How Math is Connected to the Calendar

The world as we know it is based on numbers. Humans are inclined to organize so that we may activate, and numbers basically make that possible. What’s amazing about numbers is that absolutely everyone on the entire globe (as far as we know) agrees upon the same numerical system – a base 10 system. That’s the start of it. From that foundation, we’ve agreed upon a number of other things too, like time measurements, monetary value, physics premises, and so on. Something you may have overlooked is the connection between math and the calendar and holidays!

It’s a fun topic that’s such a huge part of our global culture and it deserves some exploration. In this article, we’ll find out what is the connection between math and calendars. Of course, that includes the connection between holidays and math too!

How Math is Connected to the Calendar

The first bit of this answer is obvious. Math is connected to the calendar since a calendar consists of days, weeks, months, and years, all of which are numerical values in and of themselves. Moreover, each value is a building factor upon the other (ie 7 days = 1 week) and so the breakdown of the calendar itself reflects mathematical operations and their relationships. Pretty cool, right? But what about the creation of the calendar itself? How did the calendar become the way it is today?

The short answer is: a lot of debate, discussion, and trial and error. The calendar most of the world uses today, known as the Gregorian calendar, was created near the 16th century as a remedy for several previous failures. Accuracy was not the only agenda for the manipulators of the calendar system in the past. Politics and religion played a huge role in shaping calendars. Just look at Great Britain in 1782 – their month of September only had 19 days!

Rulers wanted months named after them to possess the most days for the sake of conceit. The church wanted numbers to work in their favor for the sake of important religious days. Countries and their yolk adhered to different calendars, leading to vast errors in their systems and communication troubles with their neighbors. Time is mathematical after all! And as we know, calendars are just an organization and documentation of how we perceive the passing of time here on Earth.

Astronomy and Mathematics

The numerical patterns in our Gregorian calendar did not come out of nowhere. Although history has produced and reproduced innumerable calendars, all were based on measurable time as perceived by human beings. In other words, the cosmos has always guided our hands in the creation of calendars.

Depending on the culture and their customs, calendars would take different forms. The easiest way to calculate time without the help of modern technology is to study the moon. It’s close by, easily visible, and completes a cycle about every 28 days. For that reason, most ancient calendars were lunar calendars.

The sun makes for the next easiest target, and solar calendars like the one we use now have their fair place in history. Lastly, the other stars and planets, and phases of the Earth itself aid in the process of time analysis. To make an accurate calendar without advanced technology is impossible without studying “the giant clock in the sky” with persistence and dedication – and good record keeping!

Holidays and Mathematics

Holidays (being tied to a calendar system), are based on mathematics. Some holidays fall on a specific number of a specific month of every year (like Christmas or your birthday). Some holidays fall on a specific ordinal day within a month (or many months). For example, Thanksgiving in the United States is celebrated on the third Thursday of every November. Other holidays around the world are dictated by the moon’s cycles and phases (lunar holidays) and fall on the corresponding appropriate day.

Sometimes, the number of the day and/or month itself is enough reason to declare a holiday (as we’ll see a little later on.) There are even holidays that last for more than one day, like Hanukah or Kwanza! Remember, numbers always have patterns, prove themselves, and are definitive!

Some Math Related Holidays

Here are some fun math holidays that are worth remembering!:

  • Fibonacci Day – Celebrates the Fibonacci Sequence, a groundbreaking mathematical pattern that can be found in nature. Celebrate on November 23rd (11,23) since those are the first four numbers in the sequence.
  • Pythagorean Day – Celebrated on any day of any year that aligns with the world-renowned formula: a² + b² = c2². The last one was on December 16, 2020!
  • Pi Day – Celebrated on March 14 since 3, 1, and 4 are the first three significant digits of π.  This is the annual celebration of the mathematical constant π. Because of the name, it’s a fun and common practice to enjoy some pie on this day, too!

A final note: Calendars are powerful significators in the world of mathematics given their history and what they represent. They’re also great tools for learning! Incorporating a calendar into your class routine helps to organize minds and numerical patterns!

Want to have a little more fun with calendars and math? Check out our Calendar Math Trick worksheet!

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