25 days of math (with treats)

I love advent calendars. It’s a Christmas tradition that I always wanted and never had growing up, so last year I bought this lovely wooden one on deep discount at a local craft store, after admiring them for years. Of course, I immediately discovered why my parents probably never indulged us in this tradition and why pre-filled calendars are so popular: It can be a serious challenge to find so many tiny things to fit in those drawers–and to be ready by December 1, to boot! But it’s so worth it, especially when I hear all the math noticing happening every day.

With four children, the way I tackle my advent calendar is to divide it up. Last year, I divided the first 24 days by four, so each child got six drawers, and then on Christmas Day they got a shared treat. This year I decided to have more shared drawers, so I divided all 25 days by five, so that every fifth day is a shared treat.

The kids immediately picked up on the new system and proceeded to explain it to their younger siblings. I would like to say that I planned it, but I have to admit is was sheer dumb luck: The calendar is helping my kindergartner learn to count by fives!

“Look, Mom, my days all end with two or seven! Malcolm, your days end with one or six, see? And on the five and zero days we all get a treat!”

Another bonus to the calendar is that I have a pat answer every morning to the inevitable question, “Mom, how many days until Christmas?”

“Go check the advent calendar and count.”

Melissa Burt

Melissa Burt

Guest Contributor

Melissa is a Graphic Designer & Copywriter at Educational Service District 112 who provides design for Math Anywhere’s printed and online materials. She is also the mother of four young math-curious kiddos.

More Biscuits!

Here is a lovely math exchange shared by my sister, Shannon, and my almost three-year-old nephew Cal.

boy with biscuitsMom: [gives Cal a plate with one biscuit]

Cal: I want more biscuits! I want two!

Mom: You may have one biscuit.

Cal: I don’t want one! I want two!

Mom: You may have one. If you don’t want one, you don’t have to eat any. That would be zero.

Cal: I want two!

Mom: You may have zero or one.

Cal: I want zero!

Mom: [walks away with plate]

Cal: I want zero and one. I want zero with my one.

Mom: Okay, here is your one. [sets plate back on table]

Cal: [finishes eating biscuit] I want my zero biscuit now.

Mom: That is your zero biscuit on your plate. Because zero means ‘no biscuit.’

A few minutes later…

Mom: Which biscuit did you like better, your one biscuit or your zero biscuit?

Cal: The zero biscuit.

Math moments happen everyday and I appreciate that Shannon took the time to notice, document and share this one!

Molly Daley

Molly Daley

Molly Daley is a Regional Mathematics Coordinator at ESD 112 in Vancouver, WA. She started the Math Anywhere! project to help children and their grown-ups experience the creative and playful side of mathematics. As soon as she learned there was more to math than the rules she memorized in school, Molly was hooked. She believes math is expansive and she likes helping people recognize their own mathematical connection.