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Thankful for Math?


Thanksgiving Wish, by Michael J. Rosen

It is always nice to have a fresh perspective on old traditions, but math on a holiday? Many kids will groan if their parents suggest such a thing. There is a way to make the connection between Thanksgiving and math, but it’s always nice to start off this lesson with a story. Thanksgiving is a time of year when teachers traditionally review the great harvest, discuss the Native American and pilgrim lifestyle, and help students find time to give thanks about something in their lives. It can be hard for kids to make the connection about people from hundreds of years ago, even if there is a common thread of giving thanks.

In Thanksgiving Wish, author Michael J. Rosen writes about a non-traditional Thanksgiving in modern times. A power outage, a missed grandmother, as well as Jewish and Asian traditions line the edges of this touching story.

So where’s the math? Well, Thanksgiving is the most gluttonous day of the year and in order to create such wonderful food, the chef must know how to calculate. Cooking is a fantastic link between math and real life, even on a holiday!

Here are some fun turkey math activities for your Thanksgiving day:

  1. Review elapsed time by helping your child write down the times that the turkey went into the oven and the time it came out. Your child might need a little help calculating the number of hours if it crosses a 12.
  2. Let your child measure a set of ingredients. Try letting the little ones do the dry ingredients, while the older chefs might be able to handle the liquids without too many spills.
  3. Simply counting out forks, knives and spoons can be helpful practice for many early learners.
  4. Fractions are almost always used in cooking and can be tricky to double for a large group of people.

After tasting Aunt Kari’s pumpkin pie the year she put in too much salt, I’d say I’m very thankful for math, especially on a holiday!

This story illustrates the blending of international traditions with a US holiday and reminds us how giving thanks is a universal language just like math. Celebrate the Thanksgiving of math with World Math Day on March 4th!

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