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When Pythagoras Met Chanukah

When Pythagoras Met Chanukah


Chanukah is upon us…

…and with it parents are getting homework from school to build and make various festive items.

My son came home with an assignment to make a Dreidel or Sevivon (Chanukah spinning top) with his parents; thank you school for giving me homework too.

The instructions told us it could be made of any material and needed to represent heroism, one of the main themes of the festival.

What Is A Dreidel / Sevivon?

Dreidel Chanukah

Here is a classic representation. With this in mind the Little Guy and I embarked upon a planning session where we discussed various materials for our Chanukah task and given the timeframe we decided on a cardboard cutout with printed images of daily heroism: a policeman, fireman, paramedic and soldier.

Luckily we hadn’t disposed of the weekly paper and card recycling so we had raw materials to choose from. To make it easy to cut I suggested we use a cornflakes box.

We cut one open and then the Little Guy asked how to make the shape; a Dreidel is essentially a cube with a pyramid (four sided triangular solid stuck underneath) and a handle: one holds the handle to spin and the point of the pyramid allows the Dreidel to spin.

I gave the Little Guy the ruler and asked him to measure how big the cardboard was, then I sketched out what a deconstructed Dreidel would look like after we agreed that:

We could cut 20 – 22 cm along the length of the box

Therefore: 4 sides of the cube would be 5 cm but how would we work out the correct size of the triangles making the pyramidal base?

The image below shows each triangle was dissected along the middle creating a right angle triangle. At this point I explained some basic geometry to my son and we did the math together to work out the length of the sides of the triangle.

We needed to add a flap of 0.5 cm to stick the cube together. We did the pencil and ruler work together and ended up with this.

Dreidel - Chanukah 1 - template

Followed by some dazzling scissor work with a pair of safety scissors.

Dreidel - Chanukah 2 template

Next we threw a glue stick and some invisible tape into the mix.

Dreidel - Chanukah 3 template

After selecting the images for our heroic theme and printing them (thanks Office 2013 online images) we cut and stuck them on the Dreidel, colored the ends and used an Ikea pencil as the Dreidel’s handle.

Dreidel - Chanukah 4 template

All in all the Little Guy had a good time doing the work with me and learning some practical applications of geometry and Pythagoras.

Mission Accomplished – Happy Chanukah.


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