Have a Mathy Hanukkah!

Tonight marks the first evening of Hanukkah – the Festival of Lights in the Jewish tradition. Between candle-lighting and spinning tops, there is a great deal of math in this 8-day festival!  Consider the following seasonal activities for your students in the days ahead. I hope you enjoy them!


aboutThere are 8 days of Hanukkah. For each of the 8 days, a candle is lit and placed in the menorah – one on the first day, 2 on the second day etc.  Sounds simple, right?  Well, yes and no.  By the end of each day, these candles burn out and have to be replaced, which means that there are many candles used throughout the 8 days of Hanukkah.  To top it all off, each of these candles is lit by another candle, called the shamash, which is then placed in the centre of the menorah.

So.  If you had to buy enough candles for this year’s Hanukkah celebration, how many would you buy in all?

Young children might enjoy using materials to model and solve the problem.  Older students might use some Gauss-ian logic and/or ideas around triangular numbers to generate a solution…

dreidel gamePlaying the dreidel game is another fun – and mathy – way to celebrate Hanukkah. If you’re looking for the complete rules and a bit of history of the game, click here for more information.

In essence, this is a gambling game that involves a set of prizes.  In the classroom, consider using counters, cubes or beads as “ante”.  Players spin the 4-sided dreidel top and follow the instructions listed on each side, taking all, none or half of the pot – or adding counters to keep the game going!  Even young children will enjoy playing this game and practicing concepts of addition, subtraction and “half of”.

Happy holidays, everyone!


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