Happy Holidays –Celebrate as You Will







Celebrate As You Will

Winter’s often cold and snowy,
But winter holidays are always showy.

You might decorate a Christmas tree.
Or set a blaze of Chanukah lights.
Place clean boots for Santa on your porch,
Or pay respects at religious sites.

No holiday is better or best,
They are times for family, reflection, and rest.
No matter which holiday you call your own,
We hope it brings joy, more than you’ve ever known.

Although Christmas takes center stage in the United State, it’s not the only holiday Americans celebrate in December and January.

Christmas around the world

You all know that many Americans celebrate Christmas on December 25 by decorating a fine spruce, sharing a fine meal, and opening their first present either on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning.

But in Germany, Christmas revelers place clean boots by the front door on December 5 for Santa to fill with nuts, sweets, and small presents.

In Italy, kids eagerly await January 6, the day in ancient times when the three Wise Men arrived at Bethlehem and gave Jesus gold, incense, and myrrh. Today, Italian boys and girls believe a good old witch named “Befana,” leaves gifts for them.

Kwanzaa, created in the 1960s in response to racial strife in the U.S., celebrates the African American culture and community. The holiday’s seven days, which begin December 26 and end on January 1, centers around seven values – unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. Each night, family and friends gather to light candles, feast, and talk about how each person can make the world a better place.


In early/mid December, Jews celebrate Chanukah by lighting a nine-candle the menorah, which symbolizes the miracle of faith. For eight nights, Jews light the menorah, exchange presents, and spin the dreidel, a gambling game for chocolate-covered coins called “gelt.”

Japanese New Year

It’s called ‘Omisoka,” and Japanese families celebrate it on December 31, the last day of the year. People clean their homes and remove clutter to welcome in the new year with a metaphorical clean slate. Family and friends feast together and often watch a nation-wide New Year’s talent competition until the countdown to midnight, when temples toll their bells.

If you have a copy of our The 12 Notes of Christmas, watch the entire film during the holidays that links each day 0 (Christmas Day) to 12 (Jan 6, Twelfth Night) as the numbers travel the world to create a musical band to celebrate Shakespeare’s 400+ legacy at the opening of Twelfth Night in the Globe Theatre.  Learn instrument design linked to the day 0-12 as well as history and holiday food in each global location.  Animated for kids and information for all ages.  The mashup of the 12 Days of Christmas song and Twelfth Night by Shakespeare takes its goal from Duke Orsino’s line from the play, “If music be the food of love, play on!”

Check out the shop to order a film as it is great for the entire holiday season.  The price is free but there is a $4.95 shipping charge for any total order.

Corresponding discussion questions are available at www.numbersalive.org/documents/12notes.pdf

Celebrate the holidays as you will!

Chanukah – The Festival of Lights and Numbers

Many call Chanukah the Festival of Lights;
Where lamp oil for one day, lasted many more nights.
It’s a miracle, they say, that one day turned to eight;
God’s great blessing and grace that changed Jewish fate.

At sundown on December 12, Jews around the world will begin the eight-day celebration of Chanukah.

Here’s a little history:

In the second century BC, a small band of faithful Jews in the Holy Land defeated a mighty army trying to force them to accept Greek culture. When the Jews reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, they attempted to light the temple’s seven-branch candelabrum, but found only one cruse of uncontaminated, ritual oil.

Miraculously, the menorah stayed lit for eight days, until more ritual oil could be produced. Chanukah celebrates that miracle and the Jewish heroes who fought to continue observing the Jewish faith and traditions.

Chanukah today
Today, Jews celebrate Chanukah by lighting the menorah, a candelabra that holds nine candles; eight for each day the holy oil lasted and one – the Shamash— to light the other candles. Each night of the holiday, Jews gather around the menorah, say a Hebrew prayer, and light one more candle until the entire menorah is ablaze on the last night of the holiday.

Chanukah activities celebrate the miracle. Jews eat fried foods to remind them of the holy oil, particularly fried potato pancakes called latkes and fried doughnuts filled with jelly called sufganya.

Presents are exchanged, and the dreidel, a four-sided top, is spun during a gambling game where Chanukah “gelt” (usually chocolate covered coins) is bet.

Each side of the dreidel contains a Hebrew letter that tells the spinner how much of the pot he’s won or lost.


Nun: Take nothing.

Nun: Take nothing.


Gimel: Take the whole pot.

Gimel: Take the whole pot.


Hey: Take half the pot.

Hey: Take half the pot.


Shin: Put another unit into the pot.

Shin: Put another unit into the pot.




Thanksgiving Can be a Numbers Holiday


Thanksgiving Day is finally here,

A time for family and food.

