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10 Hot Math Facts for Summer Solstice

Plus 5 fun math activities to get students thinking about how math makes the world go ’round!

The Summer Solstice, a celebration of the longest day of the year, is coming up on June 21 for those in the northern hemisphere, and it’s a great opportunity to teach students how math makes the world turn! Here are 10 hot numerical facts about Summer Solstice and the sun that you can use to create math problems for your class. Plus, we’ve come up with five math activities to rock your students’ world!

1. The Solstice occurs because Earth is at its maximal tilt towards the sun, 23.5 degrees, which is as close to the sun as our planet can get.

2. During the Summer Solstice, areas inside the Arctic Circle experience 24 hours of daylight. This phenomenon is called “the midnight sun.” Those same areas in the Arctic Circle can also see the sun for days, to weeks, to even months straight after the Solstice due to something called atmospheric refraction. The same is true of the Antarctic in December.

3. Earth isn’t the only planet that has solstices. Mars’s Solstice happens only a few days after Earth’s, on June 25th. Uranus’s Summer and Winter Solstices last for 42 years. Conversely, Venus and Jupiter hardly ever experience a solstice.

4. As seen from Earth, the sun reaches its northern-most position during the Summer Solstice. Once the sun is over the Tropic of Cancer (23.5 degrees north) it stops and then reverses its direction and starts moving south. During the Winter Solstice the same thing happens, except the sun stops and then starts moving north again.

5. Around 74% of the sun’s mass is made up of hydrogen. Helium makes up around 24%, while heavier elements such as oxygen, carbon, iron, and neon make up the remaining percentage.

6. The sun’s surface temperature is around 5500 degrees Celsius. That’s 9,941 degrees Fahrenheit! The average temperature on Earth is about 16 degrees Celsius, or 61 degrees Fahrenheit.

7. The average distance from the sun to Earth is around 93 million miles. Even in a commercial jet flying at 550 mph it would take about 19 years to make a one-way trip between the two celestial bodies!

8. Each day Earth receives 94 billion megawatts of energy from the sun, which is equivalent to about 40,000 times the power requirement of the United States. The sun’s total energy output is about 386 billion megawatts.

9. It takes as long as 50 million years for the energy produced at the sun’s core to reach the star’s surface.

10. If the sun were to stop producing energy today, it would take 50 million years for significant effects to be felt on Earth.

Five Summer Solstice Math Activities to Rock Your Students’ World

1. For a math activity with an artistic twist, have students draw two circles, one representing Earth and one representing the sun. Then, using markers, crayons, and other art supplies, draw different angles between the two planets.

2. Have the entire class work together to make a chart of the daylight hours at the Arctic Circle, from Winter Solstice, when there is no daylight, to Summer Solstice, when there is 24 hours of daylight. Then, ask students to work in small groups and come up with their own math problems using the chart of numbers the class created.

3. Have students research the Solstice dates of different planets and the angles that they tilt toward the sun in comparison to Earth.

4. Ask students to work in small groups and “adopt” a planet, and then come up with their own math facts about that planet using facts they find online. Create a little competition for each group to produce a poster with photos or drawings of the planet and what might happen there, as well as their math facts!

5. Create a chart of the distance between Earth and other planets in our solar system when they are closest and farthest away, and then have students work as a class to create word problems comparing those distances.

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