Tonight’s sundown marks the start of Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday also known as the Festival of Lights. It celebrates the miracle that happened when the brave Maccabees took back their Holy Temple in Jerusalem from the Greeks. Even though they had only one jar of oil, the menorah they lit burned for 8 whole days. That’s why Hanukkah lasts for 8 nights and 8 days, with traditions including lighting the menorah each night, exchanging gifts, and enjoying special foods — like oily donuts. 17 1/2 million donuts are eaten in Israel during each Hanukkah! That’s the kind of holiday math we like to celebrate.
Wee ones: If Hanukkah lasts 8 nights, how many more nights after tonight will you light candles to celebrate?
Little kids: If the 8 regular candles are divided evenly on either side of the shamash, how many candles are on each half? Bonus: If you light the candles at 6 pm and they could burn for 8 hours, at what time would they finally stop? (Hint if needed: Midnight is 12:00, and an hour later the hours start over at 1.)
Big kids: If the 8 million people in Israel eat 17 million donuts this week, about how many donuts per person is that? Bonus: On the first night you light the center candle (shamash) plus 1 more, then the next night you light the center candle plus 2 more…so by then you’ve lit 5 candles (2 the first night, 3 the second night). How many candles will you need for all 8 evenings in total?
Wee ones: 7 more nights.
Little kids: 4 candles on each side. Bonus: 2:00 in the morning.
Big kids: About 2 donuts per person. Bonus: 44 candles, which is 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 7 + 8 + 9.
Laura Bilodeau Overdeck is founder and president of Bedtime Math Foundation. Her goal is to make math as playful for kids as it was for her when she was a child. Her mom had Laura baking before she could walk, and her dad had her using power tools at a very unsafe age, measuring lengths, widths and angles in the process. Armed with this early love of numbers, Laura went on to get a BA in astrophysics from Princeton University, and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business; she continues to star-gaze today. Laura’s other interests include her three lively children, chocolate, extreme vehicles, and Lego Mindstorms.