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Math Puzzle – How to Get Rid of a Christmas Tree

January 12th, 2013 · 2 Comments

Math puzzle for kidsIt’s that time of year. The holidays are over and you’re probably asking yourself, again, how to get rid of a Christmas tree without dragging it through doorways. Of course, not everybody has a tree. If you don’t, you can still examine the math puzzle that follows.

Spoiler Alert: If you want to consider the puzzle before looking at the answer, DO NOT scroll below the red line that appears at about the mid-way point of this article.

When most people buy their tree, it’s wrapped in netting or plastic so that the overall diameter is reduced. It resembles a folded umbrella and fits quite easily through doorways. Later, when you’re ready to pitch the tree, it’s too big. You know from experience that dragging it through the house and through doorways makes a mess because dry needles fall all over, and the sheer size of the tree has the tendency to knock things over. Nor is it a simple job trying to wrap it again. It’s all dried out now and doesn’t want to bend the way it did back in early December. And besides, where are you going to find something big enough to wrap it?

The Problem:

Figure 1 shows the typical Christmas tree and doorway. Examine this diagram with your child and consider the problem of how to get the tree to fit easily through the doorway.

Hint: Your solution can include the use of a handsaw.


The Solution:

The solution requires you to re-configure the geometric relationship between the tree and the door. In their normal position, the door and tree are both vertical in nature—that is, they both appear to you in an upright position.

If you turn the tree sideways (so it’s horizontal) it will now fit easily through the doorway after a few cuts to the trunk reduces it to sections. The shape of each section will resemble a tire that you carry through the door. (figure 2 and 3) How to get rid of a Christmas Tree

In sum. . . If you’ve often wondered how to get rid of your Christmas tree with as little fuss as possible, the horizontal “cut and carry” method has a few things going for it:

One: It gives you a chance to turn an ordinary household situation into a math puzzle. Look at the figure 1 with your child, then sit down and brainstorm possible solutions. Discuss the merits of your ideas. For instance, you could trim the entire diameter of the tree, Math games for kidsso you can carry it upright through doorways, but that would take a long, long time and would be a whole lot of trouble.

Two: The actual solution has the advantage of liberating the way your child sees objects and space. Your child will always remember this example of re-working geometric possibilities, and this understanding may prove useful or inspirational later on.

Three: The solution is genuinely easier than the alternatives. You may shed a few pine needles where you make the horizontal cuts. But at least you’re not leaving a trail through the house, or knocking down heirloom trinkets trying to maneuver the entire tree through your living space.

Good luck!

Tags: Kids’ Activities

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Mario // Jan 27, 2013 at 10:06 pm

    cool, good idea

  • 2 Spaghetti Box Kids // Jan 29, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    Mario, Thanks; glad to hear from you. -AV

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