Five Outdoor Math Activities For Your Kids

Mar 17, 2021 | Articles, At Home Learning Tips, Math Activities, Math Tips

It’s time for outdoor math!

With the temperatures creeping up and the first signs of spring emerging from the once-chilled ground, it’s got us all thinking about being outside more (plus-hey-it’s safer during a Pandemic!). Our mathematicians at the Community Classroom have been planning ideas for outdoor math and soaking up the sun while warming up our winter-chilled bones.

Here are outdoor math ideas now that the grass is beginning to turn green.

1. Take an outdoor math walk.

Ever wonder how many grains of sand you can fit in a Dixie cup or how tall the tree is in your backyard? Go on a math walk and exercise both your body and your brain! This is a great strategy for those kids that might be a bit more math-adverse. Exposing children to math in different contexts (like outdoor math!) can help reach kids who don’t like math or think they aren’t good at it. Find more ideas for math walks in this EdSource article.

A nice pathway for a mathwalk for outdoor math

2. Play some outdoor math games.

No, we don’t mean taking your multiplication flashcards outside (though that’s an idea, too!). We love this curated list of outdoor math ideas from We Are Teachers—including creating a life-sized number line, rolling dice to count out your frog jumps (then measure them!), catching a math beach ball, or chalking out a version of “Dance Dance Revolution” with math equations. This list of outdoor math activities is a great addition to any classroom lesson plan or Spring Break at home with parents looking for something educational to keep the kids occupied (and engaged in learning outdoors!).

a numbered walkway for a math walk to do math outside

3. Conduct a math experiment outdoors.

Grab some chalk, head outside to your driveway, and post a mysterious math problem (without your kids knowing). Write “Can you solve this puzzle?” beside it. Then say nothing.

Watch what happens when your kids notice the problem when they head outdoors! This is one way to make math a bit more fun (and mysterious!) for your children. Read more on this idea from math teacher Sarah VanDerWerf here (and find a list of outdoor math problems you can print!).

writing a math problem in chalk on a sidewalk

And while you have your chalk in hand…

4. Create some sidewalk math!

Spark curiosity and help your child find joy in math by chalking out problems on your neighborhood sidewalks. Changing the environment where kids “do” math helps to change how they react to it! Your kids (or kids in your school or neighborhood) can travel from problem to problem as they ponder the tasks and engage in (outdoor!) math discussions. And get some exercise.

And if you wanted to get the community involved…

Our tutors and teachers loved this idea so much we decided to sponsor an Interactive Math Walk throughout our downtown of Northampton, Massachusetts on April 13. Find more information on our Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce and Western Massachusetts Math Partnership event here and on sidewalk math in general in this KQED article by Kara Newhouse.

Sidewalk math problem made with chalk

 

5. Ask these 2 simple questions while walking outside.

Develop your child’s mathematical brain and curiosity by asking these two questions:

What do you notice?

What do you wonder?

This is a strategy that helps our children see math in big picture ways (and is a great strategy for outdoor math!). It is embraced not only by many math teachers but by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM).

Here’s how it works:

Ask those two questions when you see: A stack of firewood in a neighbor’s yard. A pyramid of paint cans in the window of a paint shop. A neighbor’s fence with a post every 7 boards. A sidewalk with bricks in a pattern! Let your child respond with all the things they notice and wonder about those particular things. Making math visual and noticing it outside and around the neighborhood can help our children see that math is all around them. Read more about Noticings and Wonderings in this article from NCTM and in this short video from The Teaching Channel.

a wood pile that kids could ask what do you notice or wonder on a mathwalk

Bonus! Check out the health benefits of outdoor math

Not only will outdoor math provide your child with fresh air and sunshine, but there are great health benefits with outdoor learning including reduced stress and anxiety, improved mood, boosted concentration, and increased engagement in learning (read this research here for more!). And during the tail-end of a pandemic, there is great value to getting outside (especially after being cooped up all winter). So get outdoors and get your math on! 

Other resources:

This list of teacher-recommended math games (by grade band)

This link for event details for our Interactive Math Walk in Northampton, MA, on April 13

This article on why you shouldn’t stress about your child falling behind

This list of tutors if The Community Classroom can support your child’s learning in any way!

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  • The Community Classroom is a gem in our community. My first-grade son needed a reading tutor, so I reached out to the CC and Megan was super responsive, professional, helpful, and clear in her communications. She quickly connected us with a wonderful tutor and my son is swiftly catching up to grade level—and he adores her. Wins all around. Very grateful this resource exists!
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