Christmas Math Activities: Problem Solving With the 12 Days of Christmas

Here’s a fun way to connect your classroom holiday sing-a-long with fantastic math concepts – perfect for ages 8 and up! In fact, students who love math may get so caught up in all of the number patterns they can find in The 12 Days of Christmas song that they may not want to stop!

12 Days of Christmas Math Activities

This activity requires no special materials, just paper and pencil and the lyrics of The 12 Days of Christmas. You can find the lyrics along with some problem solving prompts and record sheets at the bottom of the post, available as a free printable download.

You’re probably already familiar with the song but in case you need a refresher, here’s how it begins:

The 12 Days Of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
A partridge in a pear tree.

On the second day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
two turtle doves,
and a partridge in a pear tree.

On the third day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
three French hens,
two turtle doves,
and a partridge in a pear tree.

Now here’s the interesting question to pose to middle-grade students – have you ever wondered how many gifts in total were received? 

Many will immediately work on adding them up this way:

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 7 + 8 + 9 + 10 + 11 + 12 =

Although this is not going to produce the true answer, it can be a great opportunity to reinforce finding sums of 10 first.

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 7 + 8 + 9 + 10 + 11 + 12 =

By counting the ten made (1+ 9)+ (2 + 8) (3 + 7), and (4 + 6) and adding the remaining numbers ( +5, +10, +11, +12), the sum of 78 can be determined fairly quickly.

That’s quite a heap of presents! However, you might ask, “Is this really what the song says – that one gift is given each day?”

After a closer look at the lyrics, students will see that on the second day, it appears that the “true love” gives three gifts- two turtle doves and another partridge in a pear tree!

Now the math fun really begins! Ask students to list the days and the number of presents given! Have them predict the grand total before actually doing the figuring.

Day 1 – 1 gift
Day 2 – 3 gifts
Day 3 – 6 gifts
Day 4 – 10 gifts

…. and so on.

This song is “super mathy” with patterns galore! Ask students to see if they notice any patterns as they figure the gifts. They might see this one:

Day 1 : 1
Day 2 : 3 (1 + 2)
Day 3 : 6 (1 + 2 + 3)
Day 4 : 10 (1 + 2 + 3 + 4)

Recognizing patterns in math is the basis of all kinds of more advanced work. Some students might notice the numbers of gifts received are all “triangular numbers,” numbers that can be formed by dots in triangles.

When students have a chance to work with the new sums, then total them, they should find that the grand total of all gifts received is 364!

12 Days of Christmas Math Activities for Elementary Students

For older students, additional questions can lead to more discoveries. For example:

Which gifts will total a dozen by the end of the song?
Partridges and drummers (Each day, one partridge will be given so there will be a total of 12. On just one day, Day 12, a dozen drummers will be given.)

Of the 364 gifts, which ones will be given in the greatest numbers?
Geese and swans – (6 geese will be given a total of 7 days for a total of 42 geese; 7 swans will be given 6 out of the twelve days for a total of 42 swans)

We’ve included these questions in the printable 12 days of Christmas Math Activity Pack (which you can download and print below). The pack includes the song lyrics and four pages of Christmas math activities related to the song.

There you have it! A very “mathy” Christmas carol it is, and you may never be able to hear it again without thinking about all the computations and number applications!

RELATED: Looking for more holiday activity ideas for  school age kids? Check out our 12 Days of Christmas Fun for School Age Kids.

Printing Your 12 Days of Christmas Math Activity Sheets

Click here to download: 12 Days of Christmas Math Activities . Save the PDF to your computer. Open the PDF and print the pages you require. When printing, select “Fit to printable area” (or similar) to ensure the page fits with your printer type and local paper size (these have been created at A4 size).

Having trouble accessing or downloading the file? Please try a different internet browser.
Please note: All Childhood 101 printables are for personal use only, you may not use any part of this content for commercial purposes-that includes selling the document, giving it away to promote your business or website, or printing the file to sell. You may not share, loan or redistribute these documents. Teachers may use multiple copies for students in their own classroom.


One Comment

  1. Fiona Robertson says:

    Fabulous resource – thank you so much for sharing it…

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