Additional Math Pages & Resources

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Eight Days of Hannukah: Counting Worksheets

Hanukkah or the "Festival of Lights," also known as Chanukah, began on Saturday, December 8 and continues through December 16 this year. The eight-day festival commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the second century B.C.

According to legend, Jews had risen up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors in the Maccabean Revolt. Afterward, Judah led his followers to cleanse the Second Temple, rebuild its altar and light its menorah (pictured above, under the Hebrew letters). The gold candelabrum had seven branches representing knowledge and creation. Its candles were intended to be kept burning every night. Today Hanukkah menorahs have 8 branches plus one servant light. The servant candle lights the other 8 candles. The eight days and nine candles of Hanukkah give us an opportunity to use counting along with addition and subtraction in a fun multi-cultural lesson.

For over 35 years, Excel Math has provided teachers (Kindergarten through Grade 6) with proven lessons that help students excel at mathematics. Learn more and watch Excel Math in action at Read some Excel Math success stories at Now back to Hanukkah.
Dreidel (wooden toy)

Hanukkah means "dedication" in Hebrew. It begins on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar and usually occurs in November or December. According to the Talmud, one of Judaism’s most revered texts, Judah Maccabee and the others who took part in the rededication of the Second Temple witnessed a miracle. Even though there was only enough olive oil to keep the menorah’s candles burning for a single day, the flames continued for eight nights, giving the people time to find a fresh supply. This amazing event inspired them to proclaim a yearly eight-day festival.

Each day during Hanukkah, children receive presents, and a candle on the Menorah is lit. Traditional Hanukkah foods are fried in oil. Potato pancakes (known as latkes) and jam-filled donuts (sufganiyot) are popular in many Jewish households. Other Hanukkah customs include playing with four-sided spinning tops called dreidels, exchanging gifts and singing Hanukkah songs.

Read more about Hanukkah traditions at Download a counting worksheet showing candles on a Menorah:

If your students celebrate Christmas or Kwanzaa, download the blank candles worksheet and have them draw a wreath or a Kinara (Kwanzaa candle holder) beneath the top candle. Students who don't celebrate holidays can simply draw a fireplace mantel or table (or candle holders of their choice) beneath the candles. Have your students print their names in the box at the top and cut out the candles on the bottom of the page. For Kwanzaa, let students color the candles red, black and green before cutting them out. You will only need 7 candles for Kwanzaa. Point out that there is already one candle on the Menorah (or Kinara or wreath):

Then ask, "If you add two more candles, how many will you have on the Menorah?" (3) Let your students add two more candles to the Menorah. Continue until all the candles are glued to the Menorah. Then show your students how to slide the paper strip through the slits to cover the candle flames. Let them slide the strip the other way to uncover some of the flames. Ask them how many candles are on the Menorah. (9) Ask them how many candles will be lit if they cover 5 flames. (4) Have them cover 5 flames to check. Continue in this way using addition and subtraction.

You can also use this worksheet to help your students recognize left and right. Ask each student to put a finger on a candle to the right of the center candle. Do the same with a candle to the left of the center candle (the tall one is the center). Then have them use the paper strip to cover two flames on the right of the center candle. Let your students make suggestions for additional math problems or story problems about the candles.

How do you help your students relate math to customs and traditions? How do you help them see math in everyday life? Leave a comment below with your teaching suggestions.

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