Mathematical Monday: Advent Calendar

When we were young, we often had Advent Calendars in December. Usually, they were interesting ones. One year, we had one made of those plastic pieces that stuck to the windows. Once, we hung ornaments on a little tree. I also remember a candle that burned down a bit each night. A few times, we had little cardboard window opening ones with pieces of chocolate or tiny toys inside. Actually, we had quite a few Advent Calendars with various toys and prizes. Can you see where this is going?

Just tear it apart and eat the chocolate, you know you want to

Mmmmm, milka. How many days until Christmas? Thanks Marjolinvdkolk for the photo!

Essentially, with three children in the family, things had to be proportioned perfectly and evenly, and the objective with the Advent Calendar was for a different person to open each day and claim the prize. However, no one would simply rely on remembering who opened it yesterday to keep things on track. Being the obnoxiously mathematical and logical child that I was, at about age 14 I solved the three child Advent Calendar problem so that we could easily switch off without having to remember whose turn it was.

Here was my system:

Any day that was a multiple of three: Rosalind

Even days not multiples of three: Gardella

Odd days not multiples of three: Dawn

You get it?

It meant that Dawn and Gardella switched their order between the Rosalind days, but it still worked really well. If you have three kids, you should use try this method.

Also, when my family opens gifts, we have figured out when it gets near the end how to space them effectively so that each person opens a single final gift. We’ll watch and be like, “Okay, Dawn, now you open two and I’ll only open one.” Seriously, we still do this.

The Mothership still tells people the story of how I solved the Advent Calendar problem with math.


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December 2010
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