Let’s celebrate the season with some holiday math projects! In this post, I share how to create and implement a holiday math menu for your students.
Holiday shopping at school.
Field trip to see The Nutcracker.
Holiday choir performance.
And the list goes on . . .
Let’s face it, it’s a busy time of year. Our calendars and inboxes fill with holiday invitations to special events.
It’s hard to believe there’s any time left for learning.
And, it becomes almost impossible to focus the students’ attention.
So . . . if you can’t beat them, join them. Right?
Integrating a creative and fun holiday math project or activity into your daily curriculum is one way to keep your students engaged during this exciting time of year.
Holiday Math Project
Math menus are fun, versatile, and easy to use. It’s also a simple way to differentiate learning products for your students.
Many teachers use content-based menus during math workshop or math centers to meet students’ academic needs, but what about a problem-solving menu?
In the following paragraphs, I share a quick way to create a holiday math menu to use with your students before winter break, including the steps to create the menu and strategies for implementing it with your students.
How to Create a Holiday Math Menu
1. Decide on a menu style.
The easiest menu is a choice board. This menu has nine boxes with tasks, problems, or activities for students to complete. Typically, students complete the tasks in a row, column, diagonal, or the four corners to “complete” the board.
You may also consider using a game show menu. It’s bigger than a choice board with more options, so it will take the students longer to complete. It’s a great choice if you have categories of tasks or skills you want to include.
Read more about the different menu types here.
2. Gather your tasks.
This is my favorite aspect of building menus! You can use almost anything you have to fill the menu. I like to look for critical thinking activities or products students have to create. Not only does it take longer to complete, but it keeps students engaged for a longer period of time. For example, in the holiday math menu above, I included some of my favorite holiday math problem-solving challenges.
3. Place the tasks in the menu spaces.
Depending on the menu you chose, your placement of the tasks will be different. For example, with the choice board, you want to pay special attention to where you place things. Let’s face it, some of our students will look for the simplest path, so you want to ensure all the paths have about the same level of difficulty. On the other hand, for the game show menu, you can place the items anywhere and then assign them point values equivalent to their level of difficulty.
4. Present the menu to your students.
This is a fun time! Students get excited about completing math menus and this will quickly become their favorite holiday math project. Be sure to review the tasks and let students know what the success criteria will be. I usually discuss each task and then allow students to ask questions.
5. Make materials accessible to students.
Since menus typically have a lot of moving parts, it’s good to have a central location where students can find materials. For example, whenever I use a problem-solving menu, I keep the tasks in a file crate. This way, students grab the challenges as they need them. You may also want to consider having a basket of other necessary supplies or copies of printables students may need.
6. Watch them go!
I love to set aside time each day for students to work on their menus while I play a little holiday music; however, the menu may work better as a fast-finisher task in your classroom. Whatever you decide, be sure all students have an opportunity to tackle the tasks, even if they can’t finish the menu.
How to Grade the Menus
Teachers often ask me about grading menus. While it’s important to decide what is best for your own classroom, based on your unique needs and circumstances, here are some ideas:
a.) Give a completion grade
b.) Use a rubric and give credit for tasks completed according to menu guidelines
c.) Have students record their problem-solving strategies and solutions in a journal you can review and then give feedback
d.) Have students share their work during a math talk session.
Let’s Celebrate the Season!
This time of the year is full of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and our school days fill with holiday warmth and excitement for the upcoming winter break. Keep your students engaged with a holiday math project! Use the directions above to create your own or grab your free holiday math menu using the form below.
What is your favorite holiday math project? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Credits: Image mock-ups created using images from Megan Favre.