Like it or not, the disappearance of pumpkins and ghosts from your neighborhood store means the welcoming of snow, jingling bells, and holiday advertisements. Our nation is filled with a wide variety of wonderful winter holidays, and while Christmas is certainly the squeaky wheel, it's possible to celebrate many different traditions at this time of year - and even tie them to mathematics! You will know your class and school environment well enough to know which of these are the most appropriate.
- Hanukkah - Taking place over eight days, Hanukkah is a great opportunity to talk to students about different calendars - the secular calendar many students are used to and the Hebrew calendar, which defines the beginning of Hanukkah. Have them create their own nine day calendar with fun family activities for each evening.
- Christmas - The number 24 (as in the 24 days before Christmas) is a fun number to play with. It's the smallest number that has seven factors. Coordinate the seasonal love of trees and the number 24 to create a factor tree with 24. Your kids could also calculate the volume of the boxes into which they'll pack their family's presents!
- Kwanzaa - Kwanzaa lasts for seven days, and is based on some traditional African harvests. A straw mat covers a kente cloth, in the traditional colors of red, green, and black. Have students create their own patterned kente cloth using the colors of red, green, and black.
- Winter Solstice - This is the time of year when the day is shortest and the night longest. Have students do a little research and graph the length of time during the Solstice and a few days before and after so they can compare the length of the days and nights during December.
- Las Posadas - Taking place over nine nights, traditionally children will dress up, play the parts of Mary and Joseph, and break open star-shaped pinatas each evening. You and your students could construct nine small pinatas out of toilet paper rolls and tissue paper for each child in a Kindergarten or 1st grade class, which requires some serious calculations before collecting materials and beginning the craft!