Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Cost of Twelve Days Of Christmas

Welcome to the Thoughts of an Anti-Librarian, I'd like to share one of my Favorite lessons this time of year, I do with my Fifth Grade Students. What they have to do is find the cost of the Twelve Days of Christmas.  This Christmas Price Index is calculated each year by PNC Bank (in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania). According to their website, “It began 28 years ago when the chief economist at PNC Bank decided to figure out how much it would cost to buy each of the gifts..”

When my students do the project, they have to find,
A.     The cost of each of the presents (and a Partridge in the Pear tree is separate).
B.     The cost of all the presents together.
C.     The cost of the entire song (each present given each day).

It is really kind of funny when they first start working on the project. Some of the kids will start looking for shopping sites, EBay and Amazon are the big ones they choose. I have to remind them at this point that they need to find the actual present not an ornament or a porcelain figurine (you would be surprised how much porcelain is used on the twelve days of Christmas).  One year, I actually had one group that found an exotic bird store and was upset when they couldn’t get a price for  French hens, they actually wanted to call the store and ask if they could get a price.

Once in a while, I get a group that starts Googling the words, “Cost of Twelve Days of Christmas.” This will take them to new sites that talk about the PNC website, but most of the time, they don’t realize that this is the website they need. Sometimes they find the Christmas Price Index from a previous year; they are so disappointed when I point out it is the wrong year. What is funny is that they don’t repeat their search with the same words just adding the current year.  When I point this out to them later, they get usually can’t believe it. (I never help during the lesson, I always review after the lesson what worked and what didn’t with the classes).

I think I enjoy this project so much, because the kids can’t believe that each of these items are real and they actually cost so much.  I have done this lesson with 6th grade also, but I would be careful about doing it in too high of grades, because the cost of Nine Ladies Dancing is  about $6300. The comments that could be made about paying a dancer, especially that much, could get inappropriate the older the students get.

This is a great lesson for practice in using Search Engines and using the internet to gather and organize information and to solve problems. The kids not only enjoy it because they get to use the internet, but also because it has to do with presents and Christmas. I enjoy it, because once I show them the PNC Website and they enjoy reading through the information and looking at the graphics that they have. I also like the fact that they don’t consider this a Math lesson, although we cover a few Math concepts as we discuss the answers, to my three questions. 

For more information on the PNC Christmas Index checkout this article on The Inspiration Room.

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