, I got him to find the difference between parcels, ” How much more does x weigh than y?”  “Let’s see what the combined weight of ….. is?”  “If we put these two side by side, I wonder how much space will they take up in the van or sleigh?”  And so on.

These ‘wonder how’, ‘wonder why’ type questions are a perfect way to stimulate thinking without the pressure of feeling there’s a right or wrong answer.  Obviously for these examples there is a right answer, but by phrasing it as an open question it can often mean that children are more inclined to offer a solution.  A closed question can lead to resistance or a barrier and instant feeling of ‘I don’t know’.  It’s worth taking a few seconds to mentally rephrase, particularly during hands on activities like these.  Theres a more comprehensive list of examples on the NRICH site for more ideas and an explanation of why this is important in maths.

I do try to keep structured with our HE, or at least semi structured.  So for me, planning activities like this gives a real purpose to the learning while satisfying my need to ensure that there is still curriculum coverage and evidence ofprogress being made on a weekly basis. This year I will be extending the elf helper’s learning with some time word problems to solve too.  If you want to give it a go, you can download the delivery notes  here.   These will be appearing at our breakfast table sometime soon in a suitably sparkly envelope and a letter from either the post office or the elves.  Possibly via one of the fairy doors, but either way, set into an imaginary context to set the scene!

santa delivery notes download increases slightly in difficulty;  working out the dispatch time is the hardest as the children  will need to work backwards from the arrival time.  I would start with the delivery notes that give the dispatch and length of  journey, before moving onto these.  If you would like a blank version to enter in your own times, please drop me a line and I can send this to you.

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