I have the privilege to be one of The Salvation Army Angel Tree Ambassadors this season. This is especially meaningful because my family benefited from the Angel Tree when I was a kid.

But of course, donating also has math in it. So if you donate to those in need, you can integrate math learning into it.

And if you haven’t had a chance to donate in a while, check out the math below to see how easy it is!

### Donate your time.

Head to a local shelter, Salvation Army or church to volunteer. Talk to your kids about how much time they spend each week playing, doing sports and gaming.

**1. Suppose your family donates a half day – how much of their free time will they be giving up?**

Say they have 18 hours a week to play: 1-2 hours/day during the week and 3-5 hours/day on the weekend.

A half day, or four hours, is 4 hours/18 hours or 22%. So less than a quarter of their free time is taken as a volunteer.

If that’s the only time all year you volunteer, the math is a little different. The play time for the year is 52 weeks x 18 hours/week = 936 hours.

Volunteering 4 of those hours means they’ve given 4/936 or 0.5% (less than 1%) of their free time away!

### Donate some money.

How much money are you budgeting for gifts this holiday season? $250? $500?

**2a. If you donate $5 to The Salvation Army online, what percentage of your budget of $250 would be donated to them?**

Five dollars out of $250 is $5/$250 or 2% of your budget.

**2b. What percentage of your budget of $500 would be donated to The Salvation Army online if you gave $50?**

Fifty dollars out of $500 is $50/$500 or 10%.

**3. If the average present cost for you is $25 and you donated 10% of that to The Salvation Army online, what would the new average present cost be?**

Ten percent of $25 is the same as 10% x $25 (remember “of” means multiply). This is 0.10 x $25 or $2.50.

So your new average present cost is $25 – $2.50 or $22.50. That’s still pretty good!

### Share the experience.

Suppose you just don’t have a half day, and you’re working on a budget of $0 this Christmas. You can still help your children see the beauty of giving and share some math with them.

**4. The Houston Salvation Army Secret Warehouse (where they keep all the toys) is 24,000 square feet. It serves about 6,000 families. About how much space is that for the toys for each family?**

So 24,000 square feet/6,000 families = 4 square feet/family in that warehouse! That’s the size of a square with each side roughly the length of your arm.

Check out the bags of donated gifts behind the bike in the picture and you can see that it’s totally true!

### Share a smile.

The Salvation Army Bell Ringers have a tough job encouraging people to drop their loose change into the famous Red Kettle. They spend hours on their feet. And many times people don’t even look their way.

So give them a big smile when you pass by. Have your children stop and shake their hand and tell them thanks for helping others.

When you leave, talk about how big the bell ringer’s smile was at having someone interact with them. Remember, the size of a smile could be measured in inches (another math thing) – but often it’s measured in happiness!

### Create a math model.

A math model is an equation that represents reality. Or something close to reality.

You can model how good you would feel based on how you share.

**5. Can you create a formula for how good you feel when you donate your time, money or do other nice things for others?**

For me, I used a scale from 1 to 10. I assigned numbers to each of the activities:

- Giving
**one toy**makes me feel as good as 6. - Giving
**one book**makes me feel as good as an 8. - Giving
**one hour**of my time makes me feel a 4. - Giving
**a smile and handshake**to a bell ringer makes me feel like a 10. - Giving
**one dollar**makes me feel like a 5.

So my formula for how good I feel this season looks like this:

### Your turn!

So how about it? What will you do this holiday season to help you feel good and teach your children math? Share your thoughts in the comments and don’t forget to tweet about it.

And of course, visit your local Salvation Army and donate online!

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