Taking Math Outside

Math gets a bad rap for being the boring subject which requires sitting still and repeating thousands of similar problems on pages and pages of worksheets. Grammar is required to master math.  But it doesn't have to be practiced solely at a desk.  Every once and a while, you can mix things up and take the lessons outside!  Here's some ways to take the math outside:

1. Rock and Chalk Math

Rock and chalk math outside

This is a simple little game that can be reinvented in so many ways depending on the level of math you'd like to practice.  Here's how you set it up:

Draw a circle on the driveway with chalk

Draw a circle on the sidewalk or driveway.  Grab some rocks and take turns trying to toss them into the circle.

try to toss rocks into the circle

math outside count rocks inside circle and outside

The results of the toss bring us to the varieties of math to play with this game:

  • Fact families - For Ellen (9) who's working on memorizing fact families, we'll play the game to see the sums of 7 (or whatever number you'd like to focus on).  She can count the number of rocks inside the circle and the number outside and that gives her two sums of 7: 2+5 and 5+2.  We'll throw the rocks and discover other sums of 7.
  • Multiplication - Grace (11) is still working on solidifying her multiplication facts.  She'll multiply the two numbers 2 x 5.  This is a simple way to play with multiplication.  We might need to get a few more rocks for her to throw.
  • Percentages - Will (14) calculates the percentage of rocks that made it into the circle.

math outside calculating percentage on driveway

2.  Stick Measures 

Stick Measures taking math outside

Measuring allows for many avenues of great math work.  First find a stick that is somewhat straight to measure with.

Find a stick to measure with

We started with trying to find the surface area of our front lawn (it's squarish).  Ellen used the stick to mark segments around the yard.  Since the stick was roughly 5 feet in length, she could skip count to find the length and width of the yard.

Measuring with a stick outside math

Grace, remembering the area of a rectangle is length times width, could multiply to find the area of the section of the yard measured.  Will found the length of the stick in feet, and could use a unit multiplier to convert the units from sticks squared to square feet.

Converting units using a unit multiplier

3. Geometry Hunt

Geometry hunt taking math outside

Need a quick break from sitting all day inside?  Take a quick lap around the block and see if you can identify the shapes all around you!  Not all math needs to be elaborate or complex to be beneficial.  Sometimes just practicing observing and identifying can get the geometry juices flowing and start spontaneous geometry seeking at other times in the day.  Talk about what you see.  Enjoy the conversation.  A positive experience with math can produce happy students for many more lessons at the table inside.

math outside finding rectangles

math outside finding circles

math outside finding triangles

School doesn't have to chain you to a desk.  Teach the curriculum - math.  Don't worry so much about finishing all of the worksheets.

Taking Math Outside

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