Mathematics & creativity

Have you heard the tale of Mother Holle?

Mother Holle

A quick outline of the story for those who don’t know it.

(It can also be found on my yurls site  )


Once upon a time there were two girls, Gold Marie and Pech Marie.

Gold Marie had to do all the work and Pech Marie could play all day!

Gold Marie went to get some water from the well and accidently dropped the bucket in! Her stepmother made her jump into the well to get it.

At the bottom of the well was another world, Gold Marie walked past an apple tree. The tree is full of apples and asks Gold Marie to help it, she shakes the tree to get out the apples and puts them in a basket.

Then she passes an oven, the oven asks her to help it, so she takes out the bread.

Then Gold Marie comes to a house, Mother Holle lives in the house. She asks Gold Marie to stay with her and help her for a year and a day. Every day Gold Marie has to shake up the duvet so that the feathers fly around, and then it snows on Earth.


After a year and a day, Gold Marie can go home, she stands in Mother Holle’s special fireplace and is covered with gold.


When she arrives home her stepmother sees the gold and throws her own daughter (Pech Marie) down the well. She doesn’t help the tree or the oven. She helps Mother Holle for 2 days and then she stays in bed all day. Mother Holle decides to send her home. Pech Marie stands in Mother Holle’s special fireplace and is covered in tar.



How to use the story of Mother Holle in the classroom

We made a display showing different parts of the story.  The apple trees, the cakes in the oven, the well, the fireplace with Gold Marie and Pech Marie and Mother Holle and her duvet with the feathers flying round.

Mother Holle well and trees

The Mother Holle display

Mother Holle gold and tar

Gold Marie and Pech Marie in Mother Holle’s fireplace

mother Holle shaking her duvet

Mother Holle shaking out her duvet so the feathers fly round and it snows on earth.


The children each made a repeating colour pattern on a strip of paper, these were stuck together to make Mother Holle’s duvet. Differentiation was made in the complexity of the pattern produced.


Later (not on the photos), we added a village of houses under the feathers and exchanged some feathers for snowflakes.

The houses were made using paper-folding, changing a square into a rectangle or a triangle.

Names of shapes were discussed and cause and effect. Differentiation was made into the size of paper used depending on the level of dexterity of the child.


Other maths activities for Mother Holle included:


  • Counting apples, buns, feathers, snowflakes
  • Cooking:  baking bread, making applesauce- weighing the ingredients, setting the temperature and timer on the oven etc.
  • Using ovals and circles of different sizes to make the characters’ faces for the display
  • Symmetry: find matching snowflake halves
  • Comparing and ordering: feathers, snowflakes, apples, buns
  • Sorting by shape/colour/pattern: feathers, snowflakes, apples, buns


This is a great example of how a story can lead to all sorts of mathematical activities. The class enjoyed the story so much that we did a performance  for the parents with the songs on my yurls. The part they enjoyed the most was throwing fake snowballs at their parents after Mother Holle had made it snow!