Santa is a very busy man.

Here’s a maths problem:

A world population of nearly 7 billion people. That means that there are about 2 billion children. Let’s suppose that, say, three-quarters of them fall into the ‘good’ category (because we all know that Santa only gives presents to good children) and that leaves 1.5 billion children. 1,500,000,000 people on planet earth under the age of 18.

And, if each child in the world – for argument’s sake – receives two presents, that’s 3 billion presents that Santa has to deliver. In one night. How fast does Santa have to travel to deliver all the presents? How big is his sleigh to hold all the presents? How strong must all his reindeer be to pull such a heavily-laden sleigh? How does Santa defy gravity?

Actually, there’s a more serious issue here. According to a recent British newspaper article, the average person will spend $700 on gifts for other people. And, two years ago, the New Zealand Herald said that each New Zealand adult spends $468 on presents. So, given that the population of New Zealand is about 4.5 million people, and 3 million of those are adults, that works out at an astonishing $1.3 billion in total!

So, what will over $1 billion buy? Or, in other words, what should New Zealand get as a Christmas present to itself if everyone clubbed together instead of giving each other things?

1. A return trip to the moon. Cost: $750 million.

2. Two brand new Airbus 380 aeroplanes. Cost: $810 million.

3. An entire top European soccer club. Cost: $1 billion.

4. Five fighter jets. Cost $1 billion.

5. The entire Solomon Islands. Cost $1 billion.

6. Provide clean drinking water for 50 million people. Cost: $1 billion

7. Supply vaccinations for 300 million cats and dogs. Cost $1 billion

8. Feed 30,000 children for a year. Cost $900 million

It’s odd that $1 billion seems like a lot of money when you can do a lot with it like feed, clothe, support many in need – or a small amount when it buys just two aeroplanes.

Christmas is a time when people buy presents – big and small – to show how much they love and care for each other. And it’s a bit silly to try and show what that amount of money could buy because the entire population wouldn’t put all their money together to pay, for example, for a space trip. But it’s worth thinking what else all that money could be spent on.

What would you do with $1 billion?


Article written by Ben Egerton

[colored_box color=”green”]This is an opinion-based article designed to provoke debate, discussion and further inquiry
amongst your students:[/colored_box] 

[colored_box color=”yellow”]Critical Thinking Challenges:

1) How does Santa manage it?

2) Is $1 billion a lot of money?

3) Why is so much money spent at Christmas?


[colored_box color=”green”]Practical Tasks:

1) How would you spend $1 billion?

2) What should New Zealand buy as a Christmas present to itself?


[colored_box color=”red”]Have Your Say:
[socialpoll id=”[socialpoll id=”2234781″]


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