Maths is everywhere. One of the great things about maths is that it’s not confined to a textbook.
A great way to engage students - and help them retain the information they've been learning in the classroom - is to consistently show them how it translates to their daily life. A trip outside coupled with fun maths activities could help broaden their horizons. The world is filled with shapes, patterns, angles, all there for them to discover.
Here are 5 Fun Outdoor Maths Activities
Have fun with these easy and engaging outdoors maths activities. If you already use the popular, effective Math-U-See program you can also use these activities to directly correspond with your child's current level of understanding.
These activities can be used at home as well as combined with school-based learning.
1. Sporting with Spheres
A sphere is a perfectly round, three-dimensional object. It is also the shape of many toys and sporting goods. Use a game of football, blowing bubbles, playing with marbles, or a beach ball to introduce this special shape. Encourage your student to name other spheres, including those that occur in nature. Ask them to describe their differences. For older, more advanced students this could be an opportunity to introduce the term spheroid as a figure that is approximately spherical in shape. If interested, encourage them to research its mathematical definition and its relation to 3D geometry and applications in calculus.
2. Area and Angles
Hiking or bushwalking isn’t just a great way to exercise, it’s a great learning opportunity. If you can find a trail with an incline, use it in comparison to a triangle. Have students calculate the area of the triangle with numbers you provide during the journey. Also discuss the types of triangles, and different angles that you may see. For students in Delta Level and beyond, you could calculate the height of the triangle in addition to the area!
"A trip outside coupled with fun maths activities can help broaden your students horizons! The world is filled with shapes, patterns, angles, all there for them to discover."
3. Hop x Hop
Multiplication Hopscotch is a fun way to teach students multiplication. All you need is is a sidewalk or concrete, sidewalk chalk, a set of multiples and you’re on your way. Start with a number, and draw the multiples in block larger enough for the student to skip in. For example, using the number 6 the first block would be 1. The second block would be 12 (as in 6 x 2 = 12) and so on. The combination of hopping (body movement) and skip counting will make multiplication easier to remember, whether they are in Alpha Level and learning skip counting; or Gamma Level and mastering multiplication.
See the Math-U-See program's Gamma Level Instruction Manual Lesson 2, 'Multiply by 1 and 0, Commutative Property' for a Multiplication Fact Sheet
4. Seasons of Symmetry
When one half of an object is the mirror image of the other half, the object is said to have symmetry. Teach your student to look for different types of symmetry in nature to extend their knowledge and understanding of shapes and patterns. These may include wallpaper symmetry, fractal symmetry, and radial symmetry. During outdoor activities you can challenge them to search for examples of items in nature that have these types of symmetry. This activity can be continued throughout the year. Keep a running list of items they find in the places you visit and as the seasons change. Just be warned that, once your student is aware of it, they may begin to point out symmetry in everything they see!
"Outdoor maths activities are a great way to have fun learning maths together. Your student will appreciate the opportunity to experiment, investigate, and talk with you about the wonders of mathematics."
5. Stick to Fractions
Fractions can be a little tricky to learn. This activity gives the student the opportunity to visualize fractions by using sticks. Gather multiple sticks in different lengths, grouping them close together. Or find a large thin stick, then break it into shorter sticks. Arrange the largest stick at the top and the remaining sticks in descending order by size. You want to end up with one whole stick, two half sticks, a stick broken into thirds, and a stick broken into fourths. Use the multiple lengths to illustrate problems and allow the student to figure out the solutions.
Remember that just because you want your student to learn maths doesn’t mean they always needs to be inside following a structured maths lesson. Outdoor maths activities are a great way to have fun learning maths together, and to apply mastery with understanding. Your child will appreciate the opportunity to experiment, investigate, and talk with you about the wonders of mathematics.
Here's our favourite 100 Maths Activities, compiled in an easy-to-use ebook:
Have fun learning!
The Team at Maths Australia