About cookies

The NCETM site uses cookies. Read more about our privacy policy

Please agree to accept our cookies. If you continue to use the site, we'll assume you're happy to accept them.


Personal Learning Login

Sign Up | Forgotten password?
Register with the NCETM

Primary Magazine - Issue 5: Focus on

This page has been archived. The content was correct at the time of original publication, but is no longer updated.
Created on 27 November 2008 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 02 December 2008 by ncetm_administrator

Primary Magazine Issue 5

Focus on Christmas

Did you know?
Christmas facts

  • In 1647, the English parliament passed a law that made Christmas illegal. The ban was lifted only when the Puritans lost power in 1660
  • In Victorian England, turkeys were popular for Christmas dinners. Some of the birds were raised in Norfolk and taken to market in London on foot. To get them to London, the turkeys were supplied with boots made of sacking or leather to protect their feet from the frozen mud of the road
  • Queen Elizabeth's Christmas message to the nation was televised for the first time on December 25, 1957
  • On average, each person in the UK will spend £330 on Christmas gifts
  • Each year around 125 000 tonnes of plastic packaging is thrown away over Christmas
  • Each year 34-36 million Christmas trees are produced.

Why not use some of these facts to create interesting problem-solving questions for your class?

For more Christmas facts like these click here to access the Bradford Schools e-portal. Better still, ask the children in your class to find out facts from this site.

Christmas-based activities can provide fabulous opportunities to develop children’s problem-solving skills using a meaningful context. Why not try these activities…

Christmas holiday activities

You could pose these questions for children to investigate:

Small world play 

Tell the children they are going to help Santa to sort his parcels in preparation for Christmas. Collect an assortment of parcels of the same and different sizes, shapes, masses and wrapped in different colours. In a small group, ask the children to sort parcels in whatever way they want. Discuss their methods.

Explain that everyone in the group will have an equal share of the presents and that you need to decide how many of each present will need to be put in each stocking. Give pairs of children responsibility for working out how they can share equally one of the kinds of present. Count together out loud each type of present as you place it in a paper bag. Write the number on each bag.

Encourage their different strategies and mark making, and support them in finding a solution. They may need to alter their strategy. Help them talk and think through their problem and possible solutions. Ask them for suggestions if they have some presents left over. They may show this in their mark-making.

Try this activity based on 'The Twelve Days of Christmas’ which has been adapted from an article published by Jenny Houssart in the TES (date unknown).

Sing the song, supported by the PowerPoint resource, and then ask these questions:

How many swans and doves altogether? Find two other sets of presents which add up to this total
How many more maids than rings? Ask children to find different questions with the same answers
On the twelfth day, how many birds? How many people? How many wings? How many legs?
If one of the groups of birds flies away, leaving a total of 16 birds, which group is it that flies away?
The drummers are offered punch and mince pies. Half the drummers like punch.
How many drummers like punch?
How many don't like punch?
1/3 like mince pies. How many like mince pies?
How many don’t like mince pies?
Make up different fractions questions

Twelve drummers dressing
The drummers are cold. Some wear vests to keep warm, the rest wear coats.
Ask the children to suggest the number wearing coats. How many are wearing vests? Can the children find all the possibilities for finding the number of drummers wearing coats and vests? Can you have 0 vests?

Twelve drummers drilling 
Twelve drummers are arranged in rows with the same number in rows. Find ways of doing this. How many ways of doing this? Find as many answers as you can. Could lead to a discussion: is 3x4 is the same as 4x3?


Christmas Presents 
Mum, Dad, Grandma, Robert and Jenny each gave one present to someone else in the family. No one received more than one present. Use the clues to find out who gave what to whom:

  • Mum receives a CD
  • Dad receives a book
  • Grandma gave a football
  • Dad gave a scarf, but not to Grandma
  • Robert gave a jigsaw puzzle and did not receive the scarf. 


Why not adapt the context of the activities from the Primary National Strategy Challenges for Able Pupils book to fit in with Christmas?
These are easy ones to adapt: Gob-stopper (2), Ride at the fair (8), Christmas Tree (22), At the Toy Shop (23), Treasure Hunt (36), Stamps (37), Maisie the Mouse (38), King Arnold (48), Presents (57), Slick Jim (76). If you find more please post your suggestions in the Primary Forum.

If you are following the PNS blocks and units, these suggested activities would fit in well with block E. It would provide a real-life context to the children’s work and give purpose and meaning to their tasks. You could adapt and build on the ideas and links on this page. If you do, it would be great to hear your ideas - why not share them in the Primary Forum?

Why not try these Christmas mathematics activities from the World Wide Web:

North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) Tracking Santa's Big Trip is a great exercise in geography, distance, speed, temperature and time zones. Highlights of the 2007 trip include Santa leaving the North Pole; hovering over Mt Fuji, Japan, then departing at a speed estimated to be one hundred times that of the Bullet Train which passes nearby; visiting Baghdad, Iraq, and the Army base camps; slowing a bit over Reindeer Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada, where Donner and Blitzen have relatives.

NRICH have some great Christmas activity ideas: click here to see them.

CPD opportunities

  • Share ideas your ideas with colleagues. Together consider how ideas can be adapted to suit different cohorts/year groups.
  • Plan a whole school assessment for learning activity - eg ‘The Super Smart Snowman Dress’ the snowman has 3 different hats/noses/accessories. How many different snowmen can you make?

Click here to download the activity sheet.

Use the activity as part of an APP task to moderate levelling and illustrate progression.

 Click here to view this issue in PDF format
 Visit the Primary Magazine Archive
 Previous page
Next page 
Back to top



Primary Magazine Issue 5 - Click here to download as a PDF
View the Primary Magazine Archive - click here
Visit the Pirmary Forum
Contact us - share your ideas and comments 

Comment on this item  
Add to your NCETM favourites
Remove from your NCETM favourites
Add a note on this item
Recommend to a friend
Comment on this item
Send to printer
Request a reminder of this item
Cancel a reminder of this item



There are no comments for this item yet...
Only registered users may comment. Log in to comment