The holiday when you count your blessings.

And show your gratitude.


A roasted turkey takes center stage,

And glazed carrots round out the meal.

So take this chance to teach your kids,

The math behind each peel.

Thanksgiving can be a numbers game – literally. Here are some fun ways to use the holiday to teach and reinforce basic math concepts.

Sorting: Make a list of typical Thanksgiving foods and ask your family “learners” to sort and group the items. Ask how they would sort them to avoid the appearance of only one “correct” way to sort:  size; color; “foods” we drink versus foods we eat; foods they love versus foods they’re forced to try; etc.


Temperature: Using a thermometer is an important part of making sure a turkey is thoroughly cooked. Grab a thermometer and measure the temperature of food in and out of the refrigerator. If your young family member is in the kitchen when you’re roasting the bird, let her/him – carefully – take its temperature or read the thermometer when you stick it into different sections of the turkey.  Depending on the age of the young person ask if they know whether the temperature is in degrees Fahrenheit or Centigrade and what the difference is.  Give an older learner the opportunity to convert to the other scale from the one on the temperature tool poked into the turkey.


Division: How many pounds does your turkey weigh, and how many people must it feed? How much turkey can each person receive? If there’s a vegetarian in the group, how does that affect turkey portions?


Multiplication: Mashed potatoes, yams, and carrots provide a great opportunity to practice multiplication. If each guest eats a ½ cup of mashed potatoes, how many spuds will you need? Making pumpkin pie usually requires purchasing canned pumpkin.  Estimate how many pumpkins are needed to create a small can/large can of pumpkin?  If you have an old Halloween pumpkin have them cook the pumpkin and try to figure it out.


Budget:  Learners in upper elementary, MS or HS could calculate the total spent on the Thanksgiving dinner and then determine the cost per person.  Go over the receipts of the items purchased directly for the Thanksgiving dinner.  Then have them search the internet for the “cost of Thanksgiving dinner in 2017” compared to prior years.  A “market basket” comparison requires keeping the types of items the same to determine the change in the cost of living.  They may have to recalculate the items purchased that are in the standard market basket in the articles located.


If you have other ideas, please send them to numbers@numbersalive.org.  Have a wonderful and tasty Thanksgiving!

Importance of Exercising Your Right to Vote

As a citizen you have an obligation to vote.

If everyone votes would America unite?
Knowing each vote is a light in the night.
Would commenters have less need to “spin”
Reasons why voters decided who will win?

If everyone voted, would leaders do more?
And listen to voters like never before?
If everyone voted would the hungry be fed?
Would the homeless have shelter, each child his own bed?

Our vote is our voice that can’t be dismissed
It’s a shout and a prayer, our heart and our fist.
Our vote is our right, that makes our land great.
It’s a duty and joy; our privilege, our fate.


Let’s look at the most recent election for two governors.  Did citizens exercise their right to vote?


Look at the two pie charts.  What are the largest pieces?  The purple pieces are the registered voters who did NOT exercise their right to vote or voted for something other than the three identified candidates.  And this was considered a “large turnout”!

The lesson of November 7, 2017 should be that fewer than half of all registered voters voted.  Why?  What does that mean? Would their votes have been similar to those who did vote?

A great numeric civics exercise would be to consider how different possibilities of additional voters could have changed the outcome.  Chart those possibilities and see how important everyone’s vote is.

Other issues to discuss and investigate include the following:

  1.  What are the types of data systems used to determine the total number of registered voters?
  2. How could weather affect the number of citizens who exercise their right to vote?
  3. What procedures do voting locations use to know that the voter is registered to vote?
  4. Why do so few citizens actually exercise their right to vote?


New Jersey registered voters as of 11/7/17: 5,754,862
Source: http://www.nj.gov/state/elections/2017-results/2017-11-07-voter-registration-by-congressional-district.pdf
New Jersey Gubernatorial results Source:http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/11/live_election_results_nj_governor_2017.html
Murphy, Philip Dem 1,119,516 55%
Guadagno, Kim GOP 858,735 43%
Genovese, Gina Ind 11,131 1%

Commonwealth of Virginia 5,489,530 registered voters as of 10/31/2017: http://results.elections.virginia.gov/vaelections/2017%20November%20General/Site/Statewide.html
Virginia Gubernatorial Race results
Source: http://results.elections.virginia.gov/vaelections/2017%20November%20General/Site/Statewide.html
Ralph S. Northam
Democratic 1,405,007 53.87%
Edward W. “Ed” Gillespie
Republican 1,172,533 44.96%
Clifford D. Hyra
Libertarian 29,303 1.12%




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