One of my favorite Christmas traditions is reading the classic stories, and nothing beats ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore. Little did Moore know, but he wrote a poem full of opportunities for math talk!
The guide below outlines six places in ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas where you can incorporate math questions that will build your child’s numeracy skills. Put on your coziest Christmas sweater, pour of cup of hot cocoa, and enjoy this wonderful holiday treat.
Note: The images that I use are from the 1912 version that Jessie Wilcox Smith illustrated. Your book may have different illustrations, but the same math opportunities should still apply.
- 1. “The stockings were hung by the chimney with care.” When you see multiple objects in an illustration, you can always have your child count them! Counting is a great way to build an understanding of number. If your child is first learning to count, encourage your child to touch each stocking as they count. Comparing characteristics is also an important early math skill. Have your child find the longest stocking and the shortest stocking.
2. “When what to my wondering eyes should appear.” Finding shapes in illustrations is a great way to build important early geometry skills. In this image, the windows are rectangles, and the panes are diamonds (or rhombuses – but don’t be too picky about vocabulary here). If this image is different in your version, look for other illustrations where you can have your child identify shapes.
3. “More rapid than eagles his courses they came/ And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name.” This is another great opportunity to practice counting! Have your child count each of the reindeer. If your child is comfortable counting, try counting by twos since the reindeer are in pairs. You can also practice important sequential words, like first and last.
4. “He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot.” This is another opportunity to compare characteristics. With the dad standing right next to Santa, have your child compare the height of the two men.
5. “He had a round face and a little round belly.” In addition to finding shapes, you can encourage your child to use shape words to build early geometry skills. Ask your child to find curved or round lines, such as St. Nick’s belly or his bag of toys. You can follow this up by also asking your child to find straight lines.
This image also provides an opportunity to sort and group objects. Ask your child to find all of the toys with a specific characteristic, such as the color red.
6. “He spoke not a word, but went straight to work…And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.” Using position words is a great way to build spatial reasoning. In this illustration, St. Nick is standing on top of the stool, and when he leaves, he goes up the chimney. Other location words and phrases can be things like next to, below, beneath, inside, outside, and over.
The above examples are just a few ways to incorporate math talk into this wonderful holiday book. The illustrations are rich with opportunities to count, compare characteristics, find shapes, and use position word.
Last but not least, don’t over do it! Instead of asking all of these questions in one reading choose a few that you think your child will be most interested in.
More on Math Talk
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