Christmas Problem Solving Activities

Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

Practicing problem solving using Christmas-themed problems is a great way to stimulate motivation and focus during the lead-up to the holidays. The collaborative problem-solving activities offered here can be adjusted for any age group.

Problem Solving at Christmas

The holidays tend to be a difficult time to motivate your students, particularly Christmastime, when students have a hard time focusing on classwork before break. One method to keep your students focused during the lead-up to winter break is Christmas-themed activities. This allows them to act on their Christmas excitement while still participating in class.

The activities offered here are designed to work your students' minds as they problem solve their way through Christmas-themed puzzles and problems. They can be adjusted for any age group.

Santa's Escape

Working together, your students will help Santa escape from a trap.


  • Worksheet with Christmas-themed scenario, such as:
    • Santa has gone down the chimney of a naughty child's home. The child set up a trap and as soon as Santa came out of the chimney, he found that the chimney snapped shut and he could no longer leave. He only has the things anyone might find in a normal house to help free himself. What does he do?


  • Divide your class into groups of two or three.
  • Give each group a scenario worksheet.
    • The scenarios can all be the same, or you can give each group their own escape scenario.
  • Set a time limit for students to collaborate on how to save Santa (10-15 minutes). They might:
    • Have Santa use the fireplace tools to pry open the trap door
    • Suggest that Santa made his way to the dog door and shrunk himself enough to get through
  • Encourage your students to come up with elaborate plans for Santa to save himself. Motivate your students by telling them that they will get one point for each household item used in the escape plan.
  • After the time is up, allow each group to present their escape plan. Track the number of points earned.
  • The team with the most points wins.


  • For very young students, allow them to act out their Santa escape for the class.
  • Add additional traps to the scenario for older students or allow older student groups to compose their own scenarios for each other.

The Biggest Present Wins

Math and Christmas go hand in hand, right? This activity will get your students doing mental math while problem solving.


  • Lego blocks (or similar product)
  • Rulers

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