The Twelve Days of Christmas

How many gifts did my true love send to me altogether?

HollyFirst verse:
n the first day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
A partridge in a pear tree.

Last verse
n the twelfth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Twelve lords a-leaping,
Eleven ladies dancing,
Ten pipers piping,
Nine drummers drumming,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree!

There are 12 verses altogether.


This awesome version of the song by Pentatonix will make even Ebeneze Scrooge feel festive and join in the harmonies!


Here is an instrumental version to have playing quietly in the background while working on this Starter in the classroom.


Topics: Starter | Number | Xmas

You can find many more ChristMaths activities at:


  • Transum,
  • You may need to give the pupils a little help if they are having difficulty. Can you sing? Well if singing is out of the question the song could be recited as a poem. Once pupils start making a list of the total number of presents each day they will see the pattern of triangular numbers emerge. Could they generalise this to find the number of presents received on the nth day? More advanced students might consider finding the formula for the sum of the series!
  • Unknown,
  • Ideas for further developing this theme:

    How many birds are there?
    How many people are there?
    If each drummer has 2 drumsticks how many sticks are there altogether?
    If each goose lays 2 eggs and each of the other birds lay 3 eggs how many eggs would there be?
    How many eyes are there altogether?
    If the gold rings were shared out amongst the maids how many would not have one?
    How many people are playing a musical instrument?
    How many fingers are there altogether?
    Could all the birds be shared out equally between the ladies dancing?
  • Helen C, Twitter
  • Transum,
  • Each year the PNC Christmas Price Index estimates the cost of buying all of the gifts in the song. In December 2021 it was estimated to be £30,562 (US $41205).

How did you use this starter? Can you suggest how teachers could present or develop this resource? Do you have any comments? It is always useful to receive feedback and helps make this free resource even more useful for Maths teachers anywhere in the world.
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You can get a little help arriving at the answer by clicking on the play button below:

[Audio excerpt from Natalie Cole's version of the Twelve Days of Christmas]

Online Maths Shop

Laptops In Lessons

Teacher, do your students have access to computers such as tablets, iPads or Laptops?  This page was really designed for projection on a whiteboard but if you really want the students to have access to it here is a concise URL for a version of this page without the comments:

However it would be better to assign one of the student interactive activities below.

Laptops In Lessons

Here is the URL which will take
them to a student version of this activity.

Student Activity


Finally, just in case you have not yet spotted the connection with triangular numbers, have a look at this video from The Choir of Clare College, Cambridge.



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