Blog post written by: Adam Harvey, Primary School Teacher in Guernsey and developer of resource website: www.educateoutside.com.
Maths is a great lesson to take outdoors with endless possibilities for teaching many different subject areas. I first started taking my lessons outside when I saw how much of a positive impact it had on one of my slightly more challenging students. In class I found it very difficult to motivate them, causing them to distract not only themselves, but the rest of the table! It was a subject I dreaded teaching as I was on constant high alert and would feel extremely drained after the lesson…that was until I took it outside!
I have never looked back since and, wherever possible, teach the curriculum outside of the classroom. It’s been extremely successful for me in not only in improving my enjoyment in teaching, but the children’s learning.
Here are 9 lesson ideas that I have used and developed to take maths lessons outside.
Grouping Up – A fun lesson starter (ages 4 – 12)
Outdoor lesson starters are a great way to get students out of their seats and active while practising their mathematical skills. For this activity your class will get into groups as quickly as possible based on the criteria you read out (e.g. get into a prime number/an even number/a group with 4 noses).
Download differentiated criteria sheets here: www.educateoutside.com/resource/grouping-up-math-starter/
Symmetry Ideas (ages 4 – 12)
Symmetry is a really fun and easy topic to take outside with minimal preparation.
Symmetry hunt – Find objects with 1, 2, 3, or 4 lines of symmetry. You can then get them to record their findings on a sheet, take a photo of it, or simply just let them enjoy finding symmetry – not everything has to be evidenced and assessed!
Symmetry bugs – Get your class to design and build their own symmetrical bugs using sticks.
Check out loads of outdoor symmetry ideas and resources here: www.educateoutside.com/resources/symmetry/
Data Handling Ideas (ages 7 – 12)
Data handling is another subject area where the opportunities for outdoor learning are endless. Below is just a few of the ideas I have used to great success:
- Collect data about types of plants or animals in the outdoor space.
- Measure their heart rate after different types of exercise.
- Do litter picking and collect then look at data about the different kinds of litter you found.
For more ideas and resources check out some data handling ideas here: www.educateoutside.com/resources/data-handling/
Tree Height (ages 10 – 12)
Trees can be used for lots of outdoor learning activities, many of which will fit into your maths lessons. If you are looking at measurement, conversion, or estimation this is a great activity for you. Your class will estimate and measure the height of trees using only themselves, a pencil, and a ruler. You could then go on to using this information for a data handling unit.
For instruction on how to measure the height of trees check out this resource: www.educateoutside.com/resource/measurement-tree-height/
Compass Directions (ages 7 – 12)
In pairs, armed with a compass and record sheet, get each partner to go around your outdoor area, stand in a spot, and record what they can see at different compass headings. They will then swap sheets with their partner and try to figure out where they were stood by using the information they recorded onto the sheet. For more of a challenge, students can use more precise headings.
See this resource for more information: www.educateoutside.com/resource/compass-directions-where-am-i/
Shape Hunt (ages 4 – 6)
This is a really simple but fun activity for your little ones who are looking at shape recognition. Get them to go into your outdoor space and see which different shapes they can see in the area. This can be done verbally with a teacher, learning assistant, partner, or by recording it on a record sheet.
Download the record sheet for free here: www.educateoutside.com/resource/shape-recognition-shape-hunt/
Number Recognition (4 – 6)
There are lots of ways to look at number recognition in the outdoors. I love using task cards with simple instructions to collect a certain number of sticks, leaves, or stones. Some of the cards involve finding a simple number, others involve finding a simple number and size/colour, and more challenging cards involve finding two different numbers.
Check out the resource here: www.educateoutside.com/resource/numbers-1-10-outdoor-counting-and-simple-addition/
The Human Clock (7 – 12)
Time can be a difficult subject to teach at the best of times. The human clock game makes this tricky topic active and fun for your students. Create a large clock using sticks, chalk, or anything else that works for you and read out different times, getting your students to make the time using their bodies as the clock arms while lying on the floor. This activity works really well as a whole class; however, it can also be very effective when students are working in small groups using differentiated time task cards that you can get using this link: www.educateoutside.com/resource/time-the-human-clock-game/
Addition Olympics (7 – 12)
Get your class outside, keeping fit, while doing maths! Addition Olympics is a great activity for your students to practise column addition with carrying. In pairs, get them to complete timed activities where they add their results together using column addition to get a combined score. My class absolutely love this activity and frequently play it in their own time!
Check out the activity sheets here: www.educateoutside.com/resource/addition-olympics/
I hope you have found some of these ideas helpful and are able to use them with your class. Remember, getting children to enjoy learning is half the battle and taking lessons outside can play a big part in this. Venture away from the classroom and enjoy!
About the Author
Adam Harvey is a primary school teacher from Guernsey, spending most of his time in KS2, with a huge passion for learning outside the classroom. As a child he spent the majority of his time outside, taking risks, getting muddy and, without knowing it, learning lots from doing so! Because of this, he has helped developed www.educateoutside.com which gives teachers access to resources.
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Very impressed with your overview on this topic! Thanks for your advice!
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