Divide and Conquer: Santa's Dirty Socks

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This activity introduces the idea of "divide and conquer" using a fictitious but serious problem--a pair of dirty socks has accidentally been wrapped in one of the presents that Santa is about to deliver, and he needs to figure out which present, to avoid a child getting a nasty surprise. Learners can watch an animated video, listen to a story, or read a book themselves. This resource includes ideas for follow-up group discussion.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
free per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Computing
      • Computer Science
    • Engineering
      • Computer Engineering
  • Mathematics
    • Algebra
      • Equations and Inequalities
      • Patterns
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Representation
    • Measurement
    • Number and Operations
      • Fractions
      • Number Systems
    • Representation
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Problem Solving

Informal Categories

  • Computers
  • Literature


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • hear

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Foreign language versions of this resource:

Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Bell, Tim ; Witten, Ian ; Fellows, Mike ; Adams, Robyn ; McKenzie, Jane


Funding Sources:

  • Brian Mason Scientific and Technical Trust
  • Google Inc.