Wrapped up in Math

Wrapped up in Math

December 18, 2013

We’re pleased to welcome the newest member of the Add It Up team: Angie Six. We love her ideas for incorporating math into fun family activities as much as we adore her last name.

Tis the season for wrapping! If your house is anything like mine, the dining room table has been turned into wrap central, with bags, rolls of paper, ribbons, bows and tape scattered all over.

It’s easy for adults to see wrapping gifts as yet another chore that needs to be done during the holidays, but kids have an entirely different outlook. Gift wrapping supplies hold endless possibilities for making all kinds of creations. My kids are also fascinated by the idea of wrapping, and they’re convinced that anything can be made special simply by covering it in pretty paper and a bow.

Instead of shooing the kids away while wrapping, why not work side-by-side? As I wrapped gifts, we talked about how oddly-shaped items and really big packages can be a challenge to wrap. Instead of searching the house high and low for something to “play” wrap, I suggested they wrap the biggest, most oddly-shaped item in the room – each other!

They loved the idea, and it opened up some great math discussions. We talked about what an estimate means, and how you might estimate how much paper you would need to wrap an entire person. Are they taller or shorter than a roll of gift wrap? How wide is a person? Point out the measurements that are given on the roll of gift wrap. Which measurements have you heard of before and which ones are new to you? Shapes come into play here, too. What shape is your body most like?

A simple square or rectangle, which is easy to wrap, uses less tape than a more intricately shaped object. While Eli stood still and allowed himself to be wrapped, he counted aloud each strip of tape his sister applied to the paper.

While you wrap the real presents, you can also give them a variety of household objects to wrap how they see fit.  It’s a great opportunity to let them unleash their creativity as well as to talk about a few different math concepts. Pick objects of varying shapes, such as cylindrical canned goods, rectangular shoe boxes, and a spherical ball, and talk about the shapes as they wrap.

With older kids, you can introduce the concept of surface area. Using a given amount of wrapping paper and “presents” of different shapes and sizes, ask them how many they can wrap with the paper they have. It’s a great visualization of how objects can be roughly the same size, but the difference in shape and area affects how much paper you actually need to cover it from prying eyes!

Before you know it, not only will your gifts be ready for the tree, but you’ll have wrapped up a fun little math lesson too!  Just be sure to label your presents well, so Great Grandma doesn’t end up with the can of peaches you wrapped for fun. And of course, the adage “Do not open until Christmas” need not apply for your little wrapped person!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